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Charter Cable may follow Verizon with slimmed down bundles, offer Netflix direct

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Tom Rutledge, CEO of Charter Communications, a cable systems provider that serves about 4.2 million subscribers, surprised the industry during an analyst call by stating that the company would be open to offering Netflix and other streaming services to its TV customers, reports Deadline.

Additionally, Rutledge says Charter is considering offering “skinny” TV bundles – lower cost packages with fewer channels that would appeal to those who only want a basic offering, and to help reel back in those dropping cable, aka cord cutters.

The move is surprising because streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video are considered to be disruptive competitors to traditional live TV,  shown to be a leading contributing factor to the decline in traditional pay-TV subscriptions. The choice between bloated linear TV package with hundreds – even thousands – of channels that aren’t being watched, has caused many to drop expensive packages in exchange for streaming services, which provide a diverse library of movie and television content, including past series of popular shows, plus original series.

That said, traditional TV has its advantages. For one, it’s (for the most part) the only place to catch new episodes of top rated cable shows. Already, however, though networks like HBO are changing that dynamic through subscription streaming offerings like HBO Now, which streams the latest episodes of popular shows like Game of Thrones at the same time it is aired on regular TV. Still, many cable networks are hard to find online. In addition, traditional TV is the primary source for local and global news, as well as sports programming, which reigns supreme in the world of traditional pay-TV.

However, along with the growing rise of services like Netflix, online platforms that offer live programming such as Sling TV and Playstation Vue are putting pressure on traditional TV providers, offering an alternative way to catch live programming that was once exclusive to cable and satellite. Verizon’s FiOS service has already begun to offer skinny bundles to help the service compete, which includes a core of base channels, and smaller add-on packs for sports, news, and other genres. As a result, the company is also currently being sued by ESPN for breach of contract following the move, making slimming down a risky proposition for pay-TV providers.

As for the addition of Netflix into Charter’s offerings, Rutledge says he believes in a mix of the two, which would allow customers to switch between traditional TV and streaming without having to change inputs on the TV, or use a separate source device. Charter wouldn’t be the first to offer Netflix directly, as the innovative satellite provider Dish Network has already added Netflix into its system.

These announcements strategically deflected attention from the biggest question on everyones’ minds: would Charter be buying Time Warner Cable? We’ll have to wait and see. For now, the future continues to look bright for Netflix.

Christine Persaud
Christine has decades of experience in trade and consumer journalism. While she started her career writing exclusively about…
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