a person who cancels or forgoes a cable television subscription or landline phone connection in favor of an alternative Internet-based or wireless service.“a popular way for cord cutters to view programming on their TV is with a streaming video box.
change when you grab the bull by the horns.” Being bilked by your cable operator might make one grab their cable company by the bill. “It’s exciting,” the doctor smiles. It’s a smile of the contented. “They had it coming and so did I.” This Cornell-trained doctor’s glee is clear, after she chopped her cable bill down to nothing. “They messed with the wrong woman.” Right.
The cable pricing ball is finally in your court. Don’t like your cable bill? Say so–to them. Relief does not come to the silent.
Like most people, Dr. Sabine Feline had for years resented shoddy service and nose-bleed pricing leveraged by the local cable operator. “Suddenlink ‘s pretty widely disliked, resented, for those two reasons. Actually, I don’t know anyone who likes the service,” The psychotherapist recognized she was far from alone.
“People have been complaining forever” she says “and in near unison. Pricing and service are routinely cited as frustrations, and outrages. No service is even possible without physically traveling to their office. Their customer service line really isn’t viable.” Her palm turns half-over casually, a puzzled twist mixed into a smart smile.
“Everyone I know is continuing to look at alternatives. I felt stuck, and then I tried Amazon Prime. Prime’s great, on every level.”
“Time is limited,” the doctor says from the snug of a corner office. A dash of receptionist speak floats through the open door. She looks over. “Confrontation is rarely fun, and not my favorite–I prefer other means.”
“Suddenlink being the sole choice in the area could be fine, were they to behave better. But again you see the company’s on-demand offerings aren’t available, or are very late, or slow. Add that together with their data game. They challenge their own usage data they provide to consumers, saying “their reading is…” They control the data, and then claim that data is inaccurate.
Critical mass simply clicked over one day. Flipping through her mail one sunny afternoon a couple years back, the doctor again read of yet another rate increase. Inflation reads like a travel brochure when compared to cable’s price climb over the years and nationwide.
For the doctor a line had been crossed–critical mass. Suddenlink remained the sole cable provider, but not the sole source of video. What do you do when you’re an empowered psychotherapist marrow-sick of poor service and ever-expanding price?
“My job as a customer is to pay. Yet cable turns a common service transaction into a dishonest game. Done with games I contacted the disconnect department.”
People are widely adopting streaming services, and now feel TV should come to them, as ordered, when they want it, wherever. And they’re right. And they’re getting it. As is, cable operator’s pricing power is eroded, much like their product’s appeal. Releasing skinny bundles will not be enough.
The industry’s caught in traffic it can’t dodge. SVOD carves away at the core of its’ very business model–liner ad-driven pre-packaged TV, while a sophisticated customer base increasingly realizes much wider choice, on-demand convenience, better pricing, and ad-free content.
Dr. Feline, a psychotherapist specializing in women’s issues, took her complaints directly to Suddenlink. “Finally I moved. I confronted the issue. Yet they responded slowly to my concerns, until I contacted the service disconnect number.”
As a cable operator, Suddenlink’s strategy from the start has been to focus on under-served, less densely populated, areas. Zero competition, thus monopoly pricing power. The strategy has worked, but the clock is ticking on their pricing power.
Back in 2015 Suddenlink agreed to be acquired by NYC-based cable operator AlticeUSA(NYSE: ATUS) $18.42, for 9.1 billion. Altice USA’s parent company is Altice N.V/EQ(ATC), a multinational telecoms run out of the Netherlands by an Israeli billionaire named Patrick Drani.
Old questions remain concerning Suddenlink’s ability to work well with others. Beginning in 2006 the company battled twin conflicts called “carriage disputes” against both Sinclair Broadcasting and Viacom. The dispute involved rebroadcast rights to a pair of local TV channels in West Virginia. Attorneys swarmed., the FCC was dragged in, and everyone had a great time.
Altice USA went on a buying spree in 2015. From it’s home base in New York City the company snatched Cablevision, along with Suddenlink, thereby creating the 4th largest cable operator in the country, serving 4.6 million subscribers. Altus operates in two wings; Optimum by Altice, and Suddenlink by Altice.
-The woes of a cable operator-
-42.9%, since last summer.
Altice USA(NYSE: ATUS). 7-6-18. Close.
Like all savvy consumers, Dr. Feline did her homework. She considered Netflix, and then Amazon Prime. And then she accepted Amazon’s free month-long trial–and loved it. Next came the between seasons lull. “A couple of shows I like were between seasons, leaving nothing of particular interest from cable.”
While examining options the doctor considered and rejected Verizon Fios and AT&T. In the end it seemed a simple internet connection was all she desired through Suddenlink.
“Dealing with Suddenlink is a game. So I gamed back, by calling multiple times, multiple lines, and taking down names along with pricing quotes. That was key.”
Dr. Feline landed on Suddenlink’s Customer Service line knowing fully what she wanted. What did she hear when addressing pricing concerns? “You’re one of our lowest-paying customers,” the service rep challenged. What? Without hesitation the doctor jousted back “Why are you charging everyone so much? It’s too much. Please cancel my cable service, now, How much is internet alone?”
The rep quoted a price, and then I took his name, informing him that ‘I will be calling back, to check pricing.’ Suddenly, he suggests that he could check with his supervisor. From some hazy higher number the quote then landed at $49+fees/taxes. That’s when I phoned Suddenlink’s Service disconnect number.”
“When you’re speaking with service disconnect they realize you’re displeased. The woman was very nice–and helpful, as she quoted a $40 flat price. And when my first bill arrived at $45 I was back at the Suddenlink office, now out of principal. Now my bill’s $35, flat.”
“I wasn’t out to get anybody. People can change. Companies can change. Hooray if they do. Maybe they could begin by treating people more fairly, and honestly. They’re still playing the data-overages game. We’ll see. Meanwhile, I cut my cable bill from $144 to $35. That’s a 75% discount. Add in my annual Prime membership of $119, and my overall savings are 69%. I also get free 2-day shipping, Prime music, and more.”
Since late last summer ATUS has cascaded from $32.27 to $18.42. Slopes like that require a snowboard or skis. Rumbling deep in the guts of your core business, customers pitchfork restless, and a share price performance even your mother couldn’t praise? None of that matters, when you’re a Cord-Cutter.