Considering the Charter deal with Disney, now we need to reassess the entire process of choosing exactly which TV networks and streaming services the average pay TV consumer wants.
Charter's new deal allows a lot of flexibility in how it bundles and packages channels and networks -- to a certain degree. That's because consumers can't just pick the exact broadcast/cable TV networks (and now streaming platforms) they want in their own personal bundle.
Still, Charter's effort moves the needle in adding streamers' platforms owned by legacy TV network group-focus media companies -- in the case of the Disney deal for Disney+, ESPN+, and the forthcoming full ESPN cable TV channel as a streaming platform.
The problem is the marketing approach. TV network producing companies have been offering these platforms as -- say it with me -- direct-to-consumer (D2C).
Many consumers might not want ESPN -- or perhaps kids networks like Disney Jr., Disney XD, or teen-oriented Freeform. The flexibility in Charter's deal with Disney also comes in lowering minimum subscriber levels for a number of Disney networks it contractually agrees to carry.
On the flip side, consumers will now have TV/cable network packages that also include highly desirable streamers -- Disney+ and ESPN+. But Charter didn't get these streamers for nothing, as it originally wanted. They will pay a “wholesale” price -- whatever that means.
Many analysts credit Charter -- the second-biggest U.S. pay TV provider -- for its seemingly blase stance in telling the whole it would just abandon the whole process when it comes to carrying any Disney networks. This must have given Disney executives some shudders.
Charter's point was that many of its consumers -- especially as it concerned ESPN -- just weren’t watching the sports network. To add insult to injury, Charter still had to pay the highest price carriage fee for ESPN to Disney because of Disney’s overall leverage when it came to packaging all its networks.
But consumers want other stuff -- like the fancy Disney+ and perhaps Hulu from Disney -- as well as Netflix, Prime Video, Peacock, Paramount+, Max, etc.
Right now, the prevailing wisdom is that consumers want all the popular channels -- streamers, networks, TV stations, niche digital apps -- in their bundle, also at a low price.
If that's not possible, they would want to pick the TV brands on a short-term basis. High churn levels of streamers currently show this is a thing. Platforms’ de rigueur ease in adding/dropping platforms gives consumers their own -- say it with me -- flexibility.
An old-school idea had it that consumers wanted a full process for picking and choosing all networks/platforms they want. Cable TV operators said no way.
Now, all this consumer activity may be initially viewed as wrong anyway. The so-called "a la carte” approach is bogus. Consumers can be unwilling to change and then there is some churn -- they don't want to do much work in making major changes in their channels/streamers' lineup from one month to the next.
With that in mind, consider that for Charter -- as well as other pay TV distributors -- the "new look" for the pay TV system might still work.