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Charter Communications purchased Time Warner Cable so Time Warner Cable will now be branded as Spectrum. For the most recent information, please refer to our Spectrum articles. We will update this article as information comes in.
What does this mean for you?
Hopefully better service and options to choose from. However, there is an industry trend of mergers seeing a decline in customer satisfaction. We attribute this largely to “growing pains” most companies go through to find the best mutual solution for the expanding customer base.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The best thing about Time Warner Cable’s TV service is it doesn’t require a one- or two-year contract… and that’s it. Pricing is high compared to other TV providers, packages and channels are limited, and equipment and customer service are both lackluster.
- No-contract TV
- HBO or Starz included in select packages
- Limited package selection
- Unclear DVR options
- Bad customer service
- High pricing
It’s a high price for what you’re getting.
Time Warner Cable’s (TWC) pricing isn’t the highest we’ve seen, but it’s high for what you’re getting. Its premium TV package, Preferred TV Whole House Service, advertises more than 200 channels at $79.99 a month. That’s not a lot of bang for your buck. Premium packages from other TV services offer close to 300 or 400 channels for a similar price. (Verizon Fios offers more than 325 channels for the same price: $79.99 a month.) You may get some extra channels depending on your area, but not likely enough to justify TWC’s rates.
TWC’s pricing doesn’t make sense. Of TWC’s four packages—we’re not counting the Starter TV package for reasons we’ll explain later—three are almost the same: Preferred TV, Preferred TV HD-DVR Service, and Preferred TV Whole House Service. Sure, you’d think they’re different because of the DVR, and if that were the case, the price difference would make sense. But that’s not it. You’ll have to pay a separate monthly fee for the DVR. We found that out at the checkout screen when the $11.25 a month HD-DVR fee appeared.
Why are the Preferred TV packages with DVRs more expensive if the DVR is not included in the price? We don’t know, and TWC does not make it clear (see screenshot below). Is it because HBO or Starz is included? We doubt it, but if that were the case, TWC should rename its packages so you know what you’re getting, and why you’re asked to pay more. It’s almost like buying a pepperoni pizza only to be told pepperoni is not included.
Screenshot of packages from TWC’s website.
Time Warner Cable has additional fees, but they’re not listed. In the fine print of its service contract, TWC states “additional charges apply for equipment, installation, taxes & fees, broadcast, sports programming, activation and other surcharges… and other one-time charges.” Such language is common in any TV service contract, but others actually disclose some, if not all, fees (e.g., Comcast’s broadcast fee is $3.50 a month, and its regional sports fee is $1 a month). With TWC’s fees, you’re left in the dark. Even during the checkout process, we weren’t told which of the fees in the service contract applied to us. Given our experience reviewing TV services, we’ll never assume we’re exempt from a fee just because we didn’t know about it.
Your options are limited
|Preferred TV w/ HD-DVR||$64.99/mo||200+||None|
|Preferred TV Whole House DVR||$89.99/mo||200+||None|
Standard TV package
The Standard TV package is low on channel count, and it doesn’t include a DVR. Still, of the more than 70 channels included, many are worth watching—ESPN, USA, TNT, Disney, and more. The package includes access to the TWC app, so you can watch programming on your smart device.
If you can do without the DVR and only want the most popular basic cable channels, Standard TV might work for you. Otherwise, we’d go with another package.
Preferred TV package
The Preferred TV package has more than 200 channels for $49.99 a month (see channel lineup). That’s not a bad price for that much programming, but like the Standard TV package, the DVR is not included. You also get access to On Demand channels, but some programming will cost extra.
If you’re hoping to record and watch your shows later, you can move on to the next package.
Preferred TV HD-DVR Service package
For some reason, Preferred TV with HD-DVR Service is listed as a separate package. In terms of programming, it’s almost exactly the same as the previous Preferred TV package. The one exception is this package includes the choice of HBO or Starz for a year. You’d think the price would include DVR service, but technically, it doesn’t (we talk about this in the pricing section).
Preferred TV Whole House Service package
Preferred TV Whole House Service is not much different than Preferred TV HD-DVR Service. However, it does include HBO Either way, you get a DVR (and pay extra for it) and the same channel selection. We’ll get into details about DVRs in the equipment and features section, but once again, we’re left wondering as to why TWC splits Preferred TV into three separate packages.
There’s nothing new to say about this package. Channels are the same, again.
There are really only two choices when it comes to channel selection.
There are only two major options for channel selection: Preferred TV and Standard TV. Preferred TV has more than 200 channels, and Starter TV has more than 70 channels. From there you can add channels a la carte, but the pricing varies and you’ll be charged monthly.
What about Starter TV?
The Starter TV package only has 20 channels, and almost all are broadcast channels (NBC, CBS, FOX, etc.). It’s currently only $10 a month, but broadcast channels have always been free and don’t require cable. And they are broadcast in HD… for free. We don’t see any value in this package, but if you think we’re wrong, let us know.
What’s in HD?
By our count, there are a little over 100 channels available in high definition (HD) from Time Warner Cable. Other TV services offer more than twice that amount (e.g., DIRECTV has more than 200). If crystal-clear TV is must, you should probably look elsewhere.
Equipment and features
TWC makes it needlessly difficult to pick a DVR
When compared to other TV services, Time Warner Cable’s DVRs are about average. TWC’s basic DVR, called the HD-DVR, can record two shows at once, and hold up to 75 hours in HD (100 hours in SD). Those numbers aren’t impressive, but the HD-DVR is adequate. It even works with the TWC app, so you can manage your recordings with a smart device.
The Enhanced DVR has double the recording capacity (150 HD, 200 SD) of the HD-DVR, and it can record six shows at once. However, TWC doesn’t list the price difference between the Enhanced DVR and HD-DVR. In fact, though it’s listed on TWC’s website, the Enhanced DVR wasn’t available when we were trying to purchase a service and DVR.
The Whole House DVR is only available with TWC’s top TV package, Preferred TV Whole House DVR Service. The Whole House DVR records the same hours as the Enhanced DVR (150 HD, 200 SD), but oddly enough, it can only record two shows at once, which is less than the Enhanced DVR.
The Enhanced Whole House DVR is the same as the Whole House DVR, except it can record six shows at once instead of two. Nothing else is different than the (standard) Whole House DVR.
If it’s hard to keep the DVRs straight, when they’re only slightly different in name and features, we don’t blame you. It’s confusing for us, and we’re not fans of making selecting a DVR needlessly complicated. The biggest offense is not listing DVR fees upfront, and TWC does just that.
If you can do without a DVR, you can opt for an HD Box, which is only $11.25 a month. As the name implies, you’ll get high definition broadcasting, but nothing else. There’s also a cable card and standard receiver with their respective fees, but you’ll only have to worry about those if you get the Starter TV or go without HD, and we don’t recommend doing either.
Time Warner Cable’s mobile app (TWC TV) is like other TV service apps—you can watch live TV and manage your DVR from your smart device. TWC says its app has “up to” 300 live TV channels, even though its highest TV package advertises around 200 channels. And more than half of the channels on TWC TV are only available to watch while “in your home.” Also, the app won’t let you watch anything offline, so plan on staying connected to the Internet.
There are hardly any extra features included with Time Warner Cable. There’s the Start Over feature, which lets you restart a show or movie in progress (not available on every channel), but that’s about it.
We think it’s bad; others think it’s worse.
Bad news for Time Warner Cable: It’s rated dead last in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) report for subscription television service. The ACSI is an independent index of customer satisfaction, and it’s determined that Time Warner Cable has “the lowest score among more than 300 companies in the index” (it scored a 51 out of 100 for 2015). Ouch. In 2014, TWC scored a 56, so there appears to be a downward trend. Though customer service and customer satisfaction aren’t necessarily one and the same, the ACSI believes the low score is a combination of “poor customer service with higher prices.”
Because Time Warner Cable is rated so low, we were expecting the worst with customer service. We were surprised to find that our experience wasn’t terrible; it was just below average. Representatives answered our questions in a somewhat timely manner, and they demonstrated a basic level of knowledge about their services and products. Still, many questions we had were never given a consistent answer, and if we wanted a specific question answered, we couldn’t get more information without disclosing our address, even if it wasn’t relevant to the question.
It’s hard to recommend Time Warner Cable when it has so much against it.
Time Warner Cable has a long way to go in becoming a better-than-average TV service provider. If anything, we’re surprised at the amount of subscribers with TWC when other services are available that offer more value and higher customer satisfaction.
If we had no other choice then to go with Time Warner Cable, we’d go with the Preferred TV HD-DVR package. It has a decent selection of channels (more than 200), which would cover most of our interests (sports, drama, etc.), and at least we’d have a DVR.
If you want to know more and decide for yourself, here’s an overview of Time Warner Cable packages.