Earlier this week on the TWiT.tv series Frame Rate, co-host Brian Brushwood shared his story about how Time Warner Cable responded to his request to cancel his television service. He then introduces something called the “Frame Rate Chicken Challenge”. The entire 12-minute segment is here, and very much worth your time to watch.[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Do9zQlGl61c&start=442&end=1159]
A few things to note here about Time Warner Cable:
- TWC is the second-largest cable company in America, with 12.1 million video subscribers as of March 31, 2013.
- According to its most recent quarterly earning report, TWC collected approximately $2.6 billion in video revenue and paid $1.2 million in video programming costs.
- TWC lost 118,000 video subscribers in the first three months of this year, and 553,000 subscribers from April 2012 through March 2013.
- The vast majority of those who dropped TWC switched to a competing pay TV service, rather than cutting the cord entirely.
Based on those subscription and earnings numbers, we can determine that the average cable TV bill from TWC is $71.63/month. $33.06/month per subscriber pays the programming costs. (Incidentally, based on our current numbers, ESPN accounts for about $6 of that $33.06.) That leaves a gap of $38.57 between monthly programming costs and the average monthly cable bill. Add that to the fact that TWC is clearly hemorrhaging customers, and this “Frame Rate Chicken Challenge” suddenly becomes appealing.
So I decided to give it a try.
I called TWC and got their computer. As I usually do, I pressed zero in order to get transferred to a live human. After being on hold for two minutes, I asked the customer service agent how much it would cost for Internet-only service. Unlike the rep Brian Brushwood got, this rep did not get defensive, and he looked at my bill and told me the price I was getting. (About $62 for Turbo Internet.) So I told him I wanted to cancel my TV service and keep my Internet. He then said he would transfer me to another department and put me on hold. No clear attempt at retention thus far.
After being on hold for 6 minutes, I got kicked back into the computer system. This time, I specifically told the computer, “Remove service.” Another 6 minutes on hold, and I get transferred to a different agent and tell him I want to cancel my TV service but keep my Internet. After confirming my information, he asked me why I was dropping the TV service. I told him that everything I watch is online, and I don’t see the value in cable anymore. He then put me on hold for another 5 minutes.
When he came back, he did not make me any offers to keep my service. Instead, he gave me a discounted price for my Internet service — just under $50 — and asked if there was anything else he could do. I confirmed with him that my TV service was canceled. At that point, as the challenge goes, I was supposed to back out.
I didn’t. I said thanks and hung up.
So I’m a cord-cutter now, and I should probably start shopping for an antenna soon. What surprised me the most during this phone call was not that TWC didn’t even bother to try keeping me as a TV customer, but they actually gave me a lower monthly price for Turbo Internet service in the process. Maybe they presume I’ll come right back once I start getting some “special offers” in the mail. Either way, none of the agents I got fell into retention mode or transferred me to anyone who tried to keep me — rather shocking for a company that’s losing customers at the fastest clip within its industry.
So have you tried the “Frame Rate Chicken Challenge” with your cable company? How hard did they try to keep you? Leave a comment below with your results.