Cable Companies – There They Go Again

Happy New Year from the cable companies. As dependably as the change of the calendar, they’re raising their rates again.

According to a widely reprinted Associated Press (AP) story last week, Comcast reports that customer bills will rise 2.2 percent, on average, in 2018. AT&T is raising DirecTV’s prices by up to $8 a month beginning in mid-January. Variety reports that Dish Network and Charter Communications have also notified customers about rate hikes coming in January for most TV packages. Subscribers to Cox Communications also received word of a January price hike.

“Over the past decade,” reports AP, “prices for TV service have risen almost twice as fast as inflation, according to an analysis of government data. Data provider S&P Global Market Intelligence says customers’ cable and satellite TV bills have soared 53 percent since 2007, to $100.98 in 2017.”

The excuse is higher costs from rising supplier costs, specifically, the networks. The networks claim they have no choice, particularly in the area of sports broadcasting, a guaranteed money-maker for them. But to get the sports broadcasts, they have to shell out the big bucks. In 2016, North American sports leagues received a jaw-dropping $18.4 billion from TV, radio, and tech companies that stream games, according to an estimate by consulting firm PwC, AP reported.

Sports weren’t the only driver, however, according to AP. The big entertainment companies (think Disney) require the cable providers to include their expensive channels in the most popular bundles. Competing with such services as Amazon and Netflix, the networks also feel compelled to purchase high-quality TV series, and of course pass the costs along to the customer, whether they watch them or not.

Many consumer-rights activists have championed the idea of “unbundling” or a-la-carte options as a way to lower their cable TV costs. But according to a New York Times exploration of the subject, this would actually result in people paying about the same amount for fewer channels.

“The cost of maintaining the wires to your house and keeping the lights on at the cable company wouldn’t go down,” the Times wrote, “even as you order fewer channels.” This would lead the cable company to charge more for each channel you select to cover its ongoing general and administrative costs. “Meanwhile, each cable channel would know its remaining subscribers are mostly people who actually watch the channel, meaning they have a high willingness to pay. Knowing this, they would raise carriage fees – a lot.”

So what can you do to rein in your rising cable bill?

First, call your cable or satellite company and tell them your bill is higher than you can handle. Ask for a discount or promotional rate. The latter can be available for anywhere from six months to two years. If you do your homework ahead of time, you’ll know what deals they’re offering new customers in your area. Then shoot for that.

Second, be prepared to quit. If you call your cable or satellite company and in response to the call center directory say, “cancel my service,” chances are you’ll be connected immediately to a human whose only job is to get you to stay on. Each company has a department with a name like “customer retention.”

Unlike those who work in the billing or customer service department, these people are empowered to offer deals to keep you on. If you don’t like the first deal you’re offered, reject it. But again, you have to be ready to cancel if they won’t play ball. If it’s not in your mind that you can live without the service, they won’t believe you either.

Don’t fall for the freebies. Their opening gambit is often an offer for six free months of HBO or Showtime or something similar. That’s not what you’re after. You want a lower bill. If you don’t get what you consider a reasonable offer, end the call and call back in a few days. The promotions within each company change on a regular basis, sometimes weekly.

Don’t lose your cool. The old saying that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar holds true here. The retention department employees have a lot of leeway to make you happy, and they’re more willing to go the extra mile to do so if you’re friendly, polite, and respectful. It also helps if you’ve been a long-time customer with a good record of paying on time.

Finally, let Billshark do the hard work for you. We do this every day, and we have the time and the knowledge to get you the best deal possible, not only on cable, internet, phone, and satellite service, but on all your bills. So let us fight the battle for you.

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