Spectrum wants you back: cut-rate Internet TV package targets cord-cutters
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Jeff Platsky | The Press & Sun-Bulletin, Binghamton, NY 12:31 p.m. EDT Mar. 30, 2018
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Spectrum apparently has come to the conclusion there’s no turning back the consumer explosion in cord-cutting and streaming television — the cable television giant is making a play to lure traditional cable defectors with a cut-rate Internet television package.
Customers who don’t buy traditional cable services nationwide are being solicited for a $21.99 monthly plan that allows them to return to Spectrum TV by selecting 10 channels from the standard cable lineup. The offer ends on April 12, according to a solicitation received by a customer in Binghamton, N.Y.
Spectrum’s streaming app looks a bit like traditional cable when it’s opened and also is similar to other streaming apps such as Sling TV. Spectrum Internet is required for the new streaming subscription.
TV Choice is being offered to Spectrum Internet-only and Spectrum Internet/voice double play customers
“We continue to test and launch new traditional and stream video products to better serve the consumer demand for more choice,” said Laura Pritchard, Spectrum representative.
A stunning part of Spectrum’s streaming roll-out is the offer to add on five premium channels, including HBO and Showtime, for $15 a month. HBO alone, through the HBO Now app from HBO, costs $14.99 a month. Showtime directly from Showtime is $10.99 a month.
Introduction of an a-la-carte stream version demonstrates the lengths some cable systems will go to lure back or retain customers. A-la-carte pricing, once thought to be anathema in the cable industry, appears to be a strategy to hook those who have abandoned the service or area thinking about ditching cable.
“Cable providers are in an intensely competitive environment. That’s why they are doing this,” said Paul Verna, an analyst for eMarketer, a Manhattan-based digital communications research service.
With streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube TV and other services expanding their offerings, it has become relatively easy to trim the monthly television bill by obtaining your favorite shows from other suppliers at a cheaper cost.
Emarketer, a digital research firm in New York, reports that 22.2 million U.S. adults have cut the cord on cable, satellite or telecom TV service through 2017 — up 33% from 16.7 million in 2016.
“We believe non-video internet-only customers are interested in a smaller, lower-priced bundle,” Spectrum’s Pritchard said in an email. “We want to meet the needs of all our customers.”
To take advantage of cut-rate pricing, a customer must have a smart television or a streaming device capable of downloading the Spectrum app. Devices include Roku, Xbox One, Samsung Smart TV, and online video player. And the app is available for both Apple and Android mobile operating systems.
While a leased cable box is not required, the user does need to have a Spectrum Internet account.
A customer representative noted the new offer — called TV Choice — is three months old, and replaces a former offer that included 25 pre-selected channels. Under the new offer, the customer can select any channels from the standard lineup including a lineup of basic sports channels such as ESPN, FoxSports1, MLB Network and NBC Sports. YES, which broadcasts Yankee games, and SNY, which carries Mets games, are not available. Local over-the-air broadcast channels can also be included in the package for an additional $3 charge.
The Spectrum deal boasts that no contract is necessary.
Charter Communications, Spectrum’s parent, added 2,000 residential customers in the last quarter of 2017 after losing 294,000 TV subscribers in the first three quarters. The subscriber base is 16.5 million.
“They are seeing the traditional base erode,” Verna said.
Evidence of the erosion can be seen in ESPN subscriber losses. Once the giant of content providers for the cable companies, the sports network has lost an estimated 13 million subscribers over the past six years.
Research by Verna’s company indicates defections from cable providers will only increase in the coming years. Spectrum is marketing to the trend of disaffected cable customers increasingly converting to streaming for their television viewing.
After the two-year introductory period, the Choice TV package price rises to $26.99; and $34.99 in year four.
Always read the fine print and ask questions of any service. Before latching on, Verna recommended thoroughly researching the offer to determine if the deal offered is as good as it initially appears.