Charter Wants To Follow FiOS Into Offering “Skinny Bundles” For Cable Customers

Last spring, Verizon FiOS rejiggered its pay-TV slate into so-called “skinny bundles,” where customers pay for a small core base of channels and then add on smaller, niche-targeted bundles of channels as they please. The change resulted in a very public spat Disney, but the folks at Charter think it’s a good enough idea to consider.

Deadline reports that Charter CEO Tom Rutledge told analysts this morning that pay-TV companies need to stop forcing hundreds of channels down consumers’ throats.

He explained that “people are not buying that full [pay TV] package because they can’t afford it,” and so it’s up to the cable companies to create something new “at a lower retail price.”

The biggest roadblock to breaking out channels into these skinny bundles is the fact that, just like consumers are often forced to buy huge swaths of channels they may never watch just to get the few they do, pay-TV providers are being forced to buy smaller-audience channels just to get the rights to carry the popular ones.

“If we had our druthers, we’d buy our product a la carte” acknowledges Rutledge.

And breaking up existing bundled channels can get you into hot water legally. Verizon is being sued for not including ESPN — the single-most expensive channel in any basic cable package — in its core FiOS offering.

One thing that might ease the transition to more customizable cable options is the current trend of cable networks licensing their content to streaming subscription services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu.

By making this content available in some way other than traditional pay-TV, Rutledge argues that the cable networks “lower their value to us, which is good for our cost structure… They’ve devalued their core product and may or may not be carried because of that. No trend goes unchecked.”

But don’t expect Charter to make a move toward skinny bundles just yet. It’s likely to wait until after its pending merger with Time Warner Cable is resolved within the next year.

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