As more consumers consider cancelling cable, television providers are pulling out all the stops to win over customers.
From giving away hundreds of dollars in gift cards to offering months of premium channels for free, television companies are doing what they can to entice customers to sign on the dotted line. It's a buyers' market for consumers looking for great deals and promotions.
And there are many offers to choose from. We spoke to customers across the country who recently signed up for television services based on the promotions of a variety of television providers.
Read on for the low-down on what cable and satellite companies are offering to win your business.
Free Gift Cards
Love the idea of getting something for free? You're not alone. Free gift cards are a popular enticement for customers signing up for cable or satellite service.
Lee Weal of New York City, New York, switched from Time Warner Cable to Verizon when they offered her a great gift card promotion.
"Time Warner Cable was charging me $160/month for only TV and Internet, no phone service and no premium channels," she explained.
So, Weal decided to switch to Verizon FiOS, which increased her services and decreased her monthly bill. It was a win-win situation.
"I got the 'triple play' that most of these companies offer for around $100/month, which includes TV, Internet access, and phone," Weal said. The deal included free HBO and Showtime channels for one year, and also had a nice little bonus. "The extra incentive was your choice of a $300 gift card after 90 days of service, or free DVR service, normally $20 per month extra, for one year. I took the gift card."
Verizon offers various levels of Visa gift cards as part of their promotions, says Bill Kula, the director of media communications for Verizon FiOS. According to their current campaign, gift card amounts range from $100 to $250, depending on the package selected and the contract term.
Free or Discounted Services
Does 12 months of free Internet appeal to you? It sounded pretty good to Oceanside, California's Jennifer Uhl, 29, who switched to Time Warner Cable when she was looking to lower the cost of her digital services. And a lower price wasn't the only benefit.
"I ended up getting a faster Internet connection for free by going with the bundled Internet and cable offer, and the lower price lasts for 12 months," she says. "As far as words of advice go, definitely comparison shop and make sure your offer is the best. Additionally, make sure to check out the actual rate for when the introductory rate ends before you sign up."
Time Warner Cable isn't the only company offering free perks to customers signing up for services.
One of Verizon FiOS' current offers includes 50 percent discounts on premium video content such as HBO, Showtime, Starz, or Cinemax when ordering FiOS TV for at least 12 months.
Free Gaming Devices and Tablets
Looking for a free gift to sweeten the deal when you switch cable providers? If so, remember to do your research, comparison shop, and negotiate. That's exactly what Johnny Bravo, 30, did when he moved to San Diego, California. He was pleased with the deal and free gift his negotiating skills won him from AT&T U-verse.
"After a couple conversations with each [company] I went with the service that was new to me because the rep was offering me a free Google Nexus 7," he explains. "Before that, I was offered a $100 gift card, a $150 gift card, and then an XBOX 360. I kept pushing and accepted with the Nexus."
According to an AT&T spokesman, Steven Schwadron, "AT&T is currently offering new U-verse high speed Internet customers their choice of a free Wi-Fi enabled entertainment device - Xbox 360, SONOS PLAY:3, Kindle Fire or a Nexus 7 Tablet, when they choose a package of U-verse services."
In order to qualify for the free gift, customers signing up for U-verse high speed Internet must add either U-verse TV or voice service to the new Internet service.
"The free device, valued at up to $350, provides even more value to popular AT&T U-verse bundles," says Schwadron.
Afraid of commitment? Forget the contract, and choose an option that allows you to cancel without penalty at any time.
"I recently signed up [with] a cable company - Time Warner Cable - in my area because they were offering no contract and a special introductory offer if I bundled two services," Uhl says.
Some providers, like Verizon FiOS, offer packages with no contract, but the cost of avoiding commitment can be steep.
For example, Verizon FiOS currently offers a triple-play bundle for $89.99 to both customers who sign a two-year agreement, as well as customers who have no annual agreement. However, if you sign a two-year agreement, you'll receive a multi-room DVR free for 12 months and a $200 Visa gift card. You won't get these perks without a contract.
No matter what you decide, Uhl says to do your homework before signing.
"My greatest word of advice would be, if the price is going to change for any reason, choose a no-contract offer so you do not get locked into a price that differs from what you were promised."
Want to know exactly what you'll be paying for cable and Internet for the next year or two? Consider a plan that comes with a rate lock.
"With Comcast's two-year price guarantee, customers taking Xfinity Triple Play and select Double Play packages will continue to experience first-hand this innovation without any price increases guaranteed for two years," says Peter Dobrow, executive director of corporate communications for product and services at Comcast.
And when it comes to paying for television, Schwadron says customers prefer to lock in a rate.
"Consumer feedback plays a significant role in the promotions we offer," he says. "Last year, U-verse introduced new bundle offers that deliver significant savings over 24 months based on customers' expressed desire for consistent pricing for a longer period of time."