Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The cost of BBC America

Years ago, when the kids were very little, I was trying to cut down on our expenses and I decided that one bill we could easily slash was for the cable TV. I called and canceled all but the most basic of cable service, which brought our bill down to something like $5/month. Years later when we finally decided to go with cable internet access instead of dial-up, the sales rep tried to talk me into a more expensive TV package. I said I really wasn't interested in paying so much more for so many channels I had no interest in watching when the only channels we didn't have that I knew we were interested in watching were the History Channel and BBC America. I was glad I'd mentioned the specific stations I was interested in as the rep immediately informed me that we didn't need to spend much more money to get a package that would include BBC America. The deal she offered was quite reasonable and that's the package we've had ever since.

A couple of years ago we got a message from the cable company that the package we subscribe to was no longer being offered, but we were 'grandfathered' in. In other words, we can keep the package we've got so long as we don't make any changes to it. Unfortunately, they didn't guarantee that they wouldn't make any changes from their end! Last month we got a letter informing us that BBC America would be being moved from the 'Digital Preferred' level of service to 'Digital Starter'. Of course I have no idea what channels are included with which packages so I had to look it up.

The way the packages are listed, it looks as though they are listed in order of expense:
  • Limited Basic (that's the super cheap package we had for years - it's still only $7.28/month for 30 channels, though you won't find it listed on the cable company's website of course!)
  • Expanded Basic (48 channels)
  • Digital Economy (35 channels)
  • Digital Starter (64 channels)
  • Digital Preferred (90 channels)
  • Digital Premium (46 channels - HBO, Starz, Cinema and the like)
So we have Limited Basic+Digital Preferred and I'm thinking having fewer channels doesn't bother me because we mostly just watch PBS and BBC America anyway. Limited Basic+Digital Starter will obviously be cheaper, and we'll still get BBC America. But of course (and I know you're way ahead of me here) - it doesn't work out like that. To get Digital Starter (the only package that includes BBCAmerica) you not only have to get Limited Basic but Expanded Basic too.

On looking closely at the list, I discovered that the Expanded Basic channels are, for the most part, the same ones you get with Digital Starter except they are not digital. So Expanded Basic+Digital Starter is not 48+64, but more like 7+64. To switch from the package we have to the one that has BBC America will mean going from 120 channels (124 of which I  rarely if ever watch) to 101 channels (96 of which I will rarely if ever watch).  I will lose Nat. Geo., BBCWorld, and a couple of other channels I like to watch occasionally, but I'll gain some other channels that  don't currently have that I'm sure will prove entertaining from time to time. So why I am still wittering on about this as though it's a huge issue? It's because the only change that the cable company has made that has even made me think about changing my subscription is to move BBC America to another tier. Had they moved almost any other channel I couldn't have cared less. And if there was no change in cost, or even a savings, I wouldn't be wittering, but there is a change in cost.

My current bill (including internet service) is just over $75/month. I know plenty of people who choose to pay more, but I don't. If I switch packages just to keep BBC America my monthly subscription will change to $120. That's a HUGE percentage increase. Is Graham Norton really worth $45/month?


Expat mum said...

I am hugely disappointed with BBC America most of he time. Today, apart from Jamie Oliver in Wyoming, it's Gordon bloody Ramsey morning noon and night. We are still watching Top Gear shows from about 2007, and we don't even get BBC World News on it any more. Certainly wouldn't be almost doubling my TV bill for it.

MommyHeadache said...

Yeah I live in USA and we don't have any cable at all it is a total waste of money. I sometimes watch BBC America at the gym but like you say it would not be worth it to pay for something that sub-standard unless you want to watch Doctor Who and Gordon Ramsey all day and who does? You can get many many British programs on Netflix and free on hulu.com. You just have to have a tv that links to the internet like we do.

nappy valley girl said...

Yes, BBC America is mostly disappointing. We watch Dr Who and The Tudors (and Ab Fab the other day) - but probably, you could buy boxsets of most of these things and it would cost less. It really annoys me how they have a whole day of Gordon Ramsey or Top Gear repeats.

Lynn said...

And you realize that consequently, we Americans think that everybody in Britain talks and acts like Gordon Ramsey.

Rosie said...

If you're mildly good with technology, look into installing the FoxyProxy plug-in onto Firefox. Then you can watch the replays directly from the UK channel websites. I couldn't have handled my friends spoiling Downton Abbey in October!

Awindram said...

Definitely not worth it! BBC America is about as authentically British as Madonna's accent.

Paul said...

BBC America is useful to have in some ways, okay they repeat things ad infinitum but the BBC news in the morning is great to wake up to.

However, the internet kind of usurps TV now in my book. And it's not too difficult to watch UK TV nowadays anyway via one's laptop. So BBC America is a non-essential.

Welcome said...

I think BBC America should be a premium channel. The Brits have to pay a free for having TV which funds BBC, but we are getting it for free (well not totally, you have to pay for cable to get it)

Anonymous said...

Pah stop your moaning Americans, here in the uk we have to cough up £145 per year so the bbc can produce the programmes that you watch on bbc America
Hell the latest series of torch wood which was filmed in us and canada aired first in the us yet us Brits were the ones primarily paying for its production, At least you get to choose whether or not you subscribe to bbc America.
With Tv licensing ( The £145 per year I mention) we are essentially bullied into subscribing whether we want to or not under penalty of being taken to court and fined £1000

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