TWC Offers New Cheaper Cable Package

Time Warner is offering a new tier of cable package called “Essentials” with fewer channels and a lower price.

The package is being test-marketed in New York and Ohio, where it will be priced at $39.95 and $29.95, respectively. “Essentials” will contain local and national broadcast channels, and 50 cable channels, “12 of the top 20 highest-rated cable networks,” among them. It will not have ESPN, Comedy Central, TNT, Fox News, MSNBC, Fox Regional Sports Networks or MSG.

Consumers have long complained about being forced into prix-fixe cable packages stuffed with channels they don’t need, so mo choice, mo better. Depending on how the trial run goes, could Comcast and other providers be forced to follow suit?

Time Warner offers cheap cable package [MSN.Moneycentral] (Thanks to HogwartsProfessor!)


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  1. Monkey says:

    It’s a foul ball, destined to fail. Leave out some of the most popular cable channels, and don’t offer it as part of the triple-play bundle? Who’s going to want this?

    Seems like one part of TWC is pushing for cheaper packages, while another part actually structured the package to intentionally doom it to failure.

    • skylar.sutton says:

      I agree. I think it’s staged (they know it will fail) to prove why “more choices would NEVER work… just look at our market trials!”

  2. Burger19 says:

    “It will not have ESPN, Comedy Central, TNT, Fox News, MSNBC, Fox Regional Sports Networks or MSG.”

    They need to come up with a new “basic plan” and include channels like these. That I think would be a huge success.

    • Mom says:

      Of the 10 most expensive channels, something like 6 of them are sports channels. Believe it or not, a lot of people would be quite happy to pay less and not have any sports channels. And I think I could limp along without Fox News, thanks.

      I’d like to see something like this that offers the 50 channels in HD. I don’t care about sports or news, but I want HD.

    • hansolo247 says:

      No, it will be a failure as the revenue will go down.

  3. grapedog says:

    Sweet, I can pay less and NOT get Fox News? I think that should be the basic package that everyone gets.

  4. MonkeyMonk says:

    It’s pretty common knowledge that sports channels comprise a disproportionate amount of costs to cable providers so how about a lower-cost “No Sports” package for those of us who have no interest in watching sports on TV?

    Last I looked I got like 20-25 unwatched sports channels in my cable TV bundle and there’s no way to lose them without also giving up some other channels I do enjoy watching.

    • partofme says:

      How about a “sports only” package for those of us who can get everything else we want elsewhere?

    • theothered says:

      How about a “No kids package” for those of us that don’t want to pay for overpriced Disney and Nickelodeon offerings since there are no kids in the household?

      In other words, package your offerings for significant sub-groups of your customer base.

    • ogremustcrush says:

      How about a la carte, let me pick out the channels I’m willing to pay for. Which pretty much excludes kid channels, sports, news networks, mtv, etc.

      • Not Given says:

        How about, let me pay for the programs I want to see, when I want to see them and charge per show. Kind of like Netflix or Hulu, but with all the new stuff. If I want to watch something from a previous season it should cost less than a first run show on the night it airs. You should go to a programming guide that lets you subscribe to a series or a particular episode and see the price of it.
        Even if it ends up costing the same as I’m paying now for 64 channels when we watch a third of that ever and a handful mostly. At least it would cut out the incessant channel surfing that drives me nuts.

  5. Dr.Wang says:

    Take a bite out of cable … their prices are a crime!

  6. Admiral_John says:

    It lost me at no Comedy Central.

    Is it really that hard, from a technical standpoint, for a cable company to let consumers choose what channels they want?

    • dragonpup says:

      Speaking as someone who works with a large cable provider’s customer database, yes. I can also imagine working out the contracts would be u-g-l-y.

    • vastrightwing says:

      Yes it is hard because the providers don’t want to offer it. Period. The carriers have little choice in the matter. But then, I don’t care. I have my own package called FOTA (Free over the air). I pay nothing and get stellar hi-def video. I’ve learned to not have a few of the cable only channels I used to like. So there’s the middle finger Comcast/xfinity/RCN/Verizon and all the rest of you!

  7. Hobz says:

    Yes, a la carte please…

    I would like some speedy internet with a little Showtime and Discovery Channel on the side.

    • kcvaliant says:

      Yes it would. Tons of channels would disappear and the cost would be huge for speciality channels.

    • kcvaliant says:

      Yes it would. Tons of channels would disappear and the cost would be huge for speciality channels.

    • Southern says:

      If you had to pay for A-la-carte pricing, your bill would likely be higher than what it is now.

      They would have to restructure the entire pricing system, and raise the price on channels that people DO want to cover the cost of the channels people DON’T want (or don’t order in sufficient quantity to cover the cost of)..

      I.E., they pay something outrageous, like $4.00+ per month, to ESPN.. If everyone could drop ESPN that didn’t want it, the people that DO want it would have to pay more ($8.00? $10.00? More?) to cover the difference.

      • nbs2 says:

        $8 would suggest that only 50% of households would subscribe. Nevertheless, as the price went up, people would cancel. As viewership dropped, Disney would have to lower the asking price in order to attract/retain viewers.

        Eventually, there would be balance.

        $0.29 cents would attracts significant subscriber numbers. This could eventually lead to USA being comfortable charging more, allowing them to spend more on their programming or simply profit.

    • faislebonchoix says:

      I don’t buy one iota of this. So the cable networks get to keep adding more and more junk channels and make the cable companies buy all of them. And my cable bill keeps going up and up faster than the rate of inflation. Eventually I’ll be paying half my income for cable, satellite, or fiber optic TV but that’d still be cheaper than à la carte pricing? It’d only be more expensive for the people who sit on their butt 8 hours/day watching TV.

  8. The cake is a lie! says:

    I wish they would just let us mix and match. Give me network, disney, discovery, USA, history, and syfy and that will keep me happy. 90% of every package is loaded with channels I don’t need or want.

    • balthisar says:

      I understand why no a la carte programming is offered. It’s the same argument for funding PBS.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      there ought to be a science geek package, a foodie package, etc. and you could add them as blocks. i’d need foodie, geek, and possibly the history buff package combo.

  9. balthisar says:

    Wait a minute. I’ve had something like this from Comcast for about the last eight or nine years. Here it is: Limited Basic Service $17.99. I think I get a few cable-only channels in addition to the terrestrial stations.

    • nbs2 says:

      That’s what we get. Our price works out to the same as the bundling discount for getting internet service as well.

      Of course, we haven’t watched any TV at home in close to a year, so I’m not sure what channels we get beyond ABC, NBC and C-SPAN (the kid likes to push buttons and those are channels that pop up when he mashes the channel button).

    • SwoonOMatic says:

      Same here. It is called FCC regulated basic cable. For this tier of service, the FCC sets the rate. This is also referred to life-line service. For me, it is because I live in between two mountains and cannot get OTA signals. I require cable to receive even local broadcast channels.

      The cable company doesn’t want anyone to know about this tier, it is never promoted or even talked about in their sales pitches.

      For everything else, I stream over the internet. Why pay for those expensive tiers when everything I want is available online.

  10. sybann says:

    To be really successful they should offer a menu of choices. Allow the customer to pick the channels they watch most. I for one am sick of paying $70 a month for one room, TiVo and basic service when I feel like I watch HGTV half of the time.

  11. sheldonmoon69 says:

    I think an ala carte plan would be excellent. Maybe offer the major networks and your choice of 5, 10, or 15 channels with the ability to change each month.

    Seems like such an obvious option, but there must be something technical or financial holding something like that back.

    • grapedog says:

      certain stations would crumble because no one would pick those stations, so by bundling them, they stick around to offer programming. Some of those stations are good, while others are useless… so it’s a tough sell.

      • bsh0544 says:

        If nobody wants to watch them, shouldn’t they crumble?

        • redskull says:

          Well, logically yes, they should. But that’s not the American way.

          • Not Given says:

            Gee, I thought that was the American way. I guess I was wrong.

            Think how it could be, if everyone willing to pay for a show could pay what it took for it to be made and keep the show without it being canceled.

            There are a couple of shows, I would pay the full amount I pay for cable now to have kept.

      • frank64 says:

        Plus networks such as ESPN negotiate a per subscriber rate, not per subscriber to the channel, per CABLE subscriber. The per cable customer rate is less, but it adds up to much more money. This is done because the networks have strong negotiating power. Enough people demand these channels, and the cable cos have to carry them. Sucks for those of you that don’t watch them but have to pay. One reason I don’t get cable.

  12. plumbob says:

    I would happily pay $10 for 5 a la carte channels. Higher margins for the cable company lower bill for me, what’s not to like?

  13. NeverLetMeDown says:

    There’s no technical barrier to a la carte, it’s contractual. The deals that the cable companies have with the content companies are generally structured as “cable company X will pay $Y/month for every subscriber who gets Comedy Central, and Comedy Central must be delivered to at least Z% of all the cable company’s subscribers.” So, they have a minimum percentage they have to hit. If that weren’t there, then the cable operators would certainly offer at least some channels a la carte (particularly the sports channels, which are very expensive).

  14. areaman says:

    This is a good move. Not everyone needs 3 Lifetime channels. Wonder if it will bring the people who “cut the cord” back?

    • redskull says:

      No. No it will not. Not for me anyway.

      The only way I’d consider coming back would be for a $10 a month for 10 channels kind of deal, where I get to pick the channels. That’ll never happen though.

      • areaman says:

        Maybe of the cable companies didn’t have to buy the channels in bulk from companies like Espn/Disney… See above comment about next big bubble.

    • Mom says:

      No, it’s still too expensive to bring back those people. Back when cable was the only option, maybe. But now, there are too many other ways to get TV.

      • areaman says:

        I think this is the next big bubble, cable companies and the companies that produce shitty programming for cable.

    • jesusofcool says:

      I’m a fairly young person, but I no longer see the value of anything beyond the 4 or 5 major channels which you can get with whatever the local Limited Basic service is. I find enough junk to watch each night on there – combine it with Netflix or Hulu hooked up to the TV and you’re golden for tops $30 per month. It’s a better value in my book.
      I won’t go back to anything beyond basic cable until a la carte pricing comes into play.

  15. ryes says:

    I seem to recall from other articles on the subject that none of the channels offered with this new package are in HD.

    • NumberSix says:

      Yeah, I don’t get that. I get my local stations over the air in HD (720p aand 1080i anyway) when they brodcast in it which is most of the time. It almost sounds like this would be a downgrade from OTA.

  16. chucklebuck says:

    With Comcast in metro Boston, I have a super basic package that includes the local channels, home shopping, Univision, some religious networks and a few random things here & there for like $10.95 a month. This sounds like more channels than that, but I dunno if it’s be worth $20 to $30 more.

  17. gqcarrick says:

    Well its a no go for me. The Sabres are on MSG so I can imagine a good majority of Buffalo will stay with their current packages.

  18. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    No Comedy Central? Screw that.

  19. bendee says:

    Finally, a cable company that doesn’t add MSG to its TV packages!

  20. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Wouldn’t it just be better to allow the consumer to choose what channels they want?

  21. Rocket says:

    How is Comedy Central not in the ‘highest-rated cable networks’?

  22. NumberSix says:

    Why is the same product 25% cheaper in Ohio?

  23. NumberSix says:

    The $30 price point is closer to what I’d be willing to pay not to have to fuss with an antenna any more.

  24. wackydan says:

    Time Warner has increased our rate two times inside of a year. Internet price has increased 18% from where it had sat at $44.95. Basic cable has increased about the same percentage yet I have two less channels in that same package.

    Come on FIOS… lay more fibre.

    Come on Hulu and Netflix… Offer more content.

    Dishes are nice, but by time I factor in the decoder box rentals, it is the same price as cable – I don’t rent a cable box currently.

    Well Time Warner… You are pushing me away all the more quickly these days.

  25. therealchriss says:

    I don’t know if it’s only in certain markets or not, but Comcast already has something like this in my area called “Digital Economy”.

  26. jake.valentine says:

    I am so fed up with paying for hundreds of channels that never seem to have anything worth watching. They called this week to offer me some kind of package. I told them that not only am I not interested in adding phone service, but I want to drop my cable tv service. Of course the same person who can take your money can’t downgrade your package. We are a heartbeat away from transitioning to an OTA antenna and using PlayOn with the XBox to watch full episodes of programs we want to see, when we want to see them. Cable TV is a dying business unless they learn to provide additional services to make the cost worth paying.

  27. hotcocoa says:

    Why did the author think a screen grab about blackface in China was the best fit for this article? Seriously?

  28. Linoth says:

    Just for the record, please recall to include the word “City” when referring to New York City. There’s an entire state that shares the same name, you know.

  29. jerrycomo says:

    Cable in regions, fair game.

    In or near a big city, over-the air HD free channels.

  30. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I did a lower-priced package with DirecTV to save money, but I did lose some of the better channels I do watch like Discovery Health, WE and National Geographic. I still have Discovery, (yay Mythbusters!), TLC, History Channel, Nickelodeon and A&E so I can watch Hoarders and Spongebob (I have no kids, but Spongebob cracks me up – so do the Penguins of Madagascar). It’s not bad, but I do wish they’d cut out some of the God channels and the shopping ones too. I NEVER watch those.

    Netflix just added a bunch of National Geographic shows to streaming. Yay!

  31. Beeker26 says:

    Still too much. And why $10 more in NY for the same package? That’s ridiculous.

    Get the price down to $15 ($20 if you throw in HD channels) and maybe we’ll talk.

  32. The Cybernetic Entomologist says:

    No matter how you slice it, cable is never “essential”.

  33. Niphil says:

    Luckily, Comedy Central has a bunch of shows online & MSNBC offers a few as free podcasts. What’s even on TNT?

  34. Not Given says:

    I just want one channel. I can watch what I want, when I want. Like Hulu but with everything that has ever been broadcast.

  35. akronharry says:

    The offer is only good for a year and then it goes to 49.99. What a joke.

  36. EverCynicalTHX says:

    Sweet, I can pay less and NOT get MSNBC. I think that should be the basic package that everyone gets.