Charter Regional Sports Strategy Aims to Lower Cable Costs

Charter Communications is debuting a “sports lite” cable tier designed to curb cord-cutting by offering customers the opportunity to save money by opting out of regional sports networks. The new package will begin rolling out in Q3, on a market-by-market basis beginning with Charter’s Spectrum-branded cable service. Spectrum Select Plus will include a full slate of sports, including regional networks, while the reduced-rate Spectrum Select Signature will feature limited sports. Charter owns two regional sports networks at a time when those specialty channels have felt the impact of subscribers leaving cable for streaming.

Major networks including ESPN and FS1 will continue to be offered on Spectrum Select Signature, explains CNBC. “Customers who pick the option with certain sports programming will receive direct-to-consumer streaming apps for the local sports networks in their area for free. Charter will also be able to market and sell these regional sports networks app to its broadband-only customers.”

“This new model paves the way for a more flexible approach to the outdated packaging model for sports, and it puts the focus where it should be, on the customer,” Charter  EVP of Programming Acquisition Tom Montemagno said in a news release that explains the agreements entered into by sports networks typically result in deals that see the sports programming provided to more than 80 percent of the customer base, with each home’s subscription fee contributing to the payment, even if they don’t watch sports.

Cord-cutting has negatively affected the bottom line of regional sports networks, which have relied on lucrative cable fees to help compensate leagues and teams. Diamond Sports Group, aggregator of a portfolio of regional sports services, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March.

Some of the sports networks have launched their own direct-to-consumer options, but they’re often considered expensive and are having difficulty gaining traction in a sea of streaming choices.

“To encourage more sampling of sports programming, Charter will also launch its own direct-to-consumer (DTC) service for its own existing regional networks — Spectrum SportsNet and Spectrum SportsNet LA — which will also be available to all Charter affiliate subscribers for free,” writes MediaPost, noting that “Charter did not disclose explicit consumer pricing information.”

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