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Comcast Hiking Some TV Prices at Least $10 a Month In 2019

Phillip Dampier April 15, 2019 Comcast/Xfinity, Consumer News 2 Comments

Comcast has begun gradually rolling out 2019’s rate increases for cable television, equipment, and various service fees, starting with some markets on the east coast, sending the cost of Xfinity’s Digital Starter TV package over $100 a month when customers add typical equipment fees and surcharges.

Comcast has also set a $70 charge for service calls, a $70 installation fee, and up to $99.99 for a complete setup of Xfinity Home.

Customers on lower priced tiers will find the paperless bill discount is gone, as are discounts for selecting more than one service. In fact, Multi Product discounts no longer apply to certain Xfinity TV and Xfinity internet services, including but not limited to: Limited Basic, Digital Starter, Internet Essentials, and services purchased under a bulk service agreement.

Cable TV Rates for 2019:

  • Limited Basic: $32.95
  • Basic: (Includes Limited Basic, Streampix, and high definition programming) $30.00
  • Extra: (Includes Limited Basic, Sports & News, Kids & Family, Entertainment, Streampix, high definition programming, and 20 hours of Cloud DVR) $70.00
  • Preferred: (Includes Extra plus additional digital channels) $90.00
  • Digital Starter: (Includes Limited Basic, additional digital channels, TV Box and remote for primary outlet, access to Pay-Per-View and On Demand programming and Music Choice) $69.95

Fees (often compulsory) for 2019:

  • Broadcast TV Fee: $10.00
  • Regional Sports Fee: $8.25
  • DVR Service: $10.00
  • HD Technology Fee: $9.95

Xfinity Internet Prices for 2019 (discounts apply for some packages when bundled)

  • Performance Starter: $50.00
  • Performance: $70.00
  • Blast!: $80.00
  • Extreme: $90.00
  • Extreme Pro: $100.00
  • Gigabit Speed: $110.00
  • Gigabit Pro: $299.95

Comcast Gives Up on Rescuing Cord Cutting TV Customers; No More Deals

Phillip Dampier March 12, 2019 Comcast/Xfinity, Competition, Consumer News 2 Comments

Watson

Unhappy about your cable TV bill? Don’t bother complaining to Comcast, because the cable company is ready to tell you to take your business elsewhere.

New competition usually means those already in the business freshen their game, get creative, cut prices, or out-compete the competition with a better product. But Comcast plans to lose its restless cable television customers if they complain about the company’s prices for cable TV.

Dave Watson, president and CEO of Comcast Cable, told investors at the Deutsche Bank 2019 Media, Internet & Telecom Conference in Palm Beach the company is done handing out retention deals with cut-rate pricing to keep cable TV customers from leaving.

“[Comcast is] simply not going to chase unprofitable video relationships,” Watson said, noting with the growing number of new streaming video competitors, more and more customers are calling looking for better deals and threatening to cut the cord. Watson says Comcast is prepared to let them.

“Because of consumer choice, because of all this competition, we’re just not going to chase video [customers],” Watson repeated.

Comcast’s new “we don’t negotiate” attitude with its customers isn’t groundbreaking in the industry. Satellite providers and some cable companies like Charter/Spectrum have largely stopped negotiating with customers as well.

Some cable operators have intentionally avoided significant video price hikes in recent years, already sensitive to the cord-cutting calls that increase after each rate hike announcement. Others hide rate increases in surcharges, often for local TV stations or regional sports channels. For some companies, giving customers a better deal may even make their video pricing unprofitable.

To compensate for tightening margins on cable television, most providers have been significantly increasing broadband pricing in recent years, knowing broadband is one service customers are least likely to drop as a result of rate increases.

DirecTV Now Preps Huge Rate Increase: Most Will Pay $10 More a Month

Phillip Dampier March 11, 2019 AT&T, Competition, Consumer News, DirecTV, Online Video 9 Comments

AT&T’s merger with Time Warner (Entertainment) is now complete, and despite repeated promises to antitrust regulators AT&T would not use consolidation as an excuse to raise rates, the company is reportedly doing exactly that on its DirecTV Now online streaming service.

According to a report by Cord Cutters News, most current subscribers will be formally notified this week their rates are going up $10 a month and new customers will be offered only two choices for DirecTV Now packages going forward — a slimmed down Plus package of 40 channels and HBO for $50 a month and a slightly larger Max package with 50 channels bundled with HBO and Cinemax for $70 a month. Both represent fewer channels for more money.

News about big changes for AT&T’s streaming services were first announced by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson in late 2018, telling investors he planned to wring more profit out of DirecTV Now by raising rates and slimming down the number of channels in the remaining packages.

Current customers can keep their current packages indefinitely, but they will pay more starting in April. The $10 rate increase comes on the heels of a $5 rate increase in the summer of 2018, and AT&T has made it clear more price hikes are forthcoming as needed.

AT&T also told Cord Cutters News that DirecTV’s satellite service will soon debut on its own streaming platform, but it won’t come discounted or cheap:

  • 65 channel DirecTV package: $93/month
  • 85 channel DirecTV package: $110/month
  • 105 channel DirecTV package: $124/month
  • 125 channel DirecTV package: $135/month

AT&T hopes its simplified menu of offerings for DirecTV Now will prove attractive to subscribers, in part because both packages bundle either AT&T-owned HBO or HBO and Cinemax. But subscribers are also likely to notice the dramatically smaller package of cable channels, now missing AMC, Viacom and Discovery-owned networks. They are also likely to be confused by the forthcoming introduction of DirecTV satellite streaming packages, which will be marketed separately from DirecTV Now. AT&T plans to eventually mothball its satellite fleet and move DirecTV entirely to an internet streaming platform, but will take several years before switching off the last satellite.

AT&T’s DirecTV Now will slim its packages down substantially as early as tomorrow, while raising prices.

An informal FAQ:

Q. When will AT&T make these changes?

A. AT&T is expected to email current customers on or about March 12, 2019 to inform them of the $10 rate hike. At the same time, AT&T is likely to stop signing up new customers for its current DirecTV Now packages and begin offering DirecTV Now Plus or DirecTV Now Max instead. Current customers can expect to see their first bill with the new rates in April.

Q. Will current customers be grandfathered?

A. AT&T plans to tell current customers they can keep their current packages as long as they do not make changes to their account (or cancel), but effective April 12, 2019, rates will increase $10 a month for those subscribed to: Live a Little, Just Right, Go Big, and Gotta Have It.

Q. If I subscribe today to the older packages, can I avoid some of the price increases and channel changes?

A. Yes and no. If AT&T’s schedule holds, today is the last day you will be able to signup for DirecTV Now’s old packages, and you will need to make a payment today and skip the free 7-day trial to lock in these packages or you could face choosing only between Plus and Max after your trial ends. You will pay existing rates for March, but the $10 rate increase will impact you starting in April.

Q. What about the prices for premium channels?

A. If the rumors are true, and we stress these are only rumors at this point, current DirecTV Now customers that already subscribe to premium networks like HBO or Cinemax prior to March 12, will be able to avoid planned rate increases on premium networks that are also supposed to be announced as early as tomorrow. If you sign up today and subscribe to HBO and/or Cinemax, you will pay $5 a month for each going forward. Showtime and/or Starz are also available for $8 a month each going forward. The rumor claims that starting tomorrow, HBO will triple in price to $15 each, with Cinemax, Showtime and Starz supposedly increasing to $11 a month each. These new prices would only apply to grandfathered customers on older packages that want to add a premium network on or after March 12 to their existing package. AT&T would use this new pricing to incentivize customers to abandon their old package in favor of Plus or Max, which bundles HBO and HBO and Cinemax into the base package price. So if you are thinking about subscribing to a premium network and want to keep your old package, you should subscribe today and lock in the current lower price.

Q. What happens to pricing for add-on international channels?

A. If you subscribe to international channels (Vietnamese – $20/mo, Brazilian Portuguese – $25/mo, or Korean – $30/mo) before March 12, your rates stay the same. If you add these channels on or after March 12, you will likely pay more to do so. If you are considering these channels, you may save a lot in the long run subscribing today for at least a month to lock it current prices. If the rate increase does not happen, you can drop the add-on after a month.

Q. What are the biggest differences between the old and new packages?

A. You are getting fewer channels for more money from the new Plus and Max package tiers. DirecTV Now is stripping out popular cable networks from AMC, Discovery-Scripps, and Viacom from the new packages, but bundles HBO in the new Plus package and both HBO and Cinemax in the new Max package. An unofficial new channel lineup of both new packages can be found here.

Q. Why are they raising rates like this?

A. AT&T shareholders have been increasingly critical about the company’s 2015 acquisition of DirecTV. Executives sold Wall Street on the acquisition on the theory that acquiring the country’s largest cable TV programming distributor with 21+ million customers would deliver AT&T’s much smaller U-verse TV (with 4-5 million customers) dramatically better volume discounts on cable TV programming. More importantly, it would help AT&T become a powerhouse in video entertainment and cut through the red tape of getting that programming on AT&T’s mobile products. If you are a cable network’s biggest customer, it helps in negotiations seeking streaming and platform distribution rights.

Stephenson

After the merger, AT&T began de-emphasizing its U-verse brand and even started selling DirecTV satellite service to video-only AT&T customers. DirecTV Now was AT&T’s response to cord-cutting, and its promotional pricing and strong package of channels was customer and regulator friendly. At the same time AT&T was seeking to win regulator approval of its acquisition of Time Warner (Entertainment), it did not hurt to argue AT&T’s prior acquisitions had not hurt the marketplace, and may have even enhanced it, pointing to the DirecTV Now offering in the cord-cutting marketplace.

But Wall Street analysts have often argued AT&T is losing money on DirectTV Now, because the wholesale programming costs plus the distribution and marketing expenses likely exceed the prices AT&T charges. Some analysts are even questioning the wisdom of acquiring DirecTV in the first place, especially as the era of cord-cutting has taken a particularly harsh toll on DirecTV’s satellite subscriber numbers. Just a few weeks after the Justice Department abandoned further court action to block the merger of AT&T and Time Warner, Stephenson followed through on his commitment to shareholders by preparing to prune back DirecTV Now’s packages and dramatically increases prices at the same time.

“We’re talking $50 to $60,” Stephenson told investors last December. “We’ve learned this product, we think we know this market really, really well. We built a two-million subscriber base. But we were asking this DirecTV Now product to do too much work. So we’re thinning out the content and getting the price point right; getting it to where it’s profitable.”

Stephenson fully expects DirecTV Now will soon shed a large percentage of ‘low value’ customers that subscribed only because they locked in a low price or promotion, telling investors he prefers to deal with high-value customers that appreciate AT&T’s brand and quality, and won’t cancel over price increases. He does not want to deal with customers that chase promotions.

AT&T is also using the changes to reset its video portfolio of products, and the audiences each will target. Those most sensitive to price will be marketed ultra-skinny bundles like AT&T Watch, which can also be used to try and get customers to switch to AT&T wireless. Middle ground customers partially sensitive to price, but want a channel lineup that better reflects what they actually watch will be pushed towards DirecTV Now, which will be marketed as cheaper than cable and a good option for cord-cutters. DirecTV’s forthcoming satellite streaming service will be the new home for customers that gravitated towards DirecTV Now’s higher end bundles. Marketing will focus on customers that want an alternative to cable television, but won’t sacrifice their favorite cable channels just to get a lower bill. These customers will be willing to pay a higher price to have a less-jarring transition from the traditional huge cable TV package to DirecTV’s alternative.

Q. What does AT&T risk doing this?

A. Hundreds of thousands of DirecTV Now subscribers are likely to cancel service as a result of this rate increase, which will leave DirecTV Now at a higher price than many of its competitors. AT&T’s loss will likely deliver a sudden spike of new customer signups for YouTube TV and Hulu Live TV, which are the closest equivalents. Other services like Philo, Vue, and even Sling TV are also likely to grab new customers, albeit in smaller numbers.

AT&T’s biggest threat may turn out to be cable operators — especially Charter Spectrum, which has launched its own response to cable TV cord cutting. Its slimmed down and pick-your-own-channels packages could be more attractive than other streaming services, and bundle all local channels.

More specifics about those options are ‘below the fold’:

… Continue Reading

Hidden Rate Hike: Spectrum Drops Premium Networks from TV Bundles

Phillip Dampier February 25, 2019 Charter Spectrum, Consumer News No Comments

Spectrum cable television customers with Silver or Gold tiers will find two premium channels have disappeared from channel lineups, with no corresponding decrease in rates.

This hidden rate increase took effect Feb. 15 after Spectrum dropped Cinemax from its Silver and Gold packages and EPIX from its Gold package, with little explanation. Customers have been notified they can acquire these channels a-la-carte, for an additional $9.99/mo for Cinemax and $5.99/mo for EPIX.

The premium network cutbacks were originally planned to be significantly worse, however, after Charter Communications notified some customers it was also planning to delete Starz and Encore from its Gold tier, potentially making the $40 add-on not worth the price. Just days before the changes were to take effect, Charter changed its mind about Starz and Encore, allowing those channels will continue to be available as part of the Gold package.

Some customers are upset about the changes.

“It’s a hidden rate hike,” complained Lois Blumenthal. “We are still paying the same price for Silver or Gold, only getting fewer channels for it.”

Spectrum customer service appeared to be sensitive to customer complaints and threats to downgrade cable TV service, which would only increase the impact of cord-cutting. So the company is offering a hidden deal to current customers who subscribed to Silver or Gold TV tiers before Feb. 15 and who call 1-855-70-SPECTRUM to share their displeasure about the changes:

  • Silver Plan customers qualify for one year of Cinemax at no charge, after which the network will cost $9.99/month.
  • Gold Plan customers qualify for one year of Cinemax -and- one year of EPIX at no charge, after which Cinemax will cost $9.99/mo and EPIX will cost $5.99/mo.

Customers can ask about these promotions when they call. While no expiration date was available on these offers, it makes sense to call sooner rather than later in case they disappear.

It could have been worse. Spectrum notified many of its subscribers the premium network cutbacks originally envisioned also included Starz and Encore. Charter changed its mind, but it was too late to stop notifying some subscribers about the channel deletions.

Spectrum has adjusted its advertising:

Spectrum Silver (includes TV Select — add $20 a month)

  • 175+ cable channels with FREE HD
  • Includes HBO, SHOWTIME & NFL Network
  • On-the-go with HBO GO, SHOWTIME ANYTIME
  • Enjoy thousands of On Demand choices to watch when & where you want
  • Watch on your Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV, Roku, Xbox One, tablet, smartphone or visit SpectrumTV.com
  • Download 80+ network apps and take on-the-go

Spectrum Gold (includes TV Select and TV Silver — add $40 a month)

  • 200+ cable channels with FREE HD
  • Includes HBO, SHOWTIME, STARZ, TMC, ENCORE, NFL Network & NFL Redzone
  • Enjoy thousands of On Demand choices to watch when & where you want
  • Watch on your Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV, Roku, Xbox One, tablet, smartphone or visit SpectrumTV.com
  • Download 80+ network apps and take on-the-go

For all Spectrum customers, the cost of adding most premium add-on channels a-la-carte (without a promotion) decreased effective Feb. 15:

  • HBO remains unchanged at $15/mo
  • Showtime remains unchanged at $15/mo
  • Starz was $15, decreasing to $9.99
  • Encore was $15, decreasing to $5.99
  • Cinemax was $15, decreasing to $9.99
  • TMC was $15, decreasing to $9.99
  • EPIX was $15, decreasing to $5.99

Spectrum Combats Cord Cutting With Spectrum TV Essentials: $14.99 for 60 Streamed Networks

Phillip Dampier February 20, 2019 Charter Spectrum, Competition, Consumer News, Online Video No Comments

In a move that clearly signals cord-cutting is taking a toll on Spectrum cable television, Charter Communications today unveiled a new streaming TV service priced to compete with “over the top (OTT)” streaming services like YouTube TV and DirecTV Now.

“Spectrum TV Essentials” will offer a package of 60 national cable networks for $14.99 a month, when the streaming service debuts in March. The lineup avoids costly cable channels focused on sports and will include no local channels.

“Spectrum TV Essentials is a OTT offering designed to provide Spectrum internet-only customers a new low-price, high-value video option,” said Charter CEO Tom Rutledge. “As we began to assemble the rights for this new video service, we received great enthusiasm and encouragement from these key programming partners, who share our view and embrace creating an innovative video offering we believe will resonate with our internet customers.”

Remarkably, one of Charter’s first programming partners for the newest slimmed-down cable TV package is Viacom, notorious for its bouquet of high-priced cable networks. Viacom has been so insistent on regular rate increases and forced bundling of multiple Viacom-owned cable networks, some cable systems like Cable One dropped all Viacom networks from their lineups just a few years ago.

A management change at Viacom apparently included a new willingness to combat cord-cutting.

“Viacom shared its strong belief and research that suggests there is a large untapped opportunity for a low-priced, entertainment-only bundle unencumbered by the high cost of broadcast retransmission consent fees and expensive sports programming,” Rutledge noted.

The 60-channel lineup is heavy on content from Discovery Networks, Viacom, Hallmark, and AMC. News junkies will be unhappy to find CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News are not on the lineup, although lesser-watched BBC World News, Bloomberg, and NewsmaxTV are there.

The full lineup:

A&E, AMC, American Heroes Channel, Animal Planet, AXS TV, BBC America, BBC World News, BET, BET Her, BET Jams, BET Soul, Bloomberg, Cheddar, CLEO TV, CMT, CMT Music, Comedy Central, Cooking Channel, Destination America, Discovery, Discovery Family, Discovery Life, DIY, Food Network, FYI, Game Show Network, Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Drama, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, HDNet Movies, HGTV, HISTORY, IFC, Investigation Discovery, Lifetime, Lifetime Movie Network, Logo, MotorTrend Network, MTV, MTV2, MTV Classic, MTV Live, MTVU, NewsmaxTV, Newsy, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Nick Music, NickToons, Outdoor Channel, OWN, Paramount Network, Science Channel, Sundance TV, Teen Nick, TLC, Travel Channel, TV Land, VH1, Viceland, The Weather Channel and WEtv.

There will be no DVR option at launch, but Charter is reportedly testing cloud DVR technology for introduction later.

“We’re thrilled to expand and deepen our relationship with Charter. They share both our commitment to the evolution of the the Pay TV ecosystem as well as our understanding of the changing needs of consumers,” said Bob Bakish, Viacom CEO. “As the video marketplace continues to segment across price points and offerings, we believe a high quality, lower priced option for internet-only subscribers is very important. We’re excited to have our global brands as part of Spectrum TV Essentials at launch.”

Access will initially be available on the desktop through SpectrumTV.com and Spectrum’s Roku app. The service will also be available on iOS and Android phones and tablets, Apple TV, Xbox One, Amazon Kindle Fire, and Samsung Smart TVs.

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  • Ed: On the money that was just bragging rights. Later this year when 5G home equipment is released and in Q1 2020 when they roll out dynamic spectrum sha...
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