Posted on April 25, 2014 at 6:41 PM
Saturday, Apr 26 at 2:28 PM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- People love to complain about their cable bills. But now that Comcast is trying to take over Time Warner Cable, are you going to have more to complain about?
First, look at the price differences between the two companies. Both reported earnings this week. Over the last year, both companies have been making slightly more money off of customers. But at Comcast, the average customer pays about $10 a month more-- around $130 to $135.
So if the Comcast takeover goes through, does that mean your bill will go up?
A lot of industry analysts say yes, if only because the company will be bigger. That means fewer choices in a landscape where you don't really have many choices for TV, internet and phone as it is. But there might be something else at work here. Think about how you watch shows now. More and more people are doing it with smart phones and tablets, and watching shows on-demand. That makes the old school remote seem clunky.
Time Warner does have an app: you can use it to control your DVR, and watch some networks live and on-demand. But to actually control your TV, you still need a remote, and you have to deal with channel numbers and up-and-down buttons. Time Warner’s latest innovation was to change channel numbers around to make shows easier to find. “Channel numbers are still an appropriate frame of reference, even today, for particular shows at a particular time, whether you're watching it live or recording it for later,” Time Warner spokesman Rich Ruggiero told me last month, when the channel changes were rolled out.
Comcast rolled out a set-top box called the X-1 last year. It has a cloud-based interface where you can search for shows or events with either your smart phone or your voice. In that system, you can easily just tell the box what you want to watch, rather than have to use your remote to find the channel. Customers seem to like it, and the boxes seem to be good for business. At Comcast, fewer customers are cutting the cord and going internet-only. Instead, Comcast is adding cable TV customers. Time Warner, which is trying to catch up with the X-1, has been losing fewer cable TV customers lately, but they’re still losing customers.
So yes, Comcast customers pay more than Time Warner customers. But it's hard to say you'll pay more in the future because you have to, or because you want to.