Marcien Jenckes to Head New Charter, Comcast Streaming Video Joint Venture

Charter and Comcast May 12 announced that Marcien Jenckes has been selected to lead their recently announced streaming platform joint venture. After closing, in this new role, Jenckes will focus on leading the team and developing the business and monetization models.

The recently announced JV aims to offer a new streaming platform on a variety of branded 4K streaming devices and smart TVs, providing all the top apps, and more choice in the streaming marketplace. Comcast will license Flex, its aggregated streaming platform and hardware to the joint venture, contribute the XClass TV retail business, and contribute Xumo, an ad-supported streaming service it acquired in 2020. Charter will make an initial contribution of $900 million, funded over multiple years.

“Marcien has been an outstanding leader within our company for over a decade,” Dave Watson, CEO of Comcast Cable, said in a statement. “His blend of experience as an entrepreneur, as an expert in improving customers’ entertainment experience, and an innovator in the rapidly changing advertising environment, makes him uniquely qualified to helm this partnership with Charter.”

Jenckes has served as president of advertising for Comcast Cable since 2017. Prior to this role, he was responsible for the cabler’s residential lines of business, including video and Internet.

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In 2019, Jenckes spearheaded On Addressable, along with Charter and Cox, designed to bring additional scale and momentum to addressable television advertising. He also pioneered Blockgraph, first incubated within Comcast’s FreeWheel, an advertising technology company serving the video and television ecosystem, before spinning out as a joint venture between Comcast, Charter and Paramount Global (formerly ViacomCBS), to help marketers use audience insights for TV and premium video advertising.

Before joining Comcast, Jenckes was involved with a host of digital advertising and media syndication start-ups, including Grab Networks and Voxant. He also held a variety of leadership roles at AOL, where he launched the platform’s free web services, including the free AOL.com portal. Prior to AOL, Marcien worked as a consultant for McKinsey & Company in their media and telecom practice.

The closing of the joint venture is subject to customary closing conditions. This joint venture does not involve the broadband or cable video businesses of either Comcast or Charter which will remain independent.

Charter Cools Q1 Video Sub Losses, Broadband Gains

Charter Communications April 29 reported a first-quarter (ended March 31) loss of 123,000 video subscribers, compared with a decline of 156,000 subs in the first quarter of 2021. The pay-TV operator had 15.7 million residential video customers at the end of the quarter, down from 16 million subs last year.

Charter added 164,000 residential high-speed internet subs compared to 334,000 subs added during the previous-year period. The company ended the quarter with more than 30 million broadband subs — up about 1 million subs from the same period a year ago.

When combined with Comcast, the two pay-TV operators control more than 60 million U.S. broadband households — underscoring their recent partnership to develop new streaming video platforms that could offer consumers cheaper streaming video access to Netflix, Disney+ and HBO Max, among other third-party services.

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“We remain focused on our primary goal of driving connected customer and mobile broadband relationship growth,” CEO Tom Rutledge said in a statement. “Our new joint venture with Comcast will allow us to provide a next generation streaming platform that offers new and differentiated direct-to-consumer products to meet demand in a fast-changing video environment.”

Charter Loses 133,000 Q3 Pay-TV Subscribers

Charter Communications Oct. 29 announced that its Spectrum TV service lost 133,000 residential subscribers in the third quarter (ended Sept. 30). That compared with a gain of 77,000 pay-TV subs in the previous-year period. Charter ended the quarter with 15.3 million Spectrum subs — down from 15.7 million in the previous-year period.

The company added 243,000 high-speed internet subs, to end the quarter with 27.9 million subs. That compared with a gain of 494,000 broadband subs and 26.8 million overall in the previous-year period.

Charter was one of first multichannel video distributors to offer broadband-only subscribers with an online TV option — Spectrum TV Plus — that included a free Roku player.

“The value of our connectivity products allowed us to add over 1 million customer relationships over the last year,” CEO Tom Rutledge said in a statement. “Looking forward, we remain focused on improving both the quality and value of our products as demand for more advanced services
grows. As data usage both inside and outside the home continues to increase, so do our network and product capabilities.”

ViacomCBS, Charter Ink New Carriage Deal, Includes Streaming

ViacomCBS and Charter Communications July 15 announced a comprehensive multiyear distribution agreement for the continued carriage of ViacomCBS’s leading portfolio of broadcast, entertainment, news and sports networks, in addition to licensing ViacomCBS’s suite of streaming services, including Paramount+, Pluto TV, BET+ and Noggin, for future distribution to Spectrum customers.

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“We are pleased to have reached a new deal to deliver ViacomCBS’s expansive portfolio of popular brands and premium programming for Spectrum audiences to enjoy, plus greater choice in how they consume our content,” Ray Hopkins, president of U.S. Networks Distribution for ViacomCBS, said in a statement. “Charter is a valued partner, and we look forward to deepening our long-standing relationship.”

Added Tom Montemagno, EVP of programming acquisition for Charter, said, “These comprehensive agreements with ViacomCBS recognize the fast-changing pace of the subscription video business and provide us the flexibilities to adapt for the benefit of our customers while also furthering our strategic interests in the advanced advertising realm and aggregated video store concept with the addition of the streaming apps.”

ViacomCBS and Charter also will expand their existing collaboration around addressable media and advanced advertising. Others terms of the agreements were not disclosed.

Charter Widens Spectrum Pay-TV Subscriber Losses

Charter Communication’s trend avoiding pay-TV subscriber contraction appears to be coming to an end. The Spectrum TV provider April 30 reported residential video customers decreased by 156,000 in the first quarter (ended March 31), compared with a decrease of 70,000 in the first quarter of 2020, and 152,000 in the first quarter of 2019. Charter ended Q1 with 15.5 million Spectrum residential video customers.

Charter, the No. 3 pay-TV operator in the country, in 2015 was one of the first operators to launch a broadband-only service — dubbed Spectrum TV Plus — that included a free Roku 3 player priced at $12.99 a month.

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“We continue to execute well in a market environment that has not yet returned to normal,” CEO Tom Rutledge said in a statement. “We added 355,000 Internet customers in the first quarter, and 2 million over the last year, for year-over-year growth of 7.3%.”

Charter ended the quarter with 29.2 million broadband subscribers.

Charter Spectrum Added Pay-TV Subs in 2020

In a trend reversal, Charter Communications Jan. 29 announced it added 19,000 residential video customers in 2020, compared with a decline of 484,000 subs in 2019. Residential video customers decreased by 66,000 in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, while fourth-quarter 2019 residential video customers decreased by 105,000.

Charter ended the year with 16.2 million Spectrum video subs, up from 16.14 million subs in 2019.

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Charter CEO Tom Rutledge

Similarly to other pay-TV operators, Charter is a major high-speed Internet provider, the lifeline to delivering burgeoning over-the-top video consumption in subscriber homes. The company said it ended 2020 with 28.9 million residential and business Internet subscribers, with 2.2 million subs added in 2020 versus 1.4 million added in 2019. Charter added 246,000 broadband subs in the fourth quarter compared to 339,000 during the fourth quarter of 2019.

“Our 2020 performance demonstrates that our customer-friendly operating strategy works well for Charter communities, employees and shareholders, even in challenging economic and operating
environments,” CEO Tom Rutledge said in a statement.

Charter in 2015 was one of the first providers to offer broadband-only subscribers an online TV platform — Spectrum TV Plus — that afforded users access to premium channels for $20 monthly and a free Roku player.

Charter Cuts Q1 Video Sub Loss More Than 50%

Cable operator Charter Communications May 1 disclosed it lost 70,000 Spectrum video subscribers in the first quarter ended March 31. The loss was 54% less than the 152,000 subs lost in the previous-year period.

The distributor added 563,000 high-speed Internet customers, up 41% from 398,000 new broadband subs last year. Spectrum ended the period with 29 million cable, Internet and voice subscribers in 41 states, including 15.5 million video. The latter down 402,000 video subs in the past 12 months.

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Charter several years ago bowed Spectrum TV Plus, a $12.99 monthly online TV service for its broadband-only subs. The service included a free Roku player. Last year Charter unveiled “TV Essentials,” a $15 monthly “skinny bundle” option for pay-TV subs.

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“Thanks to the dedication of our employees and the quality of our network, we have continued to deliver high quality connectivity services to millions of existing and new customers in the communities we serve, including homes, businesses, hospital and educational systems, and local, state and federal government institutions,” longtime CEO Tom Rutledge said in a statement.

ViacomCBS, Charter Close Funding (Debt) Initiatives

With a traditional media revenue businesses turned upside down by the coronavirus, and not wanting to wait for government bailouts, ViacomCBS and Charter Communications are the latest content creator/distributors to seek outside funding (and debt) to sustain operations.

Charter April 17 announced the closing of $3 billion in bonds, which include $1.6 billion of senior secured notes due in 2031, and $1.4 billion of senior secured notes due in 2051.

Separately, ViacomCBS said it would redeem all of its outstanding senior notes due on Feb. 15, 2021, and all of its outstanding senior notes due on March 1, 2021. The separate aggregate amounts of senior notes disclosed April 17 included $300 million and $500 million, respectively.

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The moves come on the heels of major Hollywood players going to Wall Street in search of funding sources. AT&T sought upwards of $5 billion in loans, while Discovery pulled the trigger on $500 million of its credit line. Comcast sold $4 billion in debt while The Walt Disney Co. secured a $5 billion loan from Citibank.

“Right now, it’s all about liquidity,” Neil Begley, SVP of corporate finance group, told The Hollywood Reporter.

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WarnerMedia and Charter Announce Distribution Agreement for HBO Max

WarnerMedia and Charter Communications have entered into a new multiyear distribution agreement that will make HBO Max, WarnerMedia’s upcoming streaming platform, available to Charter customers when it launches in May.

Through the pact, all of Charter’s existing HBO subscribers, including subscribers in its Spectrum Silver and Gold video packages, will automatically be given access to HBO Max at no additional charge and with no action required other than signing into the HBO Max app. All remaining and new customers will be able to purchase HBO Max directly from Charter.

“Charter has been a longtime distributor of our networks and on-demand content, and a valued partner to our company,” said Rich Warren, president of WarnerMedia Distribution, in a statement. “We look forward to working together to bring HBO Max to Spectrum subscribers when the product launches next month.”

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“We are eager to provide Spectrum customers with the highly-anticipated HBO Max offering when it makes its debut next month,” Tom Montemagno, Charter’s EVP of programming acquisition, said in a statement. “This new premium streaming experience will be a welcome addition to Spectrum subscribers; we will offer HBO Max on a multitude of platforms for purchase by our video, broadband and mobile customers alike.”

New Disney-Charter Deal ‘Contemplates’ Disney+ Access

Chalk up another positive for Disney+: The Walt Disney Co.’s much-hyped new subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service, set to launch in November, may be available to Charter Communications subscribers.

A new distribution deal between Disney and Charter, announced Aug. 14, calls for the country’s No. 2 cable operator to continue carrying Disney’s TV and ESPN programming to Spectrum TV subscribers.

The deal also “contemplates Charter’s future distribution of Disney’s streaming services, including Hulu, ESPN+ and the soon-to-be-launched Disney+,” according to a press release issued by Charter.

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The deal wouldl help Disney+ in its attempt to compete with established streaming titans Netflix and Amazon.com.

In addition, Spectrum TV will also offer customers access to ESPN’s upcoming ACC Network when it launches Aug. 22.

Under the deal, Spectrum TV will continue to provide its customers widespread access to ABC, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN Bases Loaded, SEC Network, Longhorn Network, and the newly acquired networks of FX, FXX, FXM, Fox Life, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Mundo and BabyTV.

“This agreement will allow Spectrum to continue delivering to its customers popular Disney content, makes possible future distribution by Spectrum of Disney streaming services, and will begin an important collaborative effort to address the significant issue of piracy mitigation,” said Tom Montemagno, EVP of programming acquisition for Charter.

Sean Breen, SVP of Disney Media Distribution, added: “Our new agreement with Charter allows us to continue serving Spectrum TV customers with the full value of the Walt Disney Television and ESPN networks, including the newly acquired FX and Nat Geo networks. ACC fans can also rest assured that they will be able to watch their favorite teams on Spectrum, one of the largest distributors across the ACC footprint, when ACC Network launches next week.”