Critics say a pay TV business that regularly charges its customers $100 a month is doomed.
- Pay TV growth keeps slowing: 484K video users added in Q1
- Why HBO is once again TV’s most relevant network
- Amazon is major player for new internet names, bids include “.news” and “.book”
OK, so how about a cable bill that costs less than $40?
Yes, in between that revolutionary band of consumers who say they no longer want to pay for services and channels they don’t use, and a video content establishment that says you need to support the imcumbent pay TV model to fund shows like Game of Thrones, there is … compromise.
I call it the “cord-trimming” movement — if I’m watching my shows on my Xbox 360 and iPad most of the time, why am I paying for whole-home HD DVR service? If I’m spending half my viewing time on Netflix and HBO Go, what need do I have for Cloo, the Church Channel, CMT and dozens of other smaller cable networks I’ll never watch?
On Tuesday, I went into multi-channel downsizing mode, perusing the packages of the TV service providers in my Downtown Los Angeles area, Dish Network, DirecTV, AT&T U-Verse and Time Warner Cable.
Here are some of the cost-reducing options I found:
Dish Network’s Welcome Pack: This, my friends, is the welcome mat to nearly total pay TV minimalism. All your local channels, plus about 40 cable networks highlighted by TBS, Comedy Central and History, and a simple standard-def receiver box, all for $14.99 a month. I’d be almost completely cut off from my Lakers and Trojans, with no ESPN, TNT or regional network access. (Although a subscription to a service like NBA League Pass could alleviate some of that loss). I’d miss AMC, too, but I could “catch up” on all their series with Netflix.
What I would be able to do is watch streams from networks like Fox without having to wait eight days. I could also subscribe to HBO Go or Showtime Anytime, since I have the necessary pay TV papers for that, too. And if I watched on tablets and notebooks, I don’t know that I’d miss the HD.
Dish International Basic: If the ability to stream premium channels is all I want (plus maybe the BBC), I can choose this crazy-minimal package for $10 a month (which gives me just 20 foreign channels without local broadcast networks). I’d get free HBO and Showtime for three months, in addition to Dish’s Blockbuster-branded streaming. That alone might offset the $240 I’m paying on the base subscription over the two-year span of the contract.
Time Warner Digital Basic: Since I don’t know that I’m ready to give up sports and the HD big-screen, this $29.99 package might be a better option for me. It’ll give me all the basic authentication I need, plus access to ESPN and TNT’s HD channels. Notably, Time Warner is the only provider in my area that will let me authenticate WatchESPN. Then again, after 12 months, the price shoots way up.
Option 3: Negotiate a better price with my current provider, DirecTV: Heavens no, I didn’t levy threats. But I did lay out a reasonable argument to a reasonable woman. If I have to keep paying $84 a month for 200 channels, an HD DVR and a thin-client-enabled second TV room, I’m going to walk in September, when my contract runs out. I’ll be taking my check-writing talents to Dish … or AT&T … or Time Warner, or whoever can process and American Express. Turns out that in the cord-cutting era, these sales reps — or at least, the one I talked to — are flexibly empowered to trim prices mid-contract with various discounts and promotions. I got my monthly bill reduced by $20.
It’s a good deal for me because I use regional sports networks like Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket on a somewhat regular basis, and I can justify the added subscription cost by imagining what I’d spend to attend local home games, or to buy friends beer in order to see games at their place.
I can tack on Netflix and HBO subscriptions, and still keep my video budget under $100. I still have a DVR, so I reduce my exposure to unwanted advertising. But I’m kicking into the pot for re-transmission fees, so I’m not putting Disney, Viacom, Time Warner Inc, et. al. out of business.
Everybody — or most everybody — wins.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.