I’m switching to satellite

Five years ago, my Time Warner cable bill was a little over $40/month. When I got the bill with the latest price hike, which caused total to crest above $60, my patience finally gave out.

Who do these people think they are?

Do they really imagine their gawdawful product is worth even half of that?

Do they think nobody notices we’re being charged to watch ads?

I seriously considered dropping it altogether. I really don’t watch that much television. I get most of my entertainment from the Internet, from books, and from my family and friends. Some of whom are so entertaining it’s a bit scary, ha ha ha.

But every once in awhile, I’m in the mood to catch a sitcom, or I notice an interesting movie or documentary. So I haven’t quite been able to bring myself to drop it.

Directv will at least gets the bill back down to what I find bearable. And I’ll be getting about 1/2 again as many channels, which means that when I am in the mood to watch t.v. I’ll be more likely to find something watchable.

And yeah, I know some companies are even worse — about a month ago, Instapundit blogged about his ComCast bill going up $50 in one pop.

This Businessweek piece says

You aren’t really paying more because there are so many channels. The main problem is programming costs have gone up — by 34% in the past six years, the GAO report found. Much of that is because of the high salaries commanded by sports celebrities and the actors who star in top-rated shows. Those higher costs are passed onto the cable operators, who pass them onto customers, explains Gary Arlen, a media analyst with Arlen Communications in Bethesda, Md. Says Arlen: “Someone has to pay.”

Cable operators have also spent a lot to upgrade their systems — more than $75 billion from 1996 to 2002, according to the GAO report. Those upgrades were mainly to allow them to offer high-speed Internet and digital service, and the extra fees they charge for those services will more than cover those costs over time. What makes consumer activists mad is that providers are also charging nondigital (or analog) customers more for cable as well. “The upgrade was paid for twice,” says Mark Cooper, director of research at the Consumer Federation of America.

The article also reports (from the same GOA study that “rates are about 15% lower in areas where two cable companies compete. Unfortunately such competition exists in only about 2% of markets nationwide.”

Except that — as is true with any purveyor of entertainment — there’s a lot of competition. The aforementioned books and friends, the Internet, Netflix, other new media.

Seen in that context, there’s almost something comical about these incremental rate hikes. Like a cartoon character disguised as a bush, trying to move only when you’re not looking. If they only hike the price by a couple bucks at a time, nobody will notice that cable has suddenly become a major household budget item. That we’re no longer paying for it with pocket change. We’re having to make choices. Cable . . . or a nice dinner out. Cable . . . or Internet . . . make that, two months of Internet. Cable . . . or a week’s worth of groceries.

I think they’re pricing themselves out of their own market. In fact, assuming the politicians stay out of it, I predict the cable industry will discover that it has to either start cutting prices (imagine that!) or watch its customer base melt away.

Ha.

[tags] outrageous cable bills [/tags]

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5 Responses to I’m switching to satellite

  1. Right you are! My cable provider keeps calling and emailing me urging me to accept the new “digital” cable with more channels, more features, and a lot more $$. We have Netflix, Internet (same cable, different bill), blogs to read, and books. Plus we have a life away from the almighty Tube. But people seem to keep paying more for more channels with less to watch. Curious.

    John

  2. Kirsten says:

    They know it’s less expensive to sell more to an existing customer than woo a new one.

    If you’re tired of the calls, btw, try the magic words: “Please place me on your ‘do not call registry.’ Thank you, good-bye.”

    :-)

  3. Kirsten,

    I AM on the “Nationwid Do Not Call” list. Why? Because it will stop the calls? HAH! No way. But merely because I can now interrupt the callers midway through their second sentence (when it’s become clear that this is a telemarketing call) with, “Excuse me. Did you know I’m on the “Do Not Call List? Please don’t.” THEN I hang up. Smiling.

    John

  4. Deb says:

    I got one of those bundles (All-In-One or some sort of promotion) that provides digital phone (with unlimited national long distance), digital cable and high speed internet, and it saves me so much money on the phone service that it makes it okay (not great, just okay).

    BTW, Kirsten, have you blogged about Net Neutrality?

  5. Kirsten says:

    The “all in one” is their cost shell game, IMO. They lift up one shell (e.g. phone) and show you what a great deal you’re getting. Meanwhile they’ve jacked up the prices under the other two shells.

    Hopefully, eventually, the market will shuffle and we’ll get better deals.

    I’ve actually changed my mind since I wrote this post and have decided not to get satellite, either. I just don’t watch enough t.v. to make it worth it.

    Re: net neutrality, no, haven’t blogged about it — I don’t really care to blog about politically charged topics. But my opinion is that it’s similar to campaign finance reform — a faux grass roots issue masking another power grab attempt that, should it gain traction, will end up spawning all kinds of unintended mischief . . .

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