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Charter TV services split in regional sports network-related pivot

The cable TV giant Charter is shaking up its channel lineups, in a move designed to adapt to the rapidly changing sports TV landscape.

The company, which currently has more than 14 million pay-TV subscribers, will split its Spectrum TV Select service in much of its footprint: Spectrum Select Plus will include an array of sports channels, as well as regional sports networks, while Spectrum Select Signature will exclude the RSNs and many sports channels, and feature a lower rate.

The deal is a dramatic shift for a major cable TV provider, with RSNs having long been bundled within the most popular channel packages.

“Historically, sports networks’ agreements have required distributors to pay for, and make available their programming service to a large majority of subscribers — almost always over 80 percent — even if many of them never watch it,” the company noted in a statement about the change.

Charter is also an RSN owner, controlling Lakers RSN Spectrum SportsNet and Dodgers RSN Spectrum SportsNet LA since acquiring Time Warner Cable in 2016. The company says that it will launch a direct-to-consumer streaming offering for the SportsNets, which subscribers to its Select Plus will get access to for free (and non-subs will be able to access for a fee).

In markets outside of Los Angeles (where the company has approval to do so), Charter will also offer DTC streaming services of RSNs for free to its Select Plus customers, and may also market them to non-customers.

Of note: Charter will be offering the flexibility for the Spectrum SportsNets to other carriers. Also on Monday, the company announced a new carriage agreement with DirecTV, one that “offers a significantly lower penetration threshold,” per the company.

“The launch of Spectrum Select Plus underscores our commitment to providing our customers with the best sports coverage while ensuring our non-sports fans have options that meet their needs,” said Tom Montemagno, executive vp programming acquisition for Charter. “This new model paves the way for a more flexible approach to the outdated packaging model for sports, and it puts the focus where it should be, on the customer.”

The change in offerings could have a significant impact on the RSN business, which has long relied on subscription revenue from non-viewers to bolster its bottom line. It could also impact (in a positive way) news and entertainment channels, which will be available in a less expensive TV bundle that could potentially slow down cord-cutting.

Charter lost nearly 700,000 video subscribers in 2022, and lost another 240,000 in Q1 of this year. The Hollywood Reporter

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