Charter Communications Launches Spectrum Mobile in Wisconsin

In order to extend its reach in the digital home and beyond, Charter Communications is launching Spectrum Mobile, its cellular network service. Spectrum Mobile is entering the Wisconsin mobile market soon, with two plans available: unlimited data for $45 a month and a $14 per gig of data plan. The second largest cable provider in the United States, Spectrum has coverage over Wisconsin for its home internet, cable TV, and landline phone services already from Green Bay to La Crosse and beyond.

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For now, new Spectrum Mobile customers will need to buy or enter an installment plan for a new mobile device through the company. The company said it plans to expand its device options and add the ability for customers to bring their own device later this year.  Spectrum has both Android and IOS devices.

Charter said the approach to add wireless services came from recognizing that mobile devices are used extensively inside the home.

“As an intelligent connectivity provider, Spectrum Mobile brings unprecedented flexibility and value to the wireless marketplace,” said Danny Bowman, chief mobile officer for Charter in a news release. “Spectrum Mobile gives customers the freedom to use their favorite devices the way they want, saving them hundreds of dollars annually off their mobile bill, all while reaping the benefits of Charter’s superior, value rich network and services.”

The plan will be available in large metro areas like Milwaukee and smaller towns like Lyndon Station.

Check back often at the TV, Internet, and Phone Blog for more information as the story develops, as well as updates on cable TV service, sports on TV, and more.

Free DVR Service Available with Charter Spectrum TV

Charter Communications is now the second-largest cable TV provider in the United States, serving areas in 26 states. The recent upgrade to Charter’s services, Charter Spectrum, has improved Charter TV, Charter Internet, and Charter Voice in a number of ways. In addition to adding more high-definition channels and On Demand options for the largest HD lineup from any cable TV provider at all price points, Charter Spectrum TV now allows customers to get free DVR services for up to 4 televisions in their homes.

Charter Spectrum DVR allows TV watchers to automatically record single shows, set series recordings so they’ll never miss an episode of their favorites, stop, pause and rewind live TV. Charter Spectrum DVR allows you to store your favorite recorded movies forever to watch over and over again, skip commercials on broadcast shows you record, and a lot more that makes TV watching more convenient than ever before.

Charter Spectrum DVR, free as an addition, is available with Charter Gold TV (featuring the most HD channels overall, including all the available premium channels), Charter Select TV (the basic package featuring basic cable channels at an affordable low price) and Charter Spectrum Silver TV, which splits the difference between Select and Gold.

Charter Spectrum Services Launch Filipino Channels in USA

Charter Spectrum TV broadens its channel selection with the inclusion of two Filipino-language channels: ABS-CBN’s the Filipino Channel (TFC) and Lifestyle Network. These channels are part of the Filipino View package, available nationally.

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TFC is a 24-hour general entertainment channel featuring Filipino-language daily news, popular dramas, top game and reality shows, and children’s programs.

Lifestyle Network, a 24-hour linear network, features a mix of entertainment, food, travel, culture and lifestyle programs in both English and Filipino. Lifestyle Network is the first network specifically geared towards first and second generation Filipino-Americans.

Jun del Rosario, head of carriage and marketing for ABS-CBN Global, said that with over 20 years of experience, TFC has become and continues to be the global brand of excellence in Filipino content.

“Together, TFC and Lifestyle Network create a strong and compelling package that appeals to the fast-growing Filipino-American community. We are grateful to Charter for including both networks as part of their Filipino View package,” said del Rosario.

The channel selection of both English-language and foreign-language channels with Spectrum TV continues to grow, as the service provider is home to the largest HD cable TV lineup in the United States.

Future Cable TV Costs Looking Good for Consumers

Cable TV consumers have been experiencing price hikes of an average of eight percent a year since 2010, and this year that resulted in an average cable TV bill reaching a record height of $99 per month. Predictions for next year show that prices should remain fairly stable, with some service prices going down and others remaining the same, which is good for consumers.

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Comcast, the largest U.S. cable operator, (CMCSA) announced that the rate for its most popular plan is going up 3.9% next year. And while there’s a mix of increases for some of its other plans, the charge for adding premium channel HBO is going down from $22 a month to only $15. Meanwhile, analysts expect Time Warner Cable (TWC) and Charter Communications (CHTR), the second- and fourth-largest operators, won’t raise rates much while their $55 billion merger deal remains under regulatory scrutiny.

Could it be that the millions of people forgoing or cutting back on cable television service — the so-called cord cutters and cord shavers — are finally having an impact?

That’s definitely part of the cable companies’ calculus. The number of households paying for TV service has been on the decline for several years, with almost another 1 million customers droppingover the past six months, according to research firm MoffettNathanson. A filing this week from Walt Disney (DIS) disclosed that its ESPN sports network has lost 7 million subscribers, a 7% decline, since 2013. At the same time, Internet streaming services from Netflix (NFLX), Amazon (AMZN) and others are growing quickly.

“The cable companies are trying to run a business and they’re seeing costs rising on the programming side,” says Bruce Leichtman, president of the Leichtman Research Group. “At the same time, the market is saturated, even shrinking slightly, so they don’t want to raise the price of their bundles at the rate of increase of their programming costs.”

The impact of the Charter Communications/Time Warner merger for the time being is prices remaining stagnant, which is good for consumers in current Time Warner areas who will be moving to Charter Spectrum TV, Internet and Phone services. Check back to the TV, Internet and Phone Blog for more information on cable rates as they become available.

Fewer Viewers Signing Up for Cable TV

Cable and satellite television providers like Charter Communications and DIRECTV are already worried about current customers leaving by “cutting the cord” and cancelling their services to opt for streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. But according to a new Forrester Research survey cited by the Wall Street Journal, there is another group that companies like Charter and DIRECTV should worry about: the 18% of the US population that has never signed up for cable TV. This includes a number of viewers between 18 and 31 that is higher than the number of people who are cutting the cord on their satellite TV and cable services.

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Going forward, it’s not outlandish to assume that this dynamic will only become more pronounced as services like Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and Amazon continue to double down on original content. What’s more, once Apple gets into the mix with its own TV subscription service — rumored to be launching in 2016 — the situation may quickly become dire for cable companies. Remember, Apple is reportedly trying to secure a $40 pricepoint for its own subscription service, a price that’s far lower than most cable packages out there.

Looking out even further ahead, the Forrester study anticipates that only 50% of all TV viewers by 2025 will consume content via traditional cable TV.

What does this mean for cable and satellite TV companies? It means that not only do they have to convince current customers to stay, they need to work to gain new subscribers among the younger generation that have grown up alongside streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Can they keep up? Only time will tell.

Big News for Time Warner Cable

Time Warner Cable has set its special meeting for shareholders to vote on the planned merger with Charter Communications, according to Forbes Magazine. Shareholders of record as of July 28 will be allowed to cast votes on the merger plans. As a result, Charter is organizing a similar, separate vote that same day. The deal can only be completed if it is approved by a majority of each company’s shareholders—this outcome is likely, as it will help both companies compete in a landscape where other pay-TV giants, such as DIRECTV and AT&T, are also consolidating.

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Time Warner Cable and Charter had announced last May that they had entered into a definitive agreement to merge. Charter is a leading internet communications company and the fourth-largest cable operator in the U.S. The deal values Time Warner Cable’s stock at $195.71/share, which gives the company an enterprise value of $78.7 billion. Charter will provide $100 in cash and the rest in shares of a new public parent company, tentatively called “New Charter,” for each Time Warner Cable share outstanding. Charter had earlier agreed to buy Bright House Networks and the Syracuse-based company will also be a part of New Charter. The deal is currently under review by the FCC and the companies expect the deal to close by the end of the year.

Time Warner Cable’s stock gained around 1% over the week through Thursday. We currently have a price estimate of $198 for Time Warner Cable. For the year 2015, we estimate revenues of $23.7 billion, in line with the consensus estimate, and EPS of $6.86, compared to a consensus estimate of $6.61.

The proposed deal with bring both companies territories they’ve never had before, and will expand the influence of both on the market as both cable TV and broadband internet providers.

FCC Director Recommends AT&T-DIRECTV Cable-Satellite TV Merger

AT&T is attempting to purchase DIRECTV, the largest satellite TV provider in the United States, for a sum around $48.5 billion dollars. AT&T, which already provides services in competition with DIRECTV with its AT&T U-Verse cable television service, would then become the largest cable or satellite TV provider in the nation, dwarfing competition like Charter Communications, Comcast, and others. The head of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has recommended allowing the deal to go through.

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The company would have 26.4 million TV subscribers in the U.S., topping Comcast as well as a possible new giant, Charter, which wants to buy Time Warner Cable. It would also include AT&T’s nationwide network of tens of millions of wireless customers, its Internet and landline phone services and DirecTV’s millions of customers in Latin America, where AT&T wants to grow.

Consolidation has swept the industry as people increasingly turn to the Internet for video and content costs rise for cable and satellite TV companies.

What does this mean for the consumer? It probably means speeding up the push to cut the cord and move away from satellite or cable TV, as less competition means higher prices. AT&T could be winning the battle in the short term but losing the war. But it remains to be seen how this will all play out—four commissioners still have to vote on whether or not to approve the sale.