Warm turkey TV

cut-the-cord-cloudsAs I’ve written before in these pages, and it’s now more true than ever, signs of disruption to the cable industry are everywhere.

Consumers who have put up with paying exorbitant costs for 500 channels (when they only watch maybe 20 on a regular basis) are tiring of the cable TV model.

And, perhaps even more dire for the industry, millennials leaving the nest are eschewing cable TV altogether.

The entire industry is based on 20th-century technology that is cumbersome and not always reliable. Although we’ve seen cable providers begin to offer some programming through web-based streaming options, it’s limited, restrictive and, from my view, too little too late.

Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Now, and others are cleaning the cable industry’s clocks when it comes to modern interfaces, ease of use, and accessibility. Add in that these services are offering their own original programming, and cable TV begins to look more and more like an aging boxer way past his prime.

Cord cutting contemplation

From a more personal standpoint, I’ve been more seriously contemplating cutting the cable TV cord lately. Every month, when I see that cable bill from Charter, I bristle a little.

x-out-charterNow, admittedly, some of that cost ($60) is for Internet service, and that’s not something I’m going to give up.

With the cable TV part of the equation, however, I feel like I’m paying too much for something that is increasingly less critical to my entertainment habit.

My household has made some recent changes in this regard. A little over a year ago, I called the cable company, and as nicely as could be, asked the representative how I could bring down my $170 monthly bill to $100. What, I asked, could I give up to approach that price?

We went back and forth. At the time, I was paying for Internet, cable TV, and telephone service all for that aforementioned $170.

After walking through the various options, and because I was a “long-standing and loyal customer,” the representative said he could offer me a $113 promotional monthly rate. I would give up the phone service (no big deal), but I wouldn’t have to give up any of the premium channels that I currently had (for example, HBO). The promotion would last for a year. Sold!

Withdrawing slowly

Well, the year is up, and our last two monthly bills have been right back up around $150. Ouch. Again.

heres-a-hundred-bucksThis time, my wife called the cable company, and asked the same question. How can we get our bill back down to around $100?

Turns out, we can’t. We already had the least expensive basic plan, plus a few premium channels. We decided to go ahead and drop the premium channels (for now), and got the bill down to $125.

We’re starting to have HBO withdrawal symptoms, but we’ll survive. We’re not (yet) dropping our cable habit cold turkey. It’s more like warm turkey, I guess.

Unfortunately, among the 180 channels we still have, we watch 18-20 on a regular basis. I actually counted them. So we’re paying for 160 channels that we never watch. And we’ll have to shell out even more if we turn HBO, Cinemax, or Showtime back on.

Can we talk?

There is definitely another call to the cable company in the offing. But I do want to plot my strategy appropriately.

frustrated-on-the-phoneFirst, I’ll need to make a list of all the channels I now have, and a list of the channels I actually watch.

To that list, I’ll add the programming I must have, and assess the alternative venues (and costs) for getting that programming. Things like sports, local and national news, and select premium programs like Game of Thrones and Homeland, as well as recent movies.

When I do call the cable company, I’ll have my questions at the ready:

“Why am I paying for 180 channels when I only watch 20?”

“Can’t I just get the channels I watch?”

“Can’t I just get the HD versions and not pay for the standard definition versions?”

“Can’t I just stream the programming, and save money on all this cumbersome equipment?”

I already know (or think I know) the answer to those questions: “No sir, sorry. We don’t offer those options.”

In that case, I’ll politely let the representative know that, as much as I love cable TV and their fine customer service (wink, wink), I just can no longer justify the expense. Let’s go ahead and stop the service, and let me know where to return the equipment, I’ll say.

Then it will be up the representative to talk me into staying, to give me a reason. Getting my bill back down to $100, including premium stations, would work.

Otherwise, no go.

Meanwhile, I’ll have to satisfy my entertainment cravings by paying a la carte for movies on iTunes, and by poring through my watch lists on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

I might try Hulu Plus ($7.99 per month) or a skinny bundle from Sling TV (starting at $20 per month). Both these services are available on Apple TV.

I’ll give up some options, but I have a feeling the withdrawal symptoms will be mild, and overall, it won’t be that painful.

Warm turkey TV, indeed.

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