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'Cord cutting' drives Time Warner to offer a deal

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Cable TV with HBO for less than $30 a month?  It sounds too good to be true for those who can't live without "Game of Thrones" or "Boardwalk Empire," but that’s what Time Warner Cable has started promoting to new customers, at least for their first year.

Following the lead of the nation’s largest cable company, Comcast, Time Warner Cable is offering HBO, plus 20 other channels, for $29.99 dollars a month. (It’s also offering a $19.99 “Starter TV” package without HBO)

Analysts say the promotion is a direct response to what is known as "cord cutting" — the move to cancel a TV subscription.

"We believe the restructuring of the bundled service is an attempt by Time Warner Cable to restrict its huge TV subscriber losses,” read a  Zacks Equity Research post this week. “A recent analysis by Leichtman Research Group, Inc., revealed that the cable TV operators in the U.S. are gradually losing hold on the pay-TV market.”

Time Warner Cable has been losing video customers since 2009, and lately the pace has been quickening.  Some 306,000 residential subscribers cancelled their TV packages last quarter, when CBS was blacked out for a month.

Time Warner Cable prefers to focus on the fact it’s offering more choices.

“There are a lot of people who are relying less on TV and more on the Internet,” said Time Warner Cable Public Relations Manager Bret Picciolo.

This $29.99 package helps keep Internet TV viewers happy, because they can now stream HBO on HBO GO. Despite pleas to untether it from the cable bundle, HBO GO still requires a cable subscription.

Web designer Jake Caputo created a website called last year that asked users how much they would pay for a standalone subscription to HBO GO.

Some 163,673 supporters weighed in during the first two days alone, indicating they would pay an average of around $12 a month.

The supporters were ignored, and HBO remains firmly entrenched in the cable TV universe. Time Warner Cable wants to keep it that way, and the $29.99 package may help lure customers back, or least stop as many from dropping cable TV.

“A big priority for our company is getting our customers connected to what they want to entertain in as many ways as possible, whether its through a device, the computer, or through our app,” said Picciolo.

As is required by the FCC,  customers have long been able to order HBO with the most basic TV package, but the company has never promoted it, nor was the price so low.

Though the new package starts at $29.99, this being a cable company there is always the fine print.

Taxes, fees and the $10 a month HD cable box rental bring the true monthly bill closer to $50, which is still a lot less than most cable bills.

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