5 Useful Strategies for Scoring Cable on the Cheap


Game of Thrones junkies across America got their hopes up this morning when Wall Street Journal editor Martin Peers announced he’d done “the impossible”: scored HBO access without having to pay for hundreds of additional channels re-airing decade-old squash matches and other things of little interest to anyone (no offense to squash fans). Unfortunately, Peers’ master plan is dependent on a pretty specific set of circumstances — among other things, having Verizon FiOS as one’s provider and scoring a particularly compliant customer service rep at the other end of the line — but as it turns out, there’s more than one way to game the cable company into giving you your money’s worth and then some. Behold, five handy tactics for sticking it to the Man, all while keeping up with your prestige drama of choice.Demand a Better Deal

r/cordcutters is a treasure trove of innovative ways to score TV without any connection at all, but the most common piece of advice for making cable more wallet-friendly is also the most conventional: call up your cable company’s retention wing, say you can’t afford or aren’t willing to pay for your package unless the price goes down, start haggling, and don’t stop until the bill gets lowered. Typically a response to the occasionally price-jacking we’ve all come to expect from cable companies, the strategy usually works, provided one’s willing to keep pestering. One representative story from a (sort of) happy Comcast customer:

It took me several days, but eventually I was connected to someone who had no problem helping me. I said “My bill is $140, I really need to get it lower, and I don’t want to downgrade any of my services.” She said, “I’ve lowered your bill to $90 for the next 12 months.” Took 5 minutes…be patient, friendly, and persistent.

And another:

I told Comcast if they didn’t lower my bill (again) by an acceptable amount and lock the price in for a year (a new tactic, I was tired of doing this every 4-6 months), I would be cancelling my service at the end of my call. I kept saying, “That’s not low enough” and “I know you can do better” until they finally reached my target price. I was able to get a much lower rate (They knocked $40 a month off my TV and internet bill), locked it in for a year (noted on my account) and I managed to get HBO thrown in.

Stick With Streaming

Of course, there’s also the practice from which r/cordcutters gets its name: ditching cable altogether and replacing it with services like Netflix and Hulu Plus, which collectively cover comedy specials, current network shows, back seasons of most prestige dramas, and the Criterion Collection for a mere $16 a month. (Amazon is also edging into the market, but we’re reserving judgement until its first salvo of original programming rolls out later this month.) Laptop viewing isn’t ideal, of course, but devices like Apple TV and Roku conveniently allow the household small screen to be put to use even after the cord’s been cut. Of course, as Peers notes, this plan has one critical flaw: no HBO.

Use the New(ish) Member Discount

Generally amounting to about half off the list price of any given cable package, the new member discount’s too good to be reserved for actual new members. Just rotate policies among different household members, be they spouses or roommates, every time it runs out. Conveniently, the duration of a typical new member discount (six months) is also the same amount of time it takes a former customer to re-qualify as a new member. Hat tip to former cable company employee assjaxmpls, who offered his or her expert advice to r/frugal: “After signing up under the new name, call in to cancel your scheduled install. Tell them it’s not necessary because you have a ‘hot tap’ and have them activate your modem and boxes on that call.”

Complain, Complain, Complain

Regardless of the actual quality of the product, complaining that it’s not good enough typically yields a compensatory discount. Taking grievances about Internet speed (or lack thereof) to customer services can shave $5 to $10 off any given Internet/cable bill with little in the way of verification. It’s not the most ethical practice in the world and only impacts cable indirectly, but combined with that “new member” discount, a little bitching can go a long way.

Build Your Own Hardware

Like enterprising Reddit user kingof69ng, who makes up in DIY resourcefulness for what he lacks in tasteful screen names. That’s two wire hangers, a couple of screws, a wood board, and a coax cable pictured above. It’s not the most surefire tactic in the world, and usually picks up only local channels and a few broadcast networks, but the cost comes up to a grand total of $0.00. Antennas are also available for cheap on the Internet, but where’s the fun in that?