How Do I Get Low-Cost Cable Television?

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You don't need to pay a high bill each month for access to cable television. Cable service providers offer customers a variety of prices to fit different budgets. They're also willing to negotiate with you because of competition from cable, satellite and Internet service companies.


Change the Current Services

You can save money by downgrading current services or finding a better package. Review your channel lineup, make note of the channels you don't watch and then check out new packages and prices on your cable provider's website. If you want only local stations, or local and a few additional channels, look for low-cost options typically packaged as "limited basic," "basic" or "economy" deals. Additionally, consider low-cost bundled six month or longer contracts with set rates that protect you from price increases during the length of the contract.


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Point Out Competitor Prices

Since many people use one company for their cable, phone and Internet services, cable companies don't want to lose current subscribers or the opportunity to pick up new ones. If you live in an area where several companies compete, compare all the packages available from different companies. Contact your current company, or the one you like, and then negotiate a deal. For example, tell the sales representative that his company is the one you like, but emphasize the fact that you found better pricing elsewhere and will sign up only with the company that makes the best offer.


Seek Special Loyalty Pricing

Sometimes a sales representative doesn't have the authority to approve specific lower pricing. If you can't reach an agreement, ask politely to speak to a supervisor or the company's "Retention" department. You can often negotiate lower current or new package pricing, a monthly discount off any package or free service upgrades based solely on your loyalty to the company. For example, if you're a current subscriber of several years, emphasize the number of years you've been loyal and reiterate that you have to go with the best deal. If you're not a current subscriber, emphasize several times the total amount of money you plan to spend in a year that the company is about to lose to a competitor.


Use Alternatives to Cable

When many people refer to low-cost "cable television," they actually just want options for viewing their favorite shows and channels. Barring any natural or man-made signal obstacles, you can typically view channels up to Channel 51 with VHF and UHF antennas or a combined VHF/UHF antenna. Some TV networks also offer old episodes and new episodes free online. Additionally, several online video streaming service providers offer free and/or low-cost online access to old TV series, new episodes, movies and more. Some examples are Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, Viki and Drama Fever (see links in Resources).


Consider All of the Terms

Before you make a decision, read any fine print and fully consider your options in order to prevent later surprises. For example, some contracts have early termination fees. Bundled rates and free services, such as free premium channels and equipment upgrades, usually last for only a few months before reverting to standard prices. Some online services, like Hulu Plus, show advertising whether you pay an online subscription or not, or require a cable subscription for viewing of certain series or episodes. Paid subscription services that don't rely on video advertising, such as Netflix, usually offer only past seasons of a TV show instead of episodes from the current season.


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