Saturday, June 7, 2014

"Cord Shaving"

People tend to forget that the easiest way to cut your cable bill is just to reduce the services you pay for. Sure you can take the “chicken challenge” and call your cable provider to cancel your cable service in the hope of getting a last minute deal. From the stories I've been hearing cable companies are playing harder to get these days, and most people would rather avoid these high drama exchanges.  I intend to try for a better rate myself soon but I’ll likely need to change cable operators to get a significantly better deal.  That said, when I do sign up with the new provider I’m planning to cut my service level to save even more money.

Subscriptions to HBO, Showtime, and other premium TV channels have declined over the past two years while Netflix and other subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services have gained in popularity. A recent NPD Group report noted a 6% overall decline in U.S. households subscribing to premium TV channels over the same period while households subscribing to SVOD services grew by 4%.

 I currently pay for HBO but how I got HBO is the funny story.  My wife fed up with the high cable bill says, “Give me the bill and I’ll get them to give us a better deal.”  That night, I find out the only deal they would give her is “free HBO” for a few months.  Hey better than nothing!  She tried but unless you’re ready and willing to cancel they often won’t budge. So now I have a $16/month HBO subscription I need to cancel.  I rarely watch HBO and for the same money I’d be better off buying the movies I really want off Amazon and I’ll just binge watch Games of Thrones at some later date.  No spoilers please!

Someday, I would like to "cut the cord" and cancel cable TV completely. For now, I'll settle for “cord shaving” while I learn to change my viewing habits to focus on more online content.  My first major move was to replaced my land-line.  Second, I’m dropping HBO.  And third I’m dropping those pesky little channel packages that seem like a deal at the time but really add up.  For me, I have the “Sports and Information” package which I thought I needed for local baseball coverage.  Turns out I didn't.  I’ll save $10/month just dropping that package and I doubt I’ll miss the NBA or Tennis channel.  In my case, I found over $70/month in net savings without even breaking a sweat. Best yet, I sure feel better when I pay the cable bill.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

FIOS is coming

Sometimes the fates converge and I think this is one of those moments.  Right after I started my recent efforts to reduce our cable/internet/phone bill, I noticed a large number of Dig Safe markings on the road and grass covered right of ways in my neighborhood.  The mystery was solved a few days later when we received a notice from a Verizon FIOS contractor letting us know they would be installing underground fiber on our street.

While I’m excited about the idea of fiber to the house, I’m much more interested in a new local cable TV market with two equal competitors.  The last time we called our current cable company looking for a better deal; our provider was unwilling to reduce our bill since I believe they realized we lacked any equivalent options.   I don’t find Satellite providers an acceptable alternative and Verizon had previously skipped our development due to its underground utilities but now we have options, good options.

Some of the recent Verizon introductory offers are impressive but are less so in our case due to our current configuration.  Of course, the most impressive deals include TV, internet, and phone but I’ve happily removed our landline from the control of my cable provider.  Not having to port your phone number every time to you change cable providers should greatly ease the process of switching to the cable provider with the best offer.  This is some ways is similar to never using the cable provider’s domain name in your email address.  Use a Gmail account or similar provider or use your own domain name like I do and you’ll save yourself a headache the next time you switch. Given that getting a good price on cable almost demands changing provides every couple years, it seems smart to plan ahead.

Deals for the two service FIOS TV and internet bundles have far less in the way of savings then the three service packages but are still much cheaper than our current cable provider.  Our issue is the added cost of each TV on FIOS.  Verizon requires a box for each TV and their set top boxes are also more expensive.  We still keep a number of old sets throughout the house: guest room, kitchen, treadmill, craft/sewing area but these extra box costs eat up most of the additional savings.  I’m considering dropping those outlets but I’d rather keep them.  Our decision to changes providers is still up in the air but I’m leaning toward FIOS at the moment.