Charter leaving ESPN out of Stream base tier not a huge problem for Disney, analyst says

Last week, Charter confirmed that testing a $20-a-month sports-less streaming service that will livestream around 25 channels.

UBS analyst Doug Mitchelson has downplayed the impact of Charter’s decision to leave ESPN out of the base tier of its new livestreamed skinny bundle. 

In a note to investors, Mitchelson said the fact that Charter Stream is merely in beta tests with little promotion minimizes the impact of any exclusion. Further, he noted that the service is delivered over managed network within Charter’s footprint, and not national in scale. 

RELATED: Charter testing $20, sports-less streaming skinny bundle

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Charter, he said, could gather up to 1 million subscribers before impacting its program licensing deal with ESPN parent Disney. But Mitchelson doesn’t seem to believe that will happen anytime soon. 

“We believe this ‘update’ underscores the relevance of the upcoming Disney distribution renewal cycle, where ESPN’s minimum guarantee level (80%-85%) will be a material point of contention (DIS wants to move it back higher),” the analyst said. 

Last week, Charter confirmed that testing a $20-a-month sports-less streaming service that will livestream around 25 channels.

The main programming tier includes local broadcast stations, as well as 25 cable-network staples, such as AMC, TNT, FX and Food Network, plus access to premium channels HBO and Showtime for an additional $7.50 a month. 

Sports networks, including ESPN, would not be available in the base tier—they would have to be added with a $12-a-month extra package. 

The product test was first reported by Reddit users invited to the trial. Charter has since confirmed the test.

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