By Jared Newman | Friday, November 19, 2010 at 12:58 pm
Whether you blame cord-cutting or the economy, we can all agree that cable’s having a rough year. Now, Time Warner’s considering a smaller, cheaper bundle of cable channels.
The so-called “Time Warner Essentials” package will be tested in New York City and parts of Ohio, the Los Angeles Times reports. Priced at $50 per month, it’ll include roughly 50 channels, including all the broadcast networks and 12 of the top 20 Nielsen-rated cable networks. Subscribers will also be able to tack on premium channels like HBO and Showtime,
and they can get but cannot get DVR service for an extra charge.
Unfortunately, Time Warner Essentials has some major blind spots. There’s no ESPN, and it’s not clear whether the package will include regional sports channels, like the Yankee-owned YES Network. CNN is included for live news, but there’s no Fox News or MSNBC.
Considering that live content is a major missing ingredient from cable alternatives like Netflix and Hulu, I’d consider all those channels to be essential for keeping cable customers on board (personal feelings about cable news networks aside). But they are expensive — ESPN costs Time Warner $4 per subscriber, says the LA Times — and I doubt Time Warner wants to stack its budget price tier with its most popular channels, lest Essentials cannibalize bigger packages.
In any case, I’m pleased to see a cable company respond to subscriber losses with action, rather than a dismissive wave of the hand. This is an acknowledgement, however slight, that people are getting fed up with the exorbitant price of subscription television. There’s no definitive answer on whether people are dropping cable specifically for disruptive Web-based services like Boxee, Apple TV or Roku, but the disruption is happening either way, and it’s cable’s turn to respond.