Cablevision Uses Digital TV Transition To Upsell Basic Cable

Cablevision is trying to scare consumers into signing up for basic cable service ahead of the planned transition to digital television. After February 17, 2009, consumers will need a $60 converter box to receive television signals over-the-air. The transition to digital will significantly improve the quality of over-the-air television, but that isn’t stopping Cablevision from funding a scare-mongering campaign to rustle up new business.

The ads from the cable giant read:

Dear Neighbor,

We recently contacted you about the federal requirement to convert all broadcast television stations to digital-only broadcasting. If you currently use an antenna or apartment building equipment to receive your TV signal, you may experience a disruption of your TV service.

The Optimum Network has the new digital format already in place, which means Optimum customers will continue to receive all of their television channels in brilliant digital picture and sound.

To make this transition easy and ensure you continue receiving uninterrupted TV service, we have a special low cost offer for you:

Get our Digital Basic Package for just $19.95 a month for a year including FREE installation.

A disruption of our service? Could The Price Is Right cut out before we see who won the Showcase Showdown? Unacceptable!

Starting on January 1, 2008, the federal government will offer $40 coupons to help subsidize the cost of a converter box. The government has also committed $5 million to educate the public about the switch. Of course, England spent $400 million on public education ahead of their transition, but they didn’t have good-natured private companies like Cablevision to help spread the word.

Swindled consumers would pay $240 (plus tax) for the first year of Cablevision’s service, instead of $20 for a converter box. Warn your grandparents that this is not a good deal.

People are your partners [House of Naked] (Thanks to Joe!)
Digital Television (DTV) Tomorrow’s TV Today! [DTV.gov]

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. GearheadGeek says:

    It’s possible that some of these “swindled customers” might get better television reception than they’d been experiencing before! I agree that if people are satisfied with their analog over-the-air service this is unnecessary, but then again if people bother to do even a modicum of research or (god forbid!) listen to the digital TV conversion commercials I’ve been seeing for a month or more, they’d know that they don’t need to call Cablevision until Dec 08 or Jan 09. And if they don’t bother to do any research, they deserve their losses. Caveat emptor.

  2. presidentcerrano14 says:

    @gearheadgeek

    doing a “modicum” of research is always the way to go. people can definitely everything they read on the web, especially since these major corporations don’t use lobbying groups with neutral-sounding names to clog the intertubes with sites presenting information that echo the advertisements of their clients. it’s incredibly easy for older folks, to whom these ads are targeted, to understand the technical requirements of digital vs. analog television and find out how to go about acquiring these coupons. and i totally agree that if they don’t bother to do the research, they totally deserve to get screwed out of $220 of limited budget. it’s not like they have anything else to do like visit doctors pushing tons of sometimes needless medication and learn how to navigate the medicare system.[/sarcasm]

    you know, i wouldn’t have such a problem if they advertised the price of the offer. but i think they are stepping over a boundary when the use tactics that are designed to inspire concern, when there is no need to inspire it, except to dupe consumers. it may be to the letter of the laws, but in my opinion, it violates the spirit.

  3. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    The coupons will only be good for 90 days.
    What idiot came up with that plan?
    Don’t get the coupons until you know that stores near you have converter boxes in stock.
    This is looking like one of the biggest follies the government has foisted upon us with the connivance of the electronics manufacturers.

    Just wait for all the screaming from people who don’t get them & their TV is gone on Feb. 17, 2009.

  4. reykjavik says:

    Cabelvision is the reincarnation of Satan here on Earth. The Consumerist mentions so many truly despicable and morally abysmal companies without mentioning Cabelvision enough. Cabelvision makes Comcast look like Google. They offer the worst service, I’m talking technology thats at least 8 years behind the technology that Time Warner is offering us here in Brooklyn (brooklyn!) and of course charge twice as much – and every time the Cabelvision dynasty buys a new helicopter. Now that Verizon FIOS has entered the area Cabelvision is losing all its customers – which of course is exactly what they deserve.

    Honestly, if the Holocaust were a corporation, it would be Cabelvision.

  5. gwong says:

    @reykjavik: Don’t forget they’ve ruined the Knicks!

  6. Nytmare says:

    Sounds like everyone here is confusing over-the-air digital with cable digital. An over-the-air digital signal converter has nothing to do with your cable service.

  7. P41 says:

    “transition to digital will significantly improve the quality of over-the-air television” Ah but the catch is going to be, only if you have good signal strength. Digital radio protocols simply do not have sufficient error correction and redundant information to always rebuild the signal in real-world use. So the range at which the device is useless is always less than what is is for analog. It’s true for digital radios, it’s true for cell phones (hey at least the TV station won’t “hang up”!) and I fear in a year and change we will discover that terrestrial Digital TV, even in large urban areas, will be unviewable in many areas during bad weather. And there will be a significant move to cable by the holdouts in order to maintain reception, it’s not going be worth it to most people to get giant antennas like the old days.

  8. BigNutty says:

    Brilliant Marketing. Can you imagine how many people will sign up for this?

  9. trollkiller says:

    This is almost as good as the “AOL is the internet” ads.

  10. AD8BC says:

    The letter is misleading. They would not have to purchase a digital plan. Most cable companies will continue to offer analog service by downconverting the digital signals to the same analog cable channels they have been using — most cable companies are probably already doing this.

    Little known fact about cable… they pick up the local channels off the air with antennas just like people with antennas do, then they remodulate the signals over the cable.

  11. darkclawsofchaos says:

    @reykjavik: They are not all that bad, their phone service is one of the best on Long Island. Internet is pretty good. But their cable is so expensive, and their cable boxes are glitchy, and they overcharge for a lot of things, change their “payment cycle dates often.” But I still think comcast is much worst, at least when we called, they were an hour late but they did a quick and efficient job. Their technicians are never more than an hour late and their customer service is tolerable. They have people who knows what you are talking about.

  12. clyde55 says:

    @AD8BC

    I believe that the cable companies are required to down convert by the FCC until the year 2012. Good news for my girlfriend’s mother who barely understands the difference between a light socket and a light switch.

    “The cable operators, come Feb 2009, can either convert digital SD signals to analog SD signals and throw it across their cable lines to you, or they can give all their grandma and grandpa customers with old sets a digital to analog converter box. It’s a tradeoff between sucking up more of their bandwidth or giving away free equipment.

    Come 2012, five years from now, the FCC will make another decision whether to force cable operators to support analog signals.”

  13. mantari says:

    They are providing a service, though, by continuing to offer analog service after the over-the-air transmission of analog signals has stopped. Really, I think the cable companies would be more eager to get rid of all the analog signals on their own network, so that they can free up the bandwidth for other services.

  14. AD8BC says:

    Oh they have plenty of bandwidth. They are providing enough digital and analog channels to choke a mule. Plus, they already have “on demand” where they can selectively send programming based on what the customer wants to see at any particular time. They provide internet that is fast enough for most mere mortals, and now they provide telephone. They have one serious advantage over broadcast: They have the entire bandwidth of a coaxial cable to play with and it will get from their local head end to the customer’s cable jack with a reasonable amount of signal quality.

    If they decided to go all digital to provide more services, they would have done so long ago. Now, if they decide to go digital just to rent out more converter boxes, that would be another story (they have been seething about “cable ready” TVs for long enough).

    Now, as soon as someone invents molecular transport, and it initially has to be done over a hardwire connection, you can bet that the cable company will make everything go digital.

  15. goodkitty says:

    Having just moved, I decided to go cable-free for a while. I bought a digital “tuner” box (what I presume is the same thing as those subsidized boxes) and a Philips amplified ‘HDTV’ digital antenna. I tried this out where I lived previously for a month or so, and got all of one channel (FOX), and then only if I put the antenna in the window just so. At the new place, which is even closer to the broadcast towers, I get nothing but a few seconds of local religious programming before getting a ‘bad signal’ message. With rabbit ears at least I’d get SOMETHING, even if it was a snowy mess.

    I think this digital transition is going to be an enormous boondoggle, if for no other reason it seems as if it’s impossible to get good digital reception of all channels, even local ones (from my experience and from what I’ve heard from others around here).

  16. drjayphd says:

    Anyone else have friends/relatives who think the digital conversion actually means they’re switching to HDTV? Mang, if you wanted to upsell, there’s your market.

  17. xl22k says:

    This doesn’t really set off any red flags for me…

    Yea, it doesn’t tell the whole story, but Cablevision is in business to sell its products and this is obviously a marketing campaign.

    Compared to other Cable companies, Cablevision customers really have nothing to complain about. Yes they are pricey, but their service is generally better than I’ve expected in my experiences with them. (Plus HD channels for free!)

    The only thing about them that irks me though is when they advertise the triple play package for $29.99 each for a year (or even in this case ~ $19.99 for a year)…but what is the price after a year?

  18. SpdRacer says:

    @ad8bc: They also get their channels from satellites too, which is why the whole satellite tv doesn’t work during bad weather ads are frakin’ hilarious!

  19. shch says:

    I worked at radioshack for a very short time like a year and a half ago, and we had signs up saying “get your DIGITAL 55″ HD TV today before you’re out of time! in 2009 ALL TV’s must be digital!” or something close to that, all over the TV section. We were trained to encourage customers to buy huge HD TV’s and DirectTV service (both of which we got comission for) and twist the new legislation into basically saying you MUST spend at least $800 on a new TV and get DirectTV and you better do it QUICK or else your TV won’t work and you will be breaking the law and never be happy and die young and… all of that. big scam but the tv’s flew off the shelves. quit after like 2 weeks because, well, it sucked.

  20. tommychow says:

    I got a letter in the mail from Cablevision last week letting me know that:

    “As of 5/13/08, although the following channels will remain in the existing package, they will only be available with a digital cable box on all of your televisions and the IO package: TLC, A&E,E!, Sci-Fi Channel, TruTV, Animal Planet, Travel TV, C-Span2, QVC, OTB/RAI and the Golf Channel”

    and:

    “To make this transition easy, we will provide you both a digital cable box and the IO package for a year free”

    So I called them as asked why it would be necessary to have the digital service and box. I was told the government is making them do it. I then asked how much the box and service will be after one year. I was told at today’s’ rates it would be $5.95 for the service and $6.50 for the box per month (or an additional $149.50 per year). And they will probably increase it before the year is out.

    So I said to the rep, let me get this straight, I need to get this box to watch channels I now get for free and can look forward to paying more for the same service in one year? Well, yes was the reply.

    Isn’t progress great? Digital TV is a scam to milk more money from the public. Does anyone recall when the cable company pitch was “there are no commercials”? Cablevision is a rip. Time Warner/RCN is better and cheaper. But cable companies are like relatives, you can’t pick em. Unless you call Verizon or Dish choices. I better not get started.

  21. BeatrixAngelfish says:

    Comment on Cablevision Uses Digital TV Transition To Upsell Basic Cable I got a letter in the mail from Cablevision last week letting me know that:

    “As of 5/13/08, although the following channels will remain in the existing
    package, they will only be available with a digital cable box on all of your
    televisions and the IO package: TLC, A&E,E!, Sci-Fi Channel, TruTV, Animal
    Planet, Travel TV, C-Span2, QVC, OTB/RAI and the Golf Channel”

    and:

    “To make this transition easy, we will provide you both a digital cable box
    and the IO package for a year free”

    So I called them as asked why it would be necessary to have the digital
    service and box. I was told the government is making them do it. I then
    asked how much the box and service will be after one year. I was told at
    today’s’ rates it would be $5.95 for the service and $6.50 for the box per
    month (or an additional $149.50 per year). And they will probably increase
    it before the year is out.

    So I said to the rep, let me get this straight, I need to get this box to
    watch channels I now get for free and can look forward to paying more for
    the same service in one year? Well, yes was the reply.

    Isn’t progress great? Digital TV is a scam to milk more money from the
    public. Does anyone recall when the cable company pitch was “there are no
    commercials”? Cablevision is a rip. Time Warner/RCN is better and cheaper.
    But cable companies are like relatives, you can’t pick em. Unless you call
    Verizon or Dish choices. I better not get started.

  22. Guitarjac says:

    What no one has mentioned is that the $6.50 per month rental is PER TV: Cablevision confirmed that I will need a SEPARATE BOX for EACH TV I own or I won’t be able to get the stations back they’ve already eliminated. I have the IO service on only 1 TV right now, but I have 5 TVs in my home. That’s and additional $390 per year on top of what I already pay! Does anyone know if it’s possible to buy some kind of “splitter” – call it anything – to connect all the “secondary” sets (currently digital but without IO)to the “primary” one?

  23. Anonymous says:

    People living in areas of fringe reception may have no choice but to sign up for cable service. It’s certainly easier than hiring an installer or tying to install a 14 foot rootop antenna by yourself because your current antenna can’t pick up as many digital channels as analog channels. The Digital Cliff Effect really can kill off reception for those living far away from the TV transmitters. Fuzzy analog pictures are watchable, but digital signals that are too weak result in no picture at all. My parents had to sign up for cable just for that same reason. Many others will to and there will be a Pay TV windfall.

    http://www.tvtechnology.com/article.aspx?articleId=70764&mnu_id=52