TV & Showbiz

Cable Company to Offer Discount Lineup

Time Warner Cable is doing something revolutionary in test markets in New York and Northeast Ohio: offering its customers a cheaper channel lineup.

When the economy went south, Americans started doing what many considered unthinkable: cutting their cable service. Broadcasting & Cable magazine recently reported that 22% of consumers either scaled down or canceled their cable service within the past six months.

Time Warner Cable is taking action to retain customers who are considering saying goodbye to their subscription with its “TV Essentials” package, which will carry about 50 channels, and will be priced at roughly half the cost of the current package.

Channels will include A&E, AMC, Bravo, Cartoon Network, Disney, HGTV, Lifetime and MTV. The system has reportedly promised at least one channel from each major genre: customers will receive ESPN News, but not ESPN; TBS but not TNT; CNN but neither MSNBC nor Fox News.

(Insert your Republican viewer joke here.)

The service is expected to save customers as much as $20 per month, although it’s a limited deal: after 12 months, the price jumps to $49.99. Which would then nearly wipeout the discount that makes the limited service potentially attractive.

If successful, it could be a first step towards a la carte programming, a long-hoped-for alternative that would allow customers more freedom to pick channels they want, rather than having to pay more for channels they don’t.

For my book, I’d be happy to do without any of the ESPN channels, HGTV, Disney, Lifetime and any music channel. I could even do without TVLand if I had to. And TruTV is obsessed with really bad reality shows of late: if Forensic Files ever got its own channel, I’d love to have that.

But if such a deal became available to me, I’d jump at it. How about you?

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.


  • About once a year I am plagued by the thought of subscribing to cable again, but then I remember how many channels dedicated to shopping, cooking, or Spanish melodramas there were, and I realize I am better off with Netflix, the Internet, and the rabbit ears.

  • I would go a la carte, I only watch about 8 or 9 channels out of the sixty channels that I receive now. First of all, I'll drop all the sports channels

  • I think a la carte might be closer than you think. Remember, that the Television entertainment infrastructure was set up in the mid to late 50s. The realities of that day have changed dramatically.

    With technologies like, there is a segmentation between content producer and content consumer. Shows will be produced by the content producers and then streamed to TVs, iPads, Android Tablets, even Smart Phones.

    You can see an nascent form of this in the new offering from ESPN. Disney is the parent company of ABC and ESPN and one Steve Jobs sits on the board. Starting in 2011, ESPN will start streaming their popular Sports Center program exclusively to iPads as part of the ESPN iPad app.

    What we can extrapolate out is a model where you no longer subscribe to a group of channels, but to only the channels you want through their app. We could further extrapolate this out to a model where you subscribe to individual shows. Of course, there are issues to be worked out, but I think it is safe to say that the next generation will consume their entrainment in a very different way than we do.

    • Two problems:

      First, for a network like ESPN, which reportedly commands the highest amount of money from the cable carriers, allowing customers to opt-out of their service gives the cable companies an argument that ESPN isn't as valuable as it thinks it is, which would inevitably lead to a retrans battle like nothing we've seen so far. Likewise with other self-overvalued networks. ESPN isn't going to want to give up one red cent, and the cable companies aren't going to take that loss without passing it on to the consumers. And then, where's the savings?

      Second, iPad subscriptions are fine if you're going to give up your television set. That's going to be a hard pill to swallow for most households, which are continuing to buy "bigger and better" television sets. While diehard sports fans may be willing to pay more to watch ESPN on their iPad, are they really going to be willing to give it up on those giant plasmas they're so proud of?

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