Charter Communications to Carry Acorn TV, Urban Movie Channel Streaming Services

AMC Networks Oct. 31 announced that Charter Communications will launch its full suite of subscription video-on-demand services as well as AMC Premiere, the company’s premium ad-free version of its AMC channel, to Charter’s Spectrum customers.

The launch of AMC Premiere, Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now and Urban Movie Channel (UMC) affords Spectrum subscribers access to a wide variety of exclusive AMC Networks content, including the Emmy-Award winning “Killing Eve” (AMC Premiere), “Doc Martin” (Acorn TV), “Creepshow” (Shudder), the Emmy Award-winning “State of the Union” (Sundance Now) and Craig Ross Jr.’s “Monogamy” (UMC).

AMC Acquired UMC and Acorn TV through the majority $65 million acquisition of RLJ Entertainment in 2018 — the company formed through Robert L. Johnson’s purchase of Acorn Media and Image Entertainment in 2012.

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The services will be offered on the majority of Spectrum set-top boxes in the coming months.

The launch is part of a recent broader long-term agreement between the two companies that includes continued carriage of AMC Networks’ AMC, BBC America, IFC, SundanceTV, WE tv and BBC World News linear television networks as well as an extension of a previously announced co-production arrangement between the companies.

“As both of our businesses continue to evolve, we are very pleased to expand our relationship by enriching Charter’s offering with our targeted SVOD services,” Ed Carroll, AMC Networks COO, said in a statement. “Our SVOD services serve passionate audiences with the content they love. We look forward to continuing to forge a new path with Charter, giving Spectrum customers access to our shows on whatever platform they choose.”

AMC Premiere delivers fans of AMC’s original programming with commercial-free viewing, early access to content and the opportunity to binge select series, including the Emmy- and Golden Globe-Award winning “Killing Eve,” “The Walking Dead,” “Fear the Walking Dead” and “The Terror.”

AMC Networks’ SVOD services have experienced substantial growth over the past year, with its Acorn TV service, North America’s largest and most popular streaming service for British and international television, recently surpassing the 1 million paid subscriber milestone.

The growth has been driven by demand for acclaimed series “Line of Duty,” “Agatha Raisin,” “Doc Martin,” and Lucy Lawless in “My Life is Murder.”

AMC Networks’ other SVOD services include:

  • Shudder, an essential offering for fans of horror, thriller and suspense with an unmatched library of series and films, including the premiere of its newest original series, “Creepshow,” which set records in terms of viewers, subscriber acquisition and total minutes streamed, and was just renewed for a second
  • Sundance Now offers a rich selection of original and exclusive series from engrossing true crime to heart-stopping dramas and fiercely intelligent thrillers from around the world, including “Discovery of Witches,” “Riviera” and “Killing for Love.”
  • UMC (Urban Movie Channel), the first subscription streaming service created for African American audiences, features a broad mix of original series, network TV shows, classic sitcoms, and feature films, including Daytime Emmy-nominated series “Bronx SIU,” OWN’s “Black Love,” the LisaRaye McCoy and Duane Martin-led classic UPN sitcom “All of Us,” and the recent theatrical release of Master P’s I Got the Hook Up 2.

Studios Reportedly Back Private Sector 5G Spectrum Allocation

Next-generation 5G wireless technology continues to get a lot of attention (and hype) — notably as an enhanced distribution channel for mobile video entertainment.

Mobile data traffic worldwide is expected to increase from 28 exabytes monthly this year to 77 exabytes monthly by 2022, according to Statista. 5G is expected to add $2.7 trillion to the U.S. GDP by 2030.

Consumer awareness of the fifth-generation wireless technology successor has reached mainstream, according to The NPD Group. So too has government concern surrounding the security and allocation of increasingly coveted (and finite) spectrum (or megahertz) required to deliver 5G data.

The FCC reportedly is considering offering 5G wireless services through a government-backed network using existing and Department of Defense spectrum, an idea that would include repurposing current commercial bandwidth.

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This isn’t sitting well with some regulators, notably Federal Communications Commission board member Michael O’Reilly, a longtime champion of market-driven initiatives over government intervention/regulation.

“To call this [government 5G network] effort a trial balloon is insulting to balloons, as all the ideas mentioned have far less consistency than balloons, and more closely resemble a child’s bubbles,” O’Reilly wrote in a blog post last month.

Enter the C-Band Alliance (CBA), a lobbying group representing satellite operators it says represent “100%” of the C-band services currently provided in the United States.

The group sent the FCC a proposal it claims would “quickly clear” C-band spectrum and would pave the way toward the United States maintaining equilibrium with China and other countries in 5G wireless services.

The CBA advocates streamlining the allocation process of 200 MHz of C-band downlink spectrum to 18-to-36 months after the FCC finalizes repurposing satellite’s C-band spectrum for 5G service.

Specifically, the group says satellite operators would cover all costs to clear spectrum and to implement operations in the upper 300 MHz of the band.

“Compared to FCC-run spectrum auctions, which historically have taken as long as a decade, the CBA proposal can deliver valuable spectrum to the U.S. market years ahead of any alternative proposal,” the CBA wrote.

Satellite operators would also coordinate with domestic C-band users such as Hollywood studios, content holders and distributors to “repack hundreds of audio and video services” into the remaining 300 MHz.

Representatives from Disney, Viacom, Fox, CBS, Discovery and Univision, among others, reportedly met with the FCC advocating for speedier spectrum allocation.

Indeed, Disney said its ESPN unit last month used 143 C-band feeds in one day to produce its 24/7 sports content.

“No other distribution method matches C-band in ubiquity and reliability,” the studios wrote in a letter to the FCC. “Content companies and other programmers thus rely on the C-band as the principal means of delivering video to the many thousands of earth stations in the United States.”

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.”

Netflix Finally Available on Sky

Netflix, beginning Sept. 19, is now available as a direct link to U.K. pay-TV service Sky – about six months after first announcing a partnership with the high-profile satellite TV operator.

The SVOD behemoth is available to Sky’s most-expensive Q bundle for an extra £10 monthly as part of Sky’s “Ultimate On Demand” add-on feature. Existing Netflix subscribers can link their account to Sky Q or log onto the Netflix app separately.

But direct access, including Netflix original programing on display alongside traditional pay-TV selections is precisely why multichannel video program distributors such as Comcast, Virgin Media (since 2013), Altice USA, Charter Spectrum, Cox, Liberty Global and T-Mobile, among others, have embraced Netflix.

“We are partnering with a growing number of pay-TV providers across the world to the benefit of our mutual customers,” Netflix said in its Q4 shareholder letter. “These partnerships make it easier for consumers to sign up, enjoy, and pay for Netflix, while our service allows our partners to deepen their relationships with these subscribers.”

Amber Pine, commercial director at Sky, says the satellite TV operator with about 9 million U.K. subscribers has a lot of mutual customers.

“The depth of this integration provides them with a unique experience where they can have the best of both worlds,” Pine said in a statement.

Indeed, British regulator Ofcom recently reported that over-the-top video across the pond has now topped pay-TV in the number of subscribers: 15.4 million to 15.1 million.

“On a simplistic level, Sky and Netflix look like direct competitors,” Andrew McIntosh, the head of TV analysis at Enders Analysis, told Wired. “But they act on different levels, which Sky is well aware of. Sky doesn’t offer what Netflix offers. Now it is providing what it can’t offer, but still through the Sky package. And it makes Sky look good, because it is putting the customer first. It’s a very clever move.”

And interesting, considering both Comcast, Fox (and Disney) have competing acquisition bids on the table for Sky.