Charter CEO Tries To Blame Netflix Password 'Piracy' For Company's Failure To Adapt To Cord Cutting
from the blame-everything-but-yourself dept
Like most pay TV providers, Charter Communications (Spectrum) continues to bleed pay TV subscribers tired of paying an arm and a leg for giant, bloated channel bundles. Also like most pay TV providers, the company isn’t willing to really own the fact that their only real “solution” to this problem has been to double down on the same, bad ideas. Charter just got done gobbling up Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks subscribers in a $79 billion deal that resulted in rate hikes as high as 40% and somehow even worse customer service than the historically-awful customer service the sector is known for.
That said, it shouldn’t be particularly surprising that Charter lost another 104,000 traditional video subscribers last quarter. Those losses came after losing 90,000 TV subscribers during the second quarter, and another 100,000 during the first quarter of the year. While skyrocketing prices, horrible customer service, and the rise of streaming video competition are the obvious culprits here, Charter CEO tried lay the blame elsewhere. Namely, those troublesome rabblerousers who share streaming service passwords:
?There?s a lot of pressure on the video business,? Rutledge said. ?The biggest pressure is price. But the second biggest pressure is that many programmers are distributors, whether they know it or now. And because of password sharing and multiple-stream products ? You have 35 million one-person households in the U.S. The multiscreen products sold to those households also them to purchase one product and share it with multiple users.?
This isn’t the first time Rutledge has complained about the practice of password sharing. While companies like Netflix and HBO have made it clear they see password sharing as a form of creative marketing, Rutledge has long stated he sees the practice as some sort of nefarious menace:
“The lack of control over the content by content companies and authentication processes has reduced the demand for video because you don?t have to pay for it,? Mr. Rutledge said on the earnings call. ?That?s going on in the college market.”
That’s a pretty stellar misunderstanding of the evolving video market for the highest paid executive in America last year. Netflix and HBO have both stated that such password sharing has no meaningful impact on the industry, and if anything helps sell new subscriptions once users (especially Millennials riding on their parents subscriptions) get hooked on the value proposition. Compare that business plan to Charter, a company that’s currently being sued for using hidden fees to jack up rates and for intentionally shortchanging subscribers at every conceivable opportunity.
Cable providers could easily combat streaming video competition by lowering rates and offering more flexible channel bundles, an idea they pay a lot of lip service to, but rarely implement. Instead, execs like Rutledge have tried to downplay the threat of cord cutting in the belief they can nurse the traditional cable TV cash cow indefinitely. They’re afraid to offer a cheaper, better product for fear of accelerating the trend. What they often don’t seem to understand is this isn’t going to be a choice. The days of cable TV wink-wink, nod nod non-price competition are over, and if these companies want to remain in the TV business — they’re going to have to (gasp) seriously compete on price.