November 18, 2010

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We’re Testing a New, Slimmer Package: Time Warner Cable TV Essentials

It’s no secret that times are really tough right now. A lot of people are struggling with their bills, and people are having to make some tough choices to cut costs. We’ve been saying for some time now that we’re interested offering smaller packages. From on August 6th, 2010:

Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt says it is a “good idea” for pay TV providers to begin selling smaller, less expensive TV bundles, instead of constantly pushing bigger packages with dozens or even hundreds of channels customers don’t watch and don’t want to pay for.

Now, we’re pleased to offer our customers a much smaller, more budget-friendly television package called “Time Warner Cable TV Essentials,” for our customers that are looking to keep an eye on their bottom line. From the Wall Street Journal:

The offering will begin Monday on a test basis in New York City, where it will cost $39.99 per month, and northern Ohio, including Cleveland and Akron, where it will cost $29.99 per month. Those prices are 12-month promotions, and Time Warner Cable spokeswoman Maureen Huff said the retail value of the package is $49.99 per month.

The package is aimed at lower-income customers that have been struggling in the weak economy. Time Warner Cable and other major cable operators have suffered a slowdown in their subscriber performance in recent quarters, with some consumers dropping cable TV service as unemployment remains high and the U.S. housing market continues to struggle.

It includes local broadcast stations and major broadcast networks, as well as 12 of the top 20 highest-rated cable networks. The company plans to analyze the results of its trials and roll the offering out across its other markets next year.

Time Warner Cable Chief Executive Glenn Britt said in an interview that “a lot of people are under pretty serious economic stress,” and he feels it’s important for the cable industry to address this with an offering that contains “a good package of programming,” while also marking a discount from the more standard cable TV packages.

Like the article says, this is a test. We’re trying to gather data to find a package and a price point that’s right for our customers looking for a smaller, more stripped down cable offering. This isn’t for everyone, and we understand that, too. But we think it’s important that we offer a wider variety of choices and let our customers choose what’s right for them.

Would you subscribe to this? How come? Or why not?


  1. Paul C's reply

    I would love a smaller cable package. My wife and I only watch about five channels beyond the main networks. As prices keep going up, something like this may keep us from ‘cutting the cord’ so to speak.

  2. Bob's reply

    1) What is the list of channels?
    2) Will Tv Essentials be available with a DVR?

  3. Ben's reply

    How about a channel list and features? I heard most anything worth watching isn’t going to be available and there will be no HD available either?

    The plus side is customers won’t have to deal with Navigator!

  4. J C L's reply

    Is it not possible to just allow customers to choose the channels they want? I think mixing and matching and adjusting the price accordingly would be best for customers, and time warner. I’m sure at some point there are diminishing returns, but probably not for this target market.

    Additionally, TWC should also focus on providing adequate service on the packages it already offers. I speak specifically about El Paquetazo. This is a package targeted at the Spanish-speaking community. TWC claims this package comes with Food Network HD, Travel Channel HD, and many others. See ; see also various advertisements for this package. BUT after 2 years I have yet to receive these channels, and no customer service personnel or technician can pinpoint why. TWC is pulling a bait and switch, which should be investigated by the AG. This is an illegal, or at the very least tortious, act against vulnerable customers.

  5. Dennis's reply

    It is not a bad idea but I suspect the people who are interested in this already just subscribe to Basic cable. It seems more geared to hurling a dagger at Fox and the other providers that have been holding out for more money.

    But it’s still good to have another option between Basic and Standard, after all these years. I wish I could take advantage of it, but I have a building bulk discount, (people, you should look into this if you don’t have it.) that makes it not much more than the new rate.

    And without Daily Show? I know I can watch it online, but still, that’s the only thing I like to watch.

  6. Ricardo Urbano's reply

    YES YES YES! The prices are ludicrous now, especially in this economic environment. But we need to know what the channel line up will be!

  7. joe's reply

    For those who wonder why we can’t buy channels “a la carte” it’s pretty simple. 80% of channels would go away because not enough subscribers would order them. Maybe that’s good; maybe that’s bad. But that would most likely be the result.

  8. dook's reply

    We bailed when cable internet and basic cable went to 99 bucks a month, and I would look for something interesting to watch and turn it off in disgust. If the programming is no better than broadcast(can find just as much or little of interest) why support a bunch of shows that you don’t even like?
    How many of you remember the photographers that took tons of pictures and made you buy huge packages just to get the few really good shots? That always bugged me and its the same thing with the cable guys.

    I have heard of many that are doing the same and going with netfix- I expect the trend to continue. Look at the numbers over a year and see what you would save.

    If they would go with a la carte, I might consider it, otherwise forget it.

  9. Jack's reply

    It seems little more than Basic Service plus a couple of very minimal channels. I just read a preliminary report that there will be no HD with this package, or ESPN, (which I think is currently a part of Basic Service, as it is known to exist now.) According to the article, there is no DVR option either,

    So far it seems to be just an extension of Basic Service by just a little bit. Here is where I got the information:

    What channels are currently a part of this package? I would say that you would want to make sure that any HD equivalents were included.

    This is going to require a great deal of testing and research, before you decide to go mainstream with it.


  10. ray's reply

    How about a la carte programming? It’s not the price point, it’s the content people want, and $30 for local channels, some basic common denominator channels, and PPV isn’t going to result in retaining subscribers–it’s just going to slow down the bleeding. Stop fighting the inevitable. Offer targeted “live” programming and expand on demand (the internet model). Beat google tv at their own game.

  11. Michael's reply

    If Time-Warner really wanted to get with the program, they’d realize that a la carte programming is the way to really make their customers happy. A small, very cheap programmable module on the input line of the cable feed to the house (a modernized version of the old cable traps and filters they use to use) would do the trick… easy!… and people would be able to select (and pay for) only the channels they actually want to watch.

  12. Stacey's reply

    I ditched TWC because I got tired of paying $60 a month to watch TV. After trying the whole “antenna” deal, I was going to get just basic cable so I wouldn’t have to deal with the antenna…(it’s like watching a scratched CD) TWC wanted $45 to come to my pole to “check things out” when I just shut my cable off a month ago, so I told them forget it. I have the money, I’m just tired of all these people rippin consumers off. How many channels are duplicated in the extended basic line-up? I never counted, but Im sure there are at least 60 doubles. Just not worth it….

  13. Miguel V's reply

    Why is it so hard for you cable and satellite providers NOT to give us the ability to pick and choose our channels?

    I’ve read your industry defense, and it quit frankly stinks.

    If I’m shopping for a car or PC, there’s no such thing as me being “forced” to choose a particular processor or OS; it’s called consumer choice and free market.

    Yet you’re saying that those principles apparently don’t apply to cable/satellite providers…

    Btw, re: 80% of channels going away:

    Doesn’t your stat directly imply that Americans don’t watch 80 percent of the channels? From your perspective, shouldn’t that be a GOOD thing? I.e., you know which channels we want to watch, and which we don’t? I.e., wouldn’t you have lower costs (which would hopefully be passed on to the customer)?

    If you want to see all those customers (like myself) come roaring back, GIVE US CHOICE.

    It ain’t that hard.

  14. Paul S.'s reply

    I’m with Direct TV and I would make the switch if:

    HD is included.
    DVR service is available at extra cost.
    LifetimeTV is included.
    Would also like a roadrunner/cable bundle.
    It seems most TW promotions push their phone package. We have no landline, don’t want one. Between our cellphones and Google voice, who needs a TW phone package?

    Reality is, I get most of my entertainment value from Netflix. Watch it on my HDTV, with ROKU hardware.
    Fill in the rest with free Hulu stations.
    My internet radio has really reduced my TV watching time.

    I have TW RR for internet, and Direct TV.

  15. Tom K's reply

    Networks that are available Free of Charge to Time Warner should be available in this Essentials package. EWTN is one of such channels.

  16. Tanya's reply

    I would definitely sign up for this discounted service

  17. Maralyn's reply

    Remember when the Goverment had the hearings on cable tv
    channel service???? They said they had laid down the law and
    that these folks couldn’t rip us off and were charging enough.
    They were not to charge hugh fees and to keep them static.
    Of course, as you might expect right after that they started raising
    the prices every few months. So here we are and they have
    stuck it us again………… Of course, you won’t get the good news
    programs, who would watch abc, cbs or nbc for news??? Only
    a fool………….

  18. Jan's reply

    TW needs to get real, times are tough and I suspect they’re going to get tougher as the boomers retire. We’re seriously considering letting TW go, as many of our friends already have. I’m with a la carte programming, we only watch about 10 channels. We like National Geo, History, Discovery, basic cable for news and comedy. Netflixs and Hulu looking better each day I think of the notice that our rates are going up again. We’re disgusted with the lineup and rate increases for the 10 selected channels we watch.

  19. heather's reply

    i have to pay for all 60 extra channels when i only watch 2 of them. i wish we could just pay per channel, like $5 or something. its not worth it to me.

  20. hak3492's reply

    I agree, Jan, and the TV service really isn’t very good, in addition to what you said.

  21. cable guru's reply

    @michael…a programmable filter/trap behind the cable line to block or authorize channels? hahaha…in case u didn’t know digital boxes have the technology to do that already. no need for 1970’s cable technology. more hardware=more cost=more maintenance=higher cable bills!!! get it???

  22. Bob's reply

    So, is someone from Time Warner going to post a link to a channel lineup? I tried the TW online chat and the rep was clueless.

  23. Ben's reply

    The problem is that cable/sat lineups are loaded with BS filler channels. Many networks could be consolidated down to a few channels. Ala Carte would work with proper regulation. Heck, if the FCC ended program tying we could see reductions in our rates.

  24. dread pirate roberts's reply

    You will never get a la carte pricing. In the end, you will pay more than you did before. What you people who think you can get…10 channels, devided by my current biil, humm equals….That is not how it works. Any discussion of a la carte programming options has to take into account that the content providers will want the same amount of revenue from each channel that they currently get. I posted a list of channels and the cost in an earlier post. Let’s look at #1 on the list there — ESPN. $4.08 per month per subscriber. Now, only about 25% of subscribers actually watch ESPN, thus only 25% of the customers would subscribe to it on an a la carte menu. So for ESPN to get the same revenue that they currently get, they have to charge:

    $4.08 / 0.25 = $16.32 per month per subscriber.

    Thus, you, as a subscriber, could add ESPN to your a la carte lineup for $16.32 per month plus whatever TWC needs to charge to bring that channel to you.

    For some of the less popular channels, the pricing can get outrageous because so few people want the channel.

    Look at Hallmark at 0.06 per month per subscriber. But only about 0.5% (based on Neilsen ratings) of customers would subscribe to it.

    0.06 / 0.005 = $12.00 per month per subscriber. Would you pay $12/month for Hallmark?

    I could see a provider trying this — maybe they charge $30 per month as a base fee for service, then you add channels based on the a la carte pricing. The problem is that you will exceed the highest package price of $112/month once you’ve added about 10-20 channels.

  25. Charlie's reply

    I Never had a cord to cut. I have never had cable or sat and doubt I ever will … busy people don’t have time to watch Tv or Tv commercials.
    W only had 3 mail channels growing up and that was good for me then as it is good for me now. Get busy and go walking or excercising and get a Life and you will find Tv is not needed to have a happy life.

  26. bobby f's reply

    its launch day. where is the info on time warner cables website? i dont see it!!!

  27. Ben's reply

    Dread Pirate,

    Ala Carte would work with the proper regulations. These conglomerates would have to take a hit. So maybe Shaq doesn’t get $120 Million Contract next time?

    They’re would still be packages for those that want them.

  28. Robert A.'s reply

    Rather than these bare bones packages which in the end are NO bargain, why not let the consumer select what channels he would like to subscribe to. I do not watch or care to watch QVC or foreign speaking channels; if I want them I should be able to subscribe to them. It is impossible for anyone to group programs that the general population is interested in. Customization is the way to go. I now subscribe to FIOS and find it far better than TW.

  29. Jack's reply

    My issue with Ala Carte would be multi- fold:

    1.) First, it would be impossible to please everyone with an Ala Carte package, because every network things that the channels that they own are Golden Gods, and everyone else’s are mediocre to crap.

    2.) Each network would be begging, jocking for position to get their channels on any ala-carte package, Every customer would have different wants for channels. Every company would be competing for space and revenue dollars.

    3.) How do you tell the losing channels or companies that their stations did not make the ala carte package? Those that didn’t make the cut would retaliate by insisting on even higher retransmission fees making contract negotiations even more difficult in the future.

    4.) Bidding wars for Ala Carte services would create more “Roll-Over or Get Tough” campaigns, leaving customers hostage even worse than now. A company could say, “Well, you aren’t good enough to put us on any Ala Carte package, so the hell with you.” And in retaliation, the angry station owner could retaliate by dropping the channels they had completely from systems when deals expire.

    5.) I like the bundled deals. With having access to 300 channels, no one is saying you have to watch all of them. But the point is, as the package bundles are now, multiple choices are there. Strange as it may seem, there are people who LOVE the Home Shopping Channels. There are people who love movies and hate news, there are people who love news and hate movies. There are people who hate sports, just as there are people who love sports.

    6.) Ala Carte might force government regulation, of which I oppose. I don’t want our messed up federal system having another mess in trying to determine what channels people can and cannot watch.

    The way to combat the higher prices now, you have options without third party intervention:

    1.) You can always drop a premium channel package or packages you don’t watch.

    2.) You can always call and ask for help in getting discounted deals, based on your viewing interests and type of programs you watch.

    3.) You can always enter into a Price Lock Guarantee program for 1-2 years.

    4.) You can ask to be transferred to Customer Retentions to try to get even better deals.

    When your deal is about to expire, just call and ask what other promotional discounts could you offer me? Especially, for customers who have been with TWC for years, You can always talk to someone to try to get the best value for your money. That’s better than third party regulation, which I believe would happen under an Ala-Carte pricing model.


  30. kay's reply

    I’ve been waiting for something like this, since I don’t care enough about what is on TV to warrant the 80+ a month for a few decent cable channels (and without HD, I really see no point). I do have my TV on a lot, don’t get me wrong, but I’m satisfied with antenna + internet. So to me, 40 a month is still too much, particularly if it doesn’t bundle with internet service. From the list I saw on another site, I’d pay maybe 25 or so a month. I’d probably add HBO on top of that. The lack of HD would also be an issue – I can get HD from my antenna, so why not through my cable box? We all went out and bought HD tv’s for a reason, after all.

  31. dread pirate roberts's reply

    @Charlie, I have to wonder about your post and the point of it. I see you are on the internet. Enjoy your walks! 🙂
    @Ben…NO Regulations!! Keep the regulators at bay and let us live n peace!! LOL
    @Robert A…if you are a FIOS sub, why post here?
    @Kay….you will never get a-la-carte programming and the example you used was way to simple.

    People have to consider the pipe or the technology to deliver the programming. Everyone want to pay pennies for channels, who maintains the system that bring you that service and who pays for it? There has to be a base price for that facility, then add your channels up and I think you’ll see the bundle gives you more value.

  32. Peter Miller's reply

    So how about ala carte pricing, paying only for the cable channels you really want. I would sign up for cable in a minute as soon as they offer this. I am a internet only time warner subscriber for 8 years now.

  33. Ben's reply

    Ala Carte could work, but it means cable has to be treated as a utility. That’s where regulation comes in. Programmers could set prices for content and then the market would decide what the fair price would be. If ESPN wants $10 a sub, fine. But when revenue falls off they will quickly realize the market won’t bare that price and have to lower it. The cable operator would have to charge a fixed price for delivery and infrastructure and then the subs would pay for the channels on top of that.

    At the very least, regulation should put an end to program tying. Why anyone would oppose that is beyond me. If a cable op is buying channels to resell (even without an Ala Carte system) they should NOT be forced to buy channels linked to others and they should be allowed to place the channels wherever they want on THEIR cable system. If this was allowed, the you’d already have the NFL Network.

  34. dread pirate roberts's reply

    @ peter, everyone says that…I have 300 ch and I watch 3! Why can’t I just pay for 3? You have to consider the cost for a channel is split up between ALL the subscribers. TWC has 24million I think. So lf you like a channel that is not popular, you may end up paying more for less service. See the post above yours and let me know what you think. Someone has to maintain the “pipe” the lines. The equipment. The trucks. The customer service. The equipment again because of all the equipment a provider uses. That all has to be paid for. So imagine you will have to have a base price just to begin with. Then start adding channels. Now many channels comes bundled from the content providers. Comcast is buying NBC and NBC has a LOT of channels. So say no one buys Oxygen. So the cost of THAT channel gets moved to a popular one and now your price just went up. You have no provider to get between you and the content providers and that will mean higher rates, more often. The grass is NOT always greener on the other side. I suggest triming the pay packages and access them online or from the web site. BUT when that becomes the norm, then BAM you get a charge on the content providers web site. You can’t beat the system, they will make out in the end. Now they are lookiing at cutting local OTA stations and make them fee based. A lA catre pricing would be a disaster. There are many articles on this on the web. Do a search.

  35. Jeff Simmermon's reply

    Hi all — this is the article that I refer folks to when discussing a la carte cable programming:

    It’s definitely a “careful what you wish for” argument. I work at TWC, and I have to say that I’m pretty opposed to a la carte programming, now that I understand what’s involved. It’s kind of a monkey’s paw, where you only get exactly what you wish for at a horrible cost. Shows like “Mad Men” and networks like Comedy Central would never get off the ground — not enough people would subscribe at the outset. NEtworks and shows take a long time and a lot of money to develop. This reduces television offerings to less “risky” fare from an investment perspective leading to more garbage like “Dancing With the Stars” or 3rd generation spinoffs of reality shows.

  36. Ben's reply

    Jeff, then why is Time Warner crying foul EVERY time retrans negotiation come up?Your company and pretty much every other MSO (including both satellite providers) want the FCC to step in an issue regulations. I’m not saying a full on Ala Carte system would ever see the light of day, but at the very least program tying should be restricted.

  37. Jeff Simmermon's reply

    We’re not crying foul every time a retrans negotiation comes up. Deals like this come and go a lot more often than you might think, and many of them are settled without the threat of blackouts. It’s the egregious ones that you hear about.

    If every single MSO is asking for regulations, regardless of how fiercely we compete with one another, what does that say to you?

  38. Mike Young's reply

    Why don’t you reward longtime customers with cost saving’s to them once in awile or have a sweepstakes for say a restraunt or for gas or department store

  39. billy in toledo's reply

    It’s funny all the people posting who “don’t have time to watch cable TV” but they sure have time to post on this blog. I’ve got plenty of time to watch TV because I’m so efficient in my day-to-day life that I’m able to relax and watch a few hours of TV when I want.

  40. dread pirate roberts's reply

    @Mike Young. They used to have an online program that gave you “points” for the level of service. I got a free DVR for 6 months a few years ago. I haven’t seen it since then. I wonder if it’s been scrapped? I would be happy with a few free OD movies for longevity.

  41. Hiro suzuki's reply

    Can I order international channels like tv japan with the tv essentials package?

  42. carol's reply

    If there wasn’t something wrong with this tv essentials package time warner would publish it on their website – and plainly show what channels are included. Even when you call them, they’ll read some of the channels to you but for some reason can’t send the list to you. What’s the SECRET TIME WARNER?????????

  43. Renee Koenitzer's reply

    Really would like a list of the channel before contemplating a switch to one of the dish networks. I’m on a 3 rear wage freeze, and don’t know what I’m going to do.

  44. melissa w's reply

    They say essentials at $29.99, but they don’t mention you still have to pay the $6.50 per month for the box and the $5.00 per month for the navigation and music channels that they cannot take off. So this so called bargain ends up costing $45-50 dollars with taxes added. Time Warner get real.

  45. dane's reply

    Thats a better bet because your packages stick me with crap I do not want and will never watch to begin with,, How about letting your customers pick their own channels to begin with…Instead of being forced to pay for crap they do not want on their tv to begin with..

  46. Phadra's reply

    I like it! Sick of the antenna and need internet for school. This affordable plan is great! Thank you TW. :))

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