Sisters Talking On…Cutting the Cable Cord

Point for Discussion:

We are paying $128/mo for cable (tv/internet/useless phone) and discovered this morning that new customers can get the same service, minus the useless phone, for $60/mo.  They have no reason to try and keep us since there is zero competition in the area, so they don’t even try.  Time to cut the cord?

Our Points of View:

(Lynn)

The cable TV business has had several years of growth that may be coming to an end.  Back when cable was first available, the benefits were better tv reception, a larger variety of programming, and fewer commercials.  It was reasonably priced even though there was very little competition.  TV has evolved now though.  Many streaming services are available that have provided the ability to cut the cable cord.

When I first signed up for cable TV, there was no competition in the industry and I could sign up for as much or as little as I wanted.  Basic cable provided my local networks, and a few more stations with varied programming.  Premium cable was more expensive and offered additional choices.  Movie channels were extra, but you could see recent movies in the comfort of your own home as they appeared in the theater, unedited.  It was spectacular at the time.

Somehow, the price of cable has increased dramatically, in some cases, to well over $250 per month.  Service providers have added internet and phone service, which supports some level of price increase, but not the levels currently being charged. Rates have been allowed to rise as competition has been minimal.  I have lived in far too many different places over the years, and cable competitors have only existed in one of them – actual cable service from two providers, not satellite service.

In areas with competition, we were able to keep our rates down because we could switch back and forth, as needed, to keep the price down.  Thirty days away from a particular service provider allowed us to be classified as a new customer and thus eligible for new customer discounts.

We moved to a more rural area a few years ago.  Our best option was a bundle rate, which includes cable, internet and phone we haven’t even hooked up. The last thing we need is another phone number for robocallers to use for scams!  The bundled rate seemed fair at the time and was offered to everyone.  I was looking at alternatives last weekend, and found that new customers could get equivalent services for less than half of what we’re paying. Since there is no cable competition in the area, we cannot take advantage of this rate, and the cable company really doesn’t care.

Do they provide a good reliable product?  For the most part, yes.  But, seriously, who needs 175 channels, including 30 music channels?  Do we really watch that many?  In our house we would be good with the 25 or so channels we actually watch and continue to use Pandora for music.

I found out last week that once this bundled promo rate expires, my rate will go up by 33 percent to over $200 per month.  So now I’m investigating my options.  While this trend is picking up steam, it is apparently not at the point where cable companies think they need to do something to encourage their customers to continue paying for full bundled service, but it will be soon.

Cable service providers are apparently different than regulated public utilities that have to provide the same rates to everyone. So our only defense is to cut the cable cord.

The biggest obstacle to cord cutting is access to local live networks for news and live sporting events.  We can buy a digital antenna, but these are limited by range.  The longest range we’ve found is 80 miles.  Reception is spotty, which is not a good solution for us.  If we were willing to give up local news and sports, we could reduce our costs by signing up for streaming services, only using our cable service for internet.

Smart TVs have improved the viewing experience too.  No longer do we need a blue-ray player or video game system to connect the internet to our TV.  Our Smart TV allows us to navigate through streaming services easily.  You need to be careful when purchasing your Smart TV, though.  Vizeo Smartcast is not the same.  You will need a streaming device like your phone, a tablet, or other TV streaming device to make this a true Smart TV.  For our older TVs, we purchased Kindle Fire TV sticks to provide this capability.

There are many options available.  Which is right for you?  It depends on your viewing habits.  We know we need our cable provider for internet service, but not for everything anymore.  Netflix and Hulu provide well over 80% of what we watch these days, and they are less than $20 per month total.  In addition, Hulu is testing a service that would provide access to live TV for sporting events.  We have to have NFL games live as well as our baseball games, both of which would be available through Hulu’s new service.

Direct TV Now and Sling also offer services that provide access to live TV.  Amazon participates in this as well with some live sporting events. All offer a slightly different mix of channels, so you need to consider what you watch when deciding which service to sign up for.  And there are no contracts. Services can be canceled at any time. Hopefully this will keep them all competitive.  Several members of our family have already cut the cord and are much happier.

Until the regulators understand that cable TV and internet service are more like public utilities, all we can do is cut the cable cord to manage what we pay for the services we want.  The options are improving daily. With any luck, we’ll be able to cut that bill down quite a bit soon!

 

(Laurie)

I agree with Lynn that it’s time for a change and a move away from traditional cable or satellite tv!  In my opinion, isn’t a tv just “a bigger boat,”er, I mean a bigger streaming device than a smartphone?

With on demand and streaming technology, people have come to expect that they can watch whatever they want whenever they want – when they are available – rather than being tied to the couch!

There is clearly a need.  Innovative companies are taking a lead and taking customers from traditional cable and satellite tv companies.  Consumer demand for convenience and access to their favorite shows and movies is so great that companies are offering products such as Roku, Chromecast, Amazon fire, among others, and now, even the networks are offering their own streaming, with some charging for access.  We are also in a time where we see Amazon Prime and Netflix investing heavily in producing their own, original movies and shows to motivate people to sign up and stream.

With all of these options, people are now better able to truly customize their channel lineup through a mix and match of different services (e.g., Roku, Hulu, Netflix, Prime, etc.) rather than the “take it all or leave it all” approach with cable.  While there is some flexibility in adding on channel packs or premium channels, the cost for basic cable or satellite tv, is high, even before adding on the extras.  Sometimes, bundling tv with internet and phone can save some money, but what about a package with just internet and a streaming stick (like Amazon Fire, Roku, or the like) – where the tv is really just a larger “tablet” than a smartphone.

If a cable or satellite tv company were to really address what people want, they could still make a lot of money, and build some loyalty for a continuous revenue stream that can be profitable.  We’ve all heard it said that it costs a lot less to keep a customer than to get a new customer.

Here are a few different ways that I think cable or satellite tv companies should think differently, and provide value that can help them grow, while giving people what they want:

  • Internet (monthly cost or discount for annual payment) and a streaming stick (one time cost)
  • Mix & Match Channels – local news and sports + up to 10 cable channels for a fixed rate (I watch the same 5 channels most of the time – I don’t need 175 :-))
  • Premium Mix & Match Channels – same as above, but including any “premium” channels in the mix (e.g., Showtime could be one of my picks, and I’d have other slots to pick – all could be what’s considered “premium” channel today.)
  • Optional phone/landline add-on for about $10 per month (we need it for our remote area)

All-in, it shouldn’t cost more than $50 a month for internet and access to our preferred programming.  Easy.  This is in line with today’s technology and with what people want and expect.  Plus, all those ads in on-demand shows must be making them good money.  I mean, we have to watch 5-6 ads after every 10 minutes or less of programming.  It seems that way!

It’s time to move cable and satellite tv into the world of smartphone technology – it’s just a bigger screen – and offer a flat fee for customized channel selection.  Maybe it could be “unlimited,” too.   Cable is following the path of smartphones.  It’s time to go all the way, or risk losing out to other options.  People are fed up.

 

Our Question to you:

Are you fed up with cable service providers that charge high rates, offer poor customer service and act as if they are doing you a favor by providing service?  Have you considered cutting the cord?

 

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