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Summary:

Time Warner Cable is planning to introduce a lower-priced cable bundle that it hopes will help stem subscriber losses. The package, which will cost between $30 and $40, would include programming from Viacom, Time Warner, Discovery and News Corp., but it won’t include ESPN.

time warner cable

Time Warner Cable is planning to introduce a new, lower-priced cable bundle that it hopes will help stem subscriber losses. The new package, which will cost less than $40 a month, will have cable programming from Viacom, Time Warner, Discovery and News Corp., but it won’t include ESPN.

Like many other cable providers, Time Warner Cable is reeling from a loss of subscribers, as customers choose to cancel their cable subscriptions. In the third quarter, Time Warner Cable lost 155,000 basic cable subscribers, which is blamed on a weak economy and competitive pressures from IPTV and satellite providers. To help retain customers, Time Warner Cable has teased investors with the possibility of a lower-priced cable package in the past, most recently mentioning the bundle as part of its latest earnings call.

Speaking at a conference held by research firm SNL Kagan today, Time Warner Cable CMO Sam Howe gave the first details of the new, mid-priced cable package. The bundle, named “TV Essentials,” is currently being test-marketed at the price of $29.99 and $39.99, pricing it in-between the cable provider’s Broadcast Basic package, which ranges from $10-$15, and its Expanded Basic Package, which costs $50-$60.

While the total content mix isn’t available, Howe did give some insight into which content providers will participate. While Time Warner Cable has negotiated deals with various media companies, including Viacom, Time Warner Corporation, Discovery and News Corp., one notable network that won’t be included is Disney’s ESPN. The Disney Channel will also not be included as part of the TV Essentials package.

The introduction of the new package is made possible by Time Warner Cable’s recent contract negotiations with Disney, which apparently gives it more flexibility to create the lower-priced package without having to bundle in all Disney channels. That deal allows Time Warner Cable to offer the package at a more reasonable rate, since ESPN typically carries the highest per-subscriber rate among cable networks, reportedly around $4 (or more) per subscriber.

What’s unclear is how much niche or specialty content will be available through these bundles; while Time Warner Cable will try to keep as many customers online with “must-have” networks like the top broadcasters and cable programming like MTV, Comedy Central, TNT, TBS, Discovery and FX, it might be less inclined to include multiple channels of cooking, home improvement or other specialty programming. That could be bad news for programmers that don’t have the market heft of News Corp. or Time Warner, and could spell trouble for niche cable networks if these types of mid-tier cable packages catch on.

One thing that is clear: Time Warner Cable needs to do something to stop customers from fleeing cable to sign up with IPTV or satellite providers, or stop paying for TV altogether. While we don’t believe that a lower-priced cable offering will necessarily stop cord cutting, it could possibly stop some subscribers from canceling cable altogether.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user The Consumerist.

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  1. Any indication where the test markets are/will be?

  2. it’s a good idea. I don’t need espn

  3. Tiering a path towards ala carte!

    (or something more like ala carte than not)

    Glad to see TWC trying to dislodge the stranglehold the big “must-have” networks have on programming rates and the inescapable annual rate increases and/or mandatory channel adds.

  4. Finally someone gets it. Not everyone needs 24 hour stick and ball channels. And the Disney channels shows are worthless teen-pimping – I do not let my kids watch

  5. Nope, still gonna cancel.

  6. On the other hand, there are lots of us who would cut out cable completely if we could get live sports on the Internet.

  7. My sport is MotoGP, and I can watch any race or qualifying session, live or on demand, by subscription, over the net. Cannot wait for Formula 1 to do the same. MLB, NHL and NBA are doing similar, aren’t they?

  8. Are they joking? With Sezmi I get Local channels in HD. Cable Channels are only in SD but I only pay $20 a month. Granted I did have to buy the box but it’s only $150. But it’s a DVR with 1TB. I don’t have ESPN but I do get TNT, TBS, USA, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, MTV, SYFY, etc… In total 25 cable channels.

  9. I’m with littleroot. The only two sporting events I watch on tv are F1 and Tour de France and TdF has been streamed by VS the last 2 years or so.

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  14. Sinec when is FX must have? Or MTV? Especially MTV…that absolutely is a niche channel these dys.

  15. It is funny to read these comments. . one of you want fairness..you just want what is more fair to YOU. You say it is ridiculous to make people pay for ESPN when they don’t want it…but if one of the channels YOU watch was suddenly put on a premium tier that you have to pay extra for, you would all be bitching like crazy.

    And it is funny that the same people who DEMAND ala carte cable ratehrthan “all you can eat” style are often the same ones that are vehemently against tiering internet packages, making people who use hunderds of Gigs per month to pay for their share. Since you all use hte internet so much *since you have no lives OFFline) you expect to pay the sme for using 300 Gigs than someone who is on the internet for an hour a day (which is more people) and uses 25 Gig.

    Again…you are not about fairness…just what is selfishly best for you.

    1. Not necessarily. With cable TV, the idea of paying for hundreds of channels I haven’t ever watched in the past 15 years of having cable is frustrating, especially when providers are constantly upping rates to pay for drops in subscribers to keep their profit margins up. When it comes to bandwidth, I pay for unlimited, even though I have never come close to the level I’d be capped at were I paying for tiers. Why? Because overages are exorbitantly priced, and if I were to have a unique situation in a certain month, I’d rather have the ability to use the bandwidth that month than be charged for accidental overages. In other words, I subsidize other users in case one month I need to use it myself. There’s a possibility I could use more bandwidth than usual. There’s no possibility whatsoever I’d ever be watching The History Channel or SpikeTV.

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