As the streaming video war hits a fever pitch, cable and satellite providers are faced with a difficult reality: With so many enticing — and inexpensive — streaming options available for both on-demand and live TV, a lot of subscribers are asking why they should continue paying such high monthly fees. Charter Communications, the nation’s second-largest cable company, has decided it’s better to offer up its own streaming, over-the-top (OTT) service than to watch its customers abandon ship in favor of Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, or one of the other services. This new service, called Spectrum TV Essentials, will launch in March for $15 per month and will include over 60 live lifestyle, entertainment, and news channels, plus any on-demand content these channels provide.
You can only sign up for Spectrum TV Essentials if you’re a Spectrum internet customer, but if you do, you’ll have access to the content via the free Spectrum TV app, for iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, Xbox One, Amazon Kindle Fire, Samsung smart TVs, and computers via the Spectrum TV website. No word yet whether the service will offer a DVR option, or how many simultaneous streams will be allowed.
The 60-channel lineup will be a familiar one to those who have been keeping a close eye on the live TV streaming market. With no sports or major broadcaster support, calling it TV Essentials might be a bit of an exaggeration: It’s an entertainment-heavy mix that relies greatly on channels from Viacom. Here’s the full lineup:
A&E, AMC, American Heroes Channel, Animal Planet, AXS TV, BBC America, BBC World News, BET, BET Her, BET Jams, BET Soul, Bloomberg, Cheddar, CLEO TV, CMT, CMT Music, Comedy Central, Cooking Channel, Destination America, Discovery, Discovery Family, Discovery Life, DIY, Food Network, FYI, Game Show Network, Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Drama, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, HDNet Movies, HGTV, History, IFC, Investigation Discovery, Lifetime, Lifetime Movie Network, Logo, MotorTrend Network, MTV, MTV2, MTV Classic, MTV Live, MTVU, NewsmaxTV, Newsy, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Nick Music, Nicktoons, Outdoor Channel, OWN, Paramount Network, Science Channel, Sundance TV, Teen Nick, TLC, Travel Channel, TV Land, VH1, Viceland, The Weather Channel and WEtv. Charter-owned local Spectrum News channels will be included in New York, Los Angeles, Tampa, Charlotte, Orlando and “other markets,”
Buried at the end of the announcement was a surprise reference to Spectrum Originals, which will be added to Spectrum TV Essentials in May. Apparently, Charter is beginning to follow Netflix and Amazon’s lead on the development of its own TV productions, albeit on a much smaller scale. The first show to be produced under the new banner is a police partner story called L.A.’s Finest, starring and executive produced by Jessica Alba and Gabrielle Union.
The merger of Charter Communications and Time Warner, which ultimately was rebranded as Spectrum, hasn’t been a smooth one, especially in New York. The company was sued by the state’s Attorney General in 2017 over its internet speeds, and Charter is still working on an agreement to keep its Spectrum service running in that area after the state withdrew its approval of the merger in 2018.