Would Anyone Pay $45 a Month to Watch Their Favorite Show?
As a devotee of The Good Fight, I was excited to learn that showrunners Robert and Michelle King were re-teaming with actress Audra McDonald for The Second Wave—even if a pandemic-themed drama isn’t exactly escapist fare right now. Then I saw the word “Spectrum” and abandoned all hope of seeing the show. Spectrum Originals is a streaming platform that isn’t even available to me; and if it were, it would set me back at least $44.99 per month, the price of Charter Communications’ cheapest Spectrum cable subscription.
The Spectrum Originals slate launched in June 2018 when Charter Communications ordered L.A.’s Finest, the recently canceled Bad Boys spinoff series starring Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba. “Our content partnerships offer us a great opportunity to provide Spectrum customers with the dynamic, authentic, and unique programming that drives value for their Spectrum subscription,” Katherine Pope, Charter’s senior VP and head of original content, said at the time, per Variety.
Sure, that sounds like a shrewd business move, but anyone who isn’t a Spectrum customer is S.O.L. As far as I can tell, unless these Spectrum shows make it to network TV like L.A.’s Finest eventually did, the only way to stream Spectrum Originals programming—e.g. the Mad About You revival, the gothic mystery Paradise Lost, and the latest season of the Manhunt anthology—is to have a Spectrum cable subscription.
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I even went through the motions of subscribing to Spectrum, only to be informed that my address “is not part of the Spectrum service area” and redirected to the Xfinity website.
According to a Spectrum availability map on CableTV.com—a Spectrum authorized reseller—the cable service is available in 41 states but only certain areas in each state. The map shows that Spectrum is available almost everywhere in Ohio and New York, for example, but almost nowhere in Georgia, Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan, and Colorado. To the company’s credit, Broadband Now reports Spectrum’s service areas cover an estimated 102.7 million Americans—second only to Comcast’s Xfinity service—but that’s still less than a third of the U.S. population.
My sign-up attempt was just an experiment, of course. I wouldn’t subscribe to a service costing $44.95 per month—six times the price of a Disney+ subscription and nine times the price of Apple TV+—just for the exclusive original content. (Maybe if I were madder about Mad About You?)
A recent Trade Desk survey of more than 2,600 U.S. consumers found that 59 percent of consumers won’t pay more than $20 per month for the sum of their streaming services, and 75 percent won’t pay more than $30 per month. $45 per month is way out of those comfort zones, so a consumer would have to find the whole Spectrum package worth that price tag, especially because there’s no Spectrum Originals-only plan.
If I were a Charter exec, I would offer Spectrum Originals as a standalone subscription. After all, rival cable company Comcast offers its Peacock streaming platform to everyone, not just customers of Comcast’s Xfinity cable service. There’s still a perk for Xfinity customers, of course: They get Peacock Premium for no additional cost.
Unless Charter follows suit with Spectrum Originals, it might have trouble gaining traction in the streaming wars. As one commenter said after the demise of L.A.’s Finest, “It was cancelled because no one watches Spectrum.”