Charter Blames Loss of Disney Content for 248,000 Q4 Spectrum Pay-TV Sub Decline

Charter Communications Feb. 2 reported that its branded Spectrum pay-TV service lost 248,000 video customers in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2023, compared to a decline of 145,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2022. Charter said the sub loss was partly driven by video disconnects related to the temporary loss of Disney programming in early September due to a carriage disagreement.

Charter ended 2023 with 13.5 million residential video customers, down almost 1 million from 14.45 million at the end of 2022.

The company lost 61,000 high-speed internet subscribers in the quarter, but ended the year with an increase of 155,000 broadband subs to 30.58 million (including small business) from 30.43 million in 2022.

In October, Charter began deploying Xumo Stream Boxes to video customers. The set-top devices combine a live TV experience with access to hundreds of direct-to-consumer streaming apps, and features unified search and discovery along with a curated content offering based on the customer’s interests and third-party subscriptions. Xumo is a joint venture between Charter and Comcast.

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“We are beginning to see the benefits of investments in our employees and digital service to improve the customer experience,” CEO Chris Winfrey said in a statement.

Xumo Begins Rollout of Branded Set-Top Boxes to Comcast, Charter Pay-TV Households

Xumo, the joint streaming video entertainment venture between Comcast and Charter, Oct. 4 announced the launch of Xumo Stream Box to Spectrum pay-TV households, with plans to bring the platform to Comcast’s Xfinity homes soon.

Xumo Stream Box affords users the ability to access hundreds of subscription-based and ad-supported streaming apps, including Apple TV+, Disney+, Hulu, Max, Netflix, Peacock, Pluto, Prime Video, Tubi, and Xumo Play, among others. The platform is powered by Comcast’s Entertainment Operating System (OS), aimed at bringing over-the-top video, including third-party services, throughout households.

“Today’s fractured entertainment landscape has added a level of complexity that makes finding something to watch more burdensome for consumers,” Marcien Jenckes, president, Xumo, said in a statement.

Jenckes said Xumo combines Comcast’s entertainment experience and technical innovation from Comcast and Charter and build an entertainment product that breaks down the streaming silos.

Upon startup, Xumo customers will see live video playing from the device’s primary video service app such as Spectrum TV, Xfinity Stream or Xumo Play. The device features a curated, content that blends AI-driven personalization, voice command remote, and human-led editorial recommendations to help customers find something to watch without having to jump in and out of apps.

With My List, customers can create multiple lists of their favorite shows and movies – regardless of where that content lives or how it’s delivered (live or on-demand) – giving every member of the family a personalized destination to quickly jump into what they want to watch next.

For Spectrum customers, Xumo Stream Box leverages the Spectrum TV App, with pay-TV subs receiving one device for no cost for the first year. Additional Xumo Stream Boxes are available directly from Spectrum to purchase or for a monthly service fee.

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“With Xumo Stream Box, customers have endless entertainment options simplified, with aggregated search across apps and curated content offerings based on the customer’s interests and subscriptions, which will be even more powerful as direct-to-consumer apps are included with Spectrum service,” said Rich DiGeronimo, president, product and technology for Charter.

Xumo Stream Box joins Sky Glass and Sky Stream as the latest streaming set-top device powered by Entertainment OS. Comcast built the platform upon open-source RDK technology, which processes 40 million voice commands a day and delivers five billion streams per week across over 100 million Comcast, Sky, Xumo, and syndication partners devices.

Xumo to Bow Branded Connected TVs Exclusively at Best Buy

Xumo, the streaming platform joint venture between Charter and Comcast, Sept. 28 announced it is teaming up with Best Buy to sell Pioneer-manufactured Xumo Connected TVs.

The first Pioneer Xumo TVs, which will target Roku-branded TVs, will launch in Best Buy stores and on BestBuy.com in November.

Stephanie Cassi, SVP, sales and marketing at Xumo, said the partnership with Best Buy aims at offering consumers internet-connected televisions available in 43-inch, 50-inch, 55-inch and 65-inch 4K UHD models. The TVs support Dolby Vision HDR and HDR10 technology.

Pioneer joins Hisense as the latest manufacturer of Xumo TVs now available at Best Buy. Hisense Xumo TVs are currently available in select retail locations and online in 55” and 65” models.

“We’re focused on removing the complexity that’s come with the rise of streaming, enabling consumers to get back to enjoying their TV experience,” Cassi said in a statement.

The TVs feature universal voice search through the included remote, and an intuitive user interface that enables consumers to browse content from across all their streaming apps at once, according to Xumo.

Other features, according to Xumo, include the ability to create personalized playlists to save and quickly access TV shows or movies from across apps and services from the home screen; convenient access to recently viewed apps, services, content, HDMI inputs, and over-the-air channels on the first row of the home screen that helps consumers get back to their favorite entertainment faster; and a curated interface that combines automated suggestions with editorial recommendations to help consumers discover programming from across streaming apps and services.

The TVs include hundreds of streaming apps and services such as Apple TV+, Disney+, Max, Hulu, Netflix, Peacock, Prime Video and YouTube, among others. Users can also access free movies and TV shows from ad-supported services, including Xumo Play, Pluto, Tubi and The Roku Channel, among others.

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Disney, Charter Settle Carriage Dispute

The Walt Disney Co. and Charter Communications Sept. 11 announced s multiyear carriage agreement that ends a much-publicized week-and-a-half dispute that saw nearly 15 million Spectrum cable TV subscribers unable to access ESPN, ABC and other Disney channels.

As part of the new deal, the majority of Disney’s networks and stations will be immediately restored to Spectrum’s video customers. In the coming months, the Disney+ basic ad-supported streaming video option will be provided to customers who purchase the Spectrum TV Select package, as part of a wholesale arrangement. ESPN+ will be provided to Spectrum TV Select Plus subscribers.

The pending ESPN flagship direct-to-consumer service will be made available to Spectrum TV Select subscribers upon launch, and Charter will maintain flexibility to offer a range of video packages at varying price points based upon different customer’s viewing preferences.

“This deal recognizes both the continued value of linear television and the growing popularity of streaming services, while addressing the evolving needs of our consumers,” Disney CEO Bob Iger and Charter Communications CEO Chris Winfrey said in a joint statement.

Charter also will use its distribution to offer Disney’s direct-to-consumer services to all of its customers — in particular its large broadband-only customer base — for purchase at retail rates. These include Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+, as well as The Disney Bundle.

Effective immediately, Spectrum TV will provide its customers widespread access to a more curated lineup of 19 networks from The Walt Disney Co. Spectrum will continue to carry the ABC Owned Television Stations, Disney Channel, FX and the Nat Geo Channel, in addition to the full ESPN network suite. Networks that will no longer be included in Spectrum TV video packages are Baby TV, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, FXM, FXX, Nat Geo Wild and Nat Geo Mundo.

The parties also have renewed their commitment to combat unauthorized password sharing.

The deal comes just in time for the NFL’s first Monday Night Football game on ESPN. The blackout began Aug. 31, affecting viewership of the U.S. Open tennis tournament and two weekends of college football.

During the blackout, Disney sought to entice Spectrum subscribers seeking Disney content to bypass the cable service with discounted rates for Disney+ and Hulu + Live TV. Charter countered over the weekend by partnering with sports-focused streaming service Fubo TV, which offered Spectrum subscribers a seven-day free trial and discounted rates. With ESPN included within the Fubo TV package, this essentially gave Spectrum subscribers access to sports events that were blocked on their cable package, undercutting some of Disney’s leverage.

AXS TV, Spectrum Launch Program to Support Music Education

AXS TV has joined forces with Spectrum to launch “AXS TV’s Band Together for Music Education” — a new initiative connecting AXS TV with affiliates, local communities, and schools to support music education programs.

“AXS TV’s Band Together” is set to launch this month in five markets across California, Florida, New York, Ohio and Texas.

“AXS TV’s Band Together” awards five $10,000 grants to school-age music education programs across the country. These are established programs that exemplify top leadership, instruction, and participation, yet also demonstrate a strong need for further funding and support. Selected teachers can then use the grant to purchase music, fix instruments or buy new ones, repair or replace performance equipment and uniforms, etc.

The inaugural winners were picked from programs in five key Spectrum markets, including Heart of LA — HOLA in Los Angeles; Eastmoor Academy in Columbus, Ohio; Dr. Billy E. Dade Middle School in Dallas; Prine Elementary in Bradenton, Fla.; and Rochdale Early Advantage Charter School (REACS) in Jamaica, N.Y. AXS TV will present each grant at designated events during December and January.

“Enrolling children in music education at an early age has proven to positively impact several facets of their development that continue with them throughout their lives — from building confidence and creativity, to improving reading, math, and communication skills; boosting classroom attendance; and so much more,” according to an AXS TV press release. “Despite this, public school music programs often experience a severe lack of funding and are the first casualties when budget cuts are made. It is a problem that has only increased in recent years.”

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“We’re grateful for the AXS TV ‘Band Together’ partnership, which will help even more children pursue their musical dreams,” said Catherine Bohigian, EVP of government affairs for Charter Communications, which operates the Spectrum brand of internet, TV, mobile and voice services. “Through music education, young people can learn valuable social, academic and creative skills, enriching their lives and preparing them for the future, which complements our commitment to support initiatives that strengthen the communities where we live and work.”

“Instilling a deep passion for music in the younger generations is a major part of AXS TV’s mission, and ‘Band Together’ is a perfect representation of that,” said Anthony Cicione, president of entertainment for AXS TV’s parent company, Anthem Sports & Entertainment. “We are excited to join with Spectrum on this important initiative, giving these talented students vital tools to reach even greater heights as they progress in their musical journeys. Who knows? The students of today could very well become the stars of tomorrow — and we just might be featuring them on our network in the coming years!”

AXS TV is a multi-platform music, entertainment and lifestyle digital platform and television company owned and operated by Anthem Sports & Entertainment. 

Charter Communications is a broadband connectivity company and cable operator serving more than 32 million customers in 41 states through its Spectrum brand.

 

Charter, Comcast Adopt ‘Xumo’ Streaming Brand Name for New Joint Venture

Charter and Comcast’s joint streaming venture has a name: Xumo.

The cable pay-TV operators Nov. 2 announced that their streaming platform joint venture will now operate and conduct business as Xumo, evolving the brand from a free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) service to an entertainment ecosystem inclusive of all streaming devices and content holders.

Charter and Comcast also announced that Flex, the 4K streaming device Comcast licensed to the joint venture, will become Xumo Stream Box, and XClass TV will become Xumo TV. Both devices will remain powered by Comcast’s global technology platform and feature an entertainment experience designed to make it easy for consumers to find and enjoy their favorite streaming content through a world-class user interface and voice search. The first Xumo branded devices will launch in 2023, distributed by Comcast, Charter and Walmart, with additional distributors to be announced in the future.

“The new Xumo will bring industry leading streaming and aggregation technology nationwide through its expanding content, product line up, and retailer relationships,” Marcien Jenckes, president of Xumo, said in a statement.

Xumo’s current FAST service, which consists of linear channels and on-demand options, will be rebranded Xumo Play and continue to be available as an app on other streaming platforms.

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Charter and Comcast Announce Joint Venture to Develop New Streaming Platform

Charter Communications and Comcast April 27 announced that the two companies have formed a 50/50 joint venture to develop and offer a next-generation streaming platform on a variety of branded 4K streaming devices and smart TVs. The joint venture will offer app developers, streamers, retailers, operators, and hardware manufacturers the opportunity to reach customers in major markets across the country with the platform.

Comcast will license Flex, its aggregated streaming platform and hardware to the joint venture, contribute the retail business for XClass TVs and also will contribute Xumo, the ad-supported streaming service it acquired in 2020.  Charter will make an initial contribution of $900 million, funded over multiple years.

The XClass TVs will be available through national retail partners and potentially direct from Comcast and Charter to provide more customer choice. Xumo will continue to operate as a free global streaming service available through the joint venture’s products and third-party devices. Charter will offer the 4K streaming TV devices and voice remotes beginning in 2023. Comcast will continue to offer the Flex streaming platform as a streaming device and service to its customers.

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“These products are all designed to make search and discovery across live, on-demand and streaming video seamless and incredibly simple for consumers,” Dave Watson, CEO of Comcast Cable, said in a statement.  “This partnership uniquely brings together more than a decade of technical innovation, national scale and new opportunities to monetize our combined investment.”

“As the video landscape continues to evolve, this venture will increase retail consumer options, compete at scale with established national platforms, and join our existing lineup of options for the Spectrum TV App available on most customer-owned streaming devices,” added Tom Rutledge, Charter CEO.

The joint venture’s products claim to give consumers a state-of-the-art streaming experience to access their favorite apps, based on Comcast’s Flex product, which currently delivers all the most-watched streaming apps in the marketplace. The products will feature hundreds of free content choices through Xumo, currently delivering more than 200 unique streaming channels. Peacock also will be featured on the joint venture’s streaming platform, alongside other popular apps.

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.

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.”

Report: Pay-TV Providers Lost 1.3 Million Subs in Q1

It was a bad quarter for the pay-TV business.

New data from Leichtman Research Group found that the largest pay-TV providers in the U.S. — representing about 95% of the market — lost more than 1.3 million video subscribers in the first quarter (ended March 31) — up 426% from a net loss of 305,000 subs in the previous-year period.

Pay-TV providers now account for about 87.8 million subscribers — with the top six cable companies having 46.7 million video subscribers, satellite TV services (28.3 million subs), telephone companies (8.9 million), and the top publicly reporting online TV with 3.9 million subs.

Satellite TV services such as Dish Network and DirecTV drove pay-TV losses with about 810,000 subs dropping service compared to a loss of about 375,000 subs in the previous-year period.

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Cable operators lost about 335,000 video subs — compared to a loss of about 285,000 subs last year. Telephone providers lost 105,000 video subs, up from a loss of 50,000 subs last year.  Online TV services lost 75,000 subs, compared to a gain of 405,000 subs last year.

Notably, AT&T had a loss of about 625,000 subs across its three pay-TV services (DirecTV, AT&T U-verse, and DirecTV Now) compared to a gain of 125,000 subscribers in 2018.

“The leading pay-TV provider in the U.S., AT&T, accounted for 47% of the net losses in the quarter,” analyst Bruce Leichtman said in a statement. “[The quarter] was the third consecutive [period] of record pay-TV net losses.  This accelerated downturn in the pay-TV market coincided with the decisions by AT&T and other providers to increasingly focus on long-term profitability when acquiring and retaining subscribers.”

 

Pay-TV Providers Subscribers at end of 1Q 2019 Net Adds in 1Q 2019
Cable Companies
Comcast 21,866,000 (120,000)
Charter 16,461,000 (145,000)
Cox 3,980,000 (35,000)
Altice 3,297,300 (10,200)
Mediacom 764,000 (12,000)
Cable ONE 320,611 (11,500)
Total Top Cable 46,688,911 (333,700)
Satellite Services (DBS)
DirecTV 18,679,000 (543,000)
Dish Network 9,639,000 (266,000)
Total DBS 28,318,000 (809,000)
Phone Companies
Verizon FiOS 4,398,000 (53,000)
AT&T U-verse 3,704,000 0
Frontier 784,000 (54,000)
Total Top Phone 8,886,000 (107,000)
Online TV
Sling TV 2,424,000 7,000
DirecTV Now 1,508,000 (83,000)
Total Top Online TV 3,932,000 (76,000)
Total Top Providers 87,824,911 (1,325,700)

 

 

Charter’s Spectrum TV App on Apple TV

Charter Communications has launched the Spectrum TV App on Apple TV.

Nearly 50 million homes across Charter’s footprint now have access to live channels and tens of thousands of programs on the Spectrum TV App for Apple TV, according to Charter.

Additionally, starting next week and expanding throughout 2019, new and existing Spectrum TV and Internet customers can get an Apple TV 4K as part of their monthly subscription for $7.50/month plus tax for 24 months, according to Charter.

Charter is the first U.S. based cable operator to offer customers the new zero sign-on experience from Apple, which further simplifies signing in to video apps on Apple TV, according to Charter. When first set up in a Spectrum household, Apple TV 4K or Apple TV (4th generation) will detect the Spectrum customer’s broadband network and automatically sign them in to the Spectrum TV App and all the supported apps they receive through their service — with no need to enter a username and password, according to Charter.

The new Spectrum TV App is also integrated with the Apple TV app and Siri.

“We are bringing our customers the most robust Spectrum TV App experience available today through Apple TV,” said Rich DiGeronimo, Charter’s EVP, products and strategy, in a statement. “With features like zero sign-on and Apple TV app integration, the Spectrum TV App on Apple TV delivers the best and most seamless viewing experience, giving customers even greater choice and flexibility to enjoy Spectrum TV.”

“With Spectrum TV on Apple TV 4K, customers can now enjoy the ultimate entertainment experience across their iPhone, iPad and Apple TV,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple VP of product marketing, in a statement. “We want to help customers get right to watching their favorite channels, shows, movies and sports, and with innovative features like zero sign-on, the Apple TV app and Siri, they are able to jump right in.”