In the heyday of cable TV, haggling for a discount was a simultaneously dreadful and satisfying experience.
Every year or two, your cable or satellite TV provider would quietly raise prices as promotion rates expired, at which point you’d need to engage in the art of negotiation. With the right soft skills, you could talk your way into a lower price for at least a while longer.
Cord-cutting has largely killed that tradition. The pay TV bundle is far less profitable than it once was, so cable and satellite providers have become much more resistant to lowering their rates. Next time you complain that your TV bill is too high, you might be told to take it or leave it.
The upside is that streaming TV has created a new system for deals and discounts, letting you enjoy a wide range of services for less than the list price. It just happens to require an entirely different set of skills.
Comeback deals and seasonal sales
I started thinking about this after signing up for a free trial to Starz back in April. Although I didn’t continue the subscription past the free-trial period, abstaining from a paid subscription eventually paid off: Last week, I received an email offering one month of Starz for just a dollar, down from the usual price of $9 per month. That offer wouldn’t have arrived if I’d kept the service after my free trial.
Once you start canceling streaming services, you’ll notice that other retention deals abound.
Paramount+, for instance, automatically offers 50 percent off for two months when you try to cancel its service online, though paying anything in the first place might also be unnecessary. The service continues to offer the same coupons for a free month that it did before its rebranding from CBS All Access, and you can keep redeeming them any time after your subscription expires. (“MOVIES” is the current code as of this writing.)
HBO Max has also dabbled in discounts on longer-term subscriptions, but only for new and returning subscribers. Earlier this year, HBO took 20 percent off the price of its service with a six-month commitment, and while that deal is no longer available, you can now get an annual plan for $100 with ads or $150 without ads. That essentially gets you 12 months of service for the price of 10, but it’s not available if you’re already a subscriber.
Meanwhile, maintaining fewer active subscriptions means you’ll be ready and able to take advantage of seasonal deals when they arise. Right now, for instance, Amazon is offering $1-per-month subscriptions for two months to several services through its Channels marketplace, including Showtime, Epix, Discovery+, AMC+, and Starz.
Like clockwork, MLB.TV is also currently offering a Father’s Day sale that cuts the price in half for out-of-market baseball. Over the past year, we’ve also seen seasonal promos from the likes of HBO Max, Peacock, Hulu, and Discovery+. If you’re already paying for those services, you might not be able to jump on these deals when they arise.
It’s all about patience
This approach has its limits, of course. Discounts are practically unheard of for certain services, including Netflix and Amazon Prime, and if you’re itching to watch a particular movie or show when it debuts, you might have to just eat the full price of a subscription.
But if you’re willing to cycle through subscriptions on a month-to-month basis, and don’t mind occasionally waiting to watch certain shows, you might find that patience pays off. Not only will you cut costs by not having too many subscriptions at once, you’ll also find new opportunities to save from companies that are desperate to get you back.
Think of it as the retention deal reinvented for the cord-cutting era. Instead of haggling with customer-service departments, the process of securing lower prices has moved online and become fully automated. Your soft skills may no longer be required, but patience remains a virtue.
Jared Newman has been helping folks make sense of technology for over a decade, writing for PCWorld, TechHive, and elsewhere. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for straightforward tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for saving money on TV service.