Time Warner Cable's $4.99 Epix On Demand offer isn't what it seems

Avoid the annoying surprises of cable TV's on-demand video options

Published: October 2014
Photo: Paul Sahre

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After upgrading a basic phone and TV package to a triple-play deal including broadband access, a Time Warner Cable subscriber, Josiah Robbins, saw a promotion for the premium entertainment network Epix. For just $4.99 per month for a year, the ad promised, Robbins would be able to view the network’s mix of movies and original programming “anywhere, any time.” Assuming that this included on-demand access, he signed up.

For a month he enjoyed watching movies and shows whenever he wanted; then, suddenly, his on-demand access vanished. He was still able to watch Epix’s programming, but only when it aired. When TWC phone representatives didn’t have an explanation, they sent a service technician to his North Carolina home to troubleshoot his setup.

The problem, said the tech, was actually related to billing: Epix On Demand came with a higher level of service than Robbins’ standard cable package. Unsure of why he’d had access that first month, Robbins upgraded to TWC’s Preferred TV package for an additional $10.99 per month. Still, he felt he’d been misled.

The Problem Solver contacted TWC and confirmed that the tech was correct. Robbins had mistakenly assumed that the ad’s promise of Epix “anywhere, any time” was referring to on-­demand viewing. It’s possible that it instead related to a cable TV initiative called TV Everywhere, which lets a customer watch live broadcasts of channels included in their cable package on a smart phone or tablet. As for Robbins’ mysterious, monthlong access? TWC explained to us that the cable box Robbins had received had been incorrectly programmed to allow that feature. When the company performed a routine software update later in the month, the box was properly reset for his tier of service, and the on-demand feature was deactivated.

The day after we contacted TWC, a local TWC rep contacted Robbins and told him that she understood the possible confusion. She couldn’t adjust the cost of his TV programming package, but she did lower his monthly Internet service bill for a year to cover the higher price. Robbins is satisfied, and we’re glad we could help.

What does that mean for consumers?

Before you sign up for a new service, keep a copy of a promotion to make sure that you’re getting what was promised. (If the offer is made on a TV channel, you can take a digital snapshot of it.) If you feel you’ve been misled, ask the company to address the concern or to allow you to revert to your original package. No luck? Ask to speak with a customer-retention specialist, who is given more latitude in satisfying customers.

Fed up with a company's customer service? Contact Consumer Reports’ Problem Solver

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the December 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine

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