Thursday, January 26, 2012

World citizen

My children have two passports - British and American. DD is quite impressed with that and feels very special because of it. Recently, she made friends with someone who has more passports than her. Her friend has three passports! American and two different European passports. DD is jealous. She now wants a third passport, and has decided that she would like a Chinese one.

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?
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