Cable companies are a supreme example of a natural monopoly. They’re the easiest example for economics professors to use, because, due to structural conditions, only a few competitors can exist in any cable market. Often, there is only one option that consumers can choose. The consumer has no leverage and is thus at the mercy of the cable company.
Over the years, the price of cable has increased significantly. Luckily, other forms of technology and media have grown as well, leading to a shift in favor of the consumer.
If your cable bill is too high, you now have options.
Netflix and Hulu Plus
The internet age has opened the door to new companies, such as Netflix streaming and Hulu Plus, to compete with cable companies.
Netflix offers a wide selection of movies and TV shows, while keeping their price low ($7.99/month). They offer full seasons of TV shows, movies, and HD quality video. While Netflix doesn’t offer a lot of newer shows, they make up for it with quality streaming and a huge array of movies. One account can have up to six devices, with up to four running at once. You can even split the cost among friends and family, which will reduce the price even more. I have had Netflix for over a year now and have been very satisfied.
For the same price as Netflix, Hulu Plus offers a similar platform with a different approach. Hulu Plus puts new episodes of shows on their site the day after they’re aired. My future sister-in-law and her husband have recently dropped cable in favor of Hulu Plus. They can now watch their favorite shows the day after they’re aired, for a fraction of the cost of cable and DVR.
The likes of Dish Network and DirecTV have been competing with the cable companies for a while, and they generally offer lower prices. My fiancé and I currently pay $50 a month for her cable bill, while Dish Network and DirecTV offer yearly contracts for $35/month and $30/month, respectively. For us, getting a dish is out of the question, because she lives in an apartment.
It could be a good option for homeowners, though, as they’ll get a full set of channels and could save a couple hundred dollars per year.
Call Customer Service
Sometimes, a call to customer service is enough to drop your monthly bill. If you look at the current Verizon FiOS promotion codes or AT&T U-Verse coupon codes, you’ll see that the bundle prices are usually guaranteed for one to two years. After that, the cable companies are free to raise their rates considerably.
If you call and say you’re considering switching companies, however, they’ll frequently offer you a “one-time” special offer. This may seem like a backwards approach, but I’ve seen it work numerous times.
What Will You Do?
Is cable best for you? Spending $600 a year on cable is less than ideal, but it’s what my fiancé and I decided was right for us in our current situation. In the future, when we’re both working longer hours, we may consider switching to something different.
Thanks to advances in technology, we now have the ability to make choices about the way we consume our entertainment.
Use your free market power and shop for what is best for you.
How have you cut your cable TV costs?