Each every now and then, Spectrum (nee Time Warner Cable) calls up with some feeble try and lure me again to cable TV. More often than not, the corporate simply pitches the identical outdated TV service, with a short-term promo deal would nonetheless price excess of what I’m paying for web alone. No thanks.
Final week was completely different. Over the telephone, a Spectrum rep was promising a brand new form of a la carte streaming service, formally known as Spectrum TV Selection. For $25 monthly, he mentioned, I may get all the main broadcast networks, plus my selection of 10 different cable channels, all streaming on cell units, net browsers, Roku gamers, and Xbox consoles.
Whereas I personally have little curiosity in changing into a Spectrum TV buyer—I’m pleased with my mixture of Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO, and an antenna—this was a uncommon alternative to strive one thing actually new from the cable guys. (Spectrum is reportedly rolling out the service to most of its markets after a restricted take a look at run final yr.) After asking the customer support rep a barrage of questions, I picked my channels and signed up.
My conclusion to this point: Spectrum’s a la carte TV service is an effective worth, with apps that ought to really feel acquainted to cable subscribers. Nevertheless it additionally carries a few of cable’s baggage. And for now, it’s unclear what number of Spectrum clients can really get the service.
How Spectrum’s a la carte plan works
Right here’s what Spectrum’s gross sales rep provided me:
- $15 for the primary month, or cancel within the first seven days without charge
- $25 monthly—after a $Three-per-month broadcast TV price—for the primary two years, with no contracts or long-term dedication. My complete in Ohio, together with tax, can be $26.02.
- The pre-tax worth rises to $30 monthly after two years.
- Dwell TV and on-demand video are included, however DVR will not be.
- DVR service would require a cable field, which might increase the fee by $20 monthly, and the recordings wouldn’t be accessible on streaming units.
As for channels, Spectrum TV Selection consists of the next:
- All 5 main broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and CW).
- Any 10 cable channels from a listing of round 65.
- Public entry and academic channels reminiscent of PBS and C-SPAN.
- Digital subnets, reminiscent of MeTV and Bounce. (These differ by space and won’t embody every little thing you’d get from an antenna.)
- Music Selection channels are supposedly included, although I don’t see them in any of my apps.
- An choice so as to add HBO, Showtime, The Film Channel, Starz, and Starz Encore for $7.50 monthly every, or all of them in a bundle for $15 monthly.
For the 10 cable channels, the lineup consists of main nationwide sports activities channels reminiscent of ESPN and FS1, all three main cable information networks, and widespread leisure channels reminiscent of AMC and HGTV. You may view the total listing at Spectrum’s website, or view the chart beneath, which relies on Cincinnati markets:
It’s a surprisingly stable listing, nevertheless it doesn’t cowl every little thing, particularly for sports activities followers. Regional sports activities choices reminiscent of Fox Sports activities and Large Ten Community are lacking, as are league-specific channels like MLB Community and NBA TV. In our streaming bundle guide, I at present observe greater than 200 channels; Spectrum TV Selection provides lower than a 3rd of them.
The Spectrum rep mentioned clients can name to pick out completely different channels as many instances as they need inside the first 30 days, however didn’t have a transparent reply on whether or not clients can maintain choosing completely different channels after that. In any case, there’s no approach to get greater than 10 cable channels by Spectrum TV Selection. If you need a much bigger bundle, you’ll need to improve to a full bundle.
The Spectrum TV streaming expertise
To observe reside and on-demand video, you’ll be able to both go to watch.spectrum.com or obtain Spectrum’s apps, which can be found on iOS, Android, Roku, and Xbox One. Should you’re at residence, Spectrum ought to detect your web service and signal you in mechanically. In any other case, you enter the identical credentials that you just use to entry account data on-line.
Most of these apps supply a grid-based channel information (although the Xbox app unusually doesn’t). It’s also possible to create a watchlist for favourite applications, seek for applications by title, and peruse the on-demand catalog. Spectrum’s interface isn’t as snazzy as different streaming TV providers, with their slick menus and good suggestions, nevertheless it’s at the least useful.
Some restrictions apply, although: Many channels aren’t accessible exterior the house, together with the main broadcast networks, PBS, ESPN, CNN, AMC, and NBC Sports activities Community. And since there’s no DVR, you’ll be able to’t pause or rewind reside TV, not to mention file full applications.
That mentioned, you’ll be able to entry many channels exterior the house—and on units Spectrum doesn’t assist—utilizing cable-authenticated TV All over the place apps. I attempted this with ESPN, Meals Community, Comedy Central, and AMC, and had no issues with any of them. And at residence, I didn’t run into any restrictions on concurrent streams within the Spectrum app, even with video taking part in on Roku, Xbox, an iPad, an Android telephone, and an internet browser on the identical time.
Alongside the best way, you’ll nonetheless run into some unpleasantries from the cable period. Whereas looking out on Roku, or looking the on-demand catalog on Xbox, Spectrum will typically show applications from channels you don’t have, together with a key icon and a message suggesting that you just improve your TV service. Intentional or not, it seems like a sleazy gross sales tactic.
The information additionally nonetheless shows channel numbers, that are nugatory with out a distant that has quantity keys, and duplicates every channel with numbers within the double, triple, and quadruple digits. On cable containers, that is speculated to separate HD from non-HD channels, however on streaming units, most feeds are in excessive definition anyway. The redundant channels solely add confusion.
Yet another notice for videophiles: Spectrum does assist 60-frames-per-second video on some channels, together with ESPN and Fox. Different channels, together with NBC and CBS, are caught at 30 frames per second.
The right way to get it
The most important drawback with Spectrum TV Selection is that it’s not open to everybody. The Spectrum rep I spoke with mentioned the corporate is at present providing it to round 100,000 “hand-picked” clients. Once I requested whether or not my neighbors and pals may name to request the service, the rep mentioned they might strive, however made no ensures that they’d achieve success.
A Spectrum spokesman declined to substantiate these particulars or reply different particular questions, and as a substitute despatched a common assertion: “We proceed to check and launch new conventional and Stream video merchandise to higher serve the buyer demand for extra selection,” the assertion mentioned. “We consider non-video web solely clients are concerned with a smaller, decrease priced bundle. We wish to meet the wants of all our clients.”
For now, Spectrum TV Selection is little greater than a lure, most certainly for web subscribers who gave up cable TV way back, or for ones who’re about to chop the wire. I’m not even positive if Spectrum may supply this bundle to everybody, on condition that networks have beforehand put subscriber caps on skinny bundles and shut down attempts to make sports activities networks like ESPN elective.
However as Spectrum continues to shed TV customers, it’ll have a much bigger pool of individuals to name up and attempt to win again. With a la carte TV—or at the least the closest factor to it proper now—the cable firm has a extra compelling pitch than standard.
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