Most Triple-Play Subs Don’t Haggle on Price

Plenty Grouse, But Only One-Third Negotiate Better Deal: Consumer Reports 3/31/2013 8:00 PM Eastern

Plenty of cable subscribers grouse about their ever-escalating monthly bills — but only about one-third of them actually try to finagle a better deal from their provider.

That’s according to a survey by Consumer Reports of 20,843 readers with triple- or quadruple-play bundles. The magazine conducted the survey a year ago but just published the results in its May issue, released last week.

Of multiplay bundle customers who negotiated with their cable or telco provider, many received a discount on their monthly bill, fee waivers or an upgrade in service, the survey found. About 44% of the bargainers reported savings of up to $50 per month — and 7% claimed they lopped off more than $50.

Many discount seekers try to get repeat markdowns. Among the 62% of respondents whose initial promo period had rolled off , 40% said they were able to negotiate a new discounted rate, while 33% got additional premium TV channels, and 10% received upgrades to tiers with more regular channels.

The magazine advised readers to play two competitors against each other in getting better terms. For example, among those surveyed who had changed TV providers in the previous six months, 18% were offered new savings of $20 or more per month by their old provider if they didn’t switch or if they had switched but were open to coming back.

Overall, customer ratings for cable and telco providers remained status quo: Independent operator WideOpen-West, routinely a top performer on surveys, topped the list of 14 companies with a score of 79.

Major MSOs scored significantly lower, with Comcast and Time Warner Cable both coming in at 61 and Charter Communications at 60. Faring better were Suddenlink Communications (73) and Bright House Networks (71), followed by Cox Communications (66) and Cablevision Systems (65).

Verizon’s FiOS subscribers were the most likely to say they would re-up their triple-play bundles. The telco service received “standout scores” for video, broadband and voice quality, although Verizon multiplay customers had more billing complaints than most other providers, according to Consumer Reports. DirecTV had higher ratings than most other providers for TV picture quality and selection.

Separately, the publication’s punky-little-brother website, Consumerist.com, is staging its eighth-annual “Worst Company in America” reader poll. The 32-company single-elimination “playoff ” mimics the contemporaneous NCAA men’s basketball tournament. As of last Friday, second-round matchups included Comcast vs. DirecTV, TWC vs. FedEx and AT&T vs. Apple.