Hipsters often brag that they liked a moody band, bacon-based food or style of facial hair before it was cool. Today, I got my own bragging rights: I had Cablevison's new Optimum 'Cord Cutter' broadband package before it was called that. Even the New York area-based company puts quotation marks around the name of the service, which it christened today (Apr. 23).
In truth, it's just a buzzword-bedecked rebrand that adds a $70 Mohu Leaf 50 antenna (see our review) to the company's current 50Mbps Optimum Ultra 50 broadband service, priced at $44.90 per month — for the first year — plus $5 per month to rent a modem (although Optimum hasn't been charging me the modem fee). Last month, Cablevision announced that it is offering HBO Now to subscribers for $15 per month. That's the same price that you pay if you sign up for it yourself on the HBO website, so the value of going the Optimum way instead is hard to discern.
Moving from the dismal Time Warner Cable-controlled Manhattan to Crown Heights, Brooklyn got me access to the way cheaper and faster optimum service that made cord-cutting a cinch. (I subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and HBO, and I also have a Mohu HD antenna.) Essentially, any fast, reliable broadband service is a cord-cutter package.
If Cablevision wanted to offer something special to cord-cutters, it would need more than an antenna. Perhaps if you subscribe to several streaming services (like me), Cablevision would give you a slight discount if you sign up for a bundle of three or four. Streaming services might cut Cablevision a price break if they thought this offering would get them more subscribers. That's a lot like the old pay-TV model that the company is used to.
But instead, Cablevision just keeps trying to peddle that old model. Since signing up for Optimum, I've been getting a least one piece of junk mail per week begging me to add a cable TV package — contributing significantly to my recycling container inventory. After jumping through several hoops, I finally got off all the mailing lists (I think).
So Cablevision's sudden embrace of cord cutting seems contradictory, but it's likely just covering the bases — and might be a Trojan horse to get you onto its cable TV service after all. It will be interesting to see if people who sign up for the 'Cord Cutting' package receive the same letters pleading for a cable TV upgrade that the rest of us have.
One clear lesson from today's announcement, though, is that cable companies are finally feeling the squeeze from cord cutting. Cablevision's news comes just a week after Verizon announced skinny Fios TV bundles to dissuade people from cutting the cord. Starting at $55 for a streamlined offering (without Internet access), it could be a small deal for viewers who pick and choose wisely. Subscribers are able to choose two included channel packs, based around interests such as sports, giving a taste of the a la carte capability cord cutters desire.
The new plans from Cablevision and Verizon may not yet be enough to entice cord cutters; if not, better offers may eventually follow.
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Sean Captain is a freelance technology and science writer, editor and photographer. At Tom's Guide, he has reviewed cameras, including most of Sony's Alpha A6000-series mirrorless cameras, as well as other photography-related content. He has also written for Fast Company, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Wired.