DirecTV wants me back in a bad way, and they're willing to make it seem like they're bending over backwards for it.
A little backstory: we canceled our satellite service a few weeks ago. We watch Hulu and Netflix, and we're pretty happy with that. It seems that the people of DirecTV don't understand that though. How can you be happy without regular TV? Don't you realize that it's TV?
When I called to cancel, they offered me deals to get me to stay. How about a cheaper package? How about your current package at a discount? What if I double that discount, and make it good for a year? Triple? Are you really sure?
Naturally, that call wasn't the end of it. I got an email the next day: "Your 30-day free trial has begun!" I didn't ask for one, but I got one anyway. I'd already unhooked the receivers, though, so I can't say for sure that it was real.
By now, the receivers have probably made it back to headquarters and we're quite happily not paying $70 a month for TV we don't watch much. The picture quality on Hulu is great, even if it does have to buffer once in a while. They've kept calling, though; hey, I've got a better deal for you, Mr. Ross! No? Well, ok, let us know if you change your mind!
I think I've seen the end of it now. I got a call this evening that had every sense of a last-ditch, all-in make-or-break deal. Their best package at half price (for a year), all the movie channels free (for three months), plus all the sports I can watch (for free on ESPN3 already, and didn't I see a commercial that they're free for everyone on DTV now too anyway?). All this for the so-low-you-can't-believe-it price of about $35 a month (for a year, or three months if I want to keep the movie channels).
I said no. He seemed to understand that they couldn't offer me anything I'd likely accept. He said again what a great customer I'd been, and we hung up.
But you know, if they can offer me such a "great" deal, how much was I overpaying before?
So I wondered, how much does service cost them? The satellite signal covers a broad area, and it'll broadcast whether I subscribe or not. That's not a cost. I never really had to call much, so they didn't employ anyone just to handle my calls; not really a cost. I suppose there are some bandwidth costs to send receiver-specific signals to unlock pay-per-view movies, but we didn't do that much either. There's a depreciation expense you can associate with the equipment, but I find it hard to believe that it amounts to very much.
So it doesn't seem to me like it costs them much to have a customer. $35 more than covers that, I'd say. $10 might, even. But you can't discount that much or people would catch on, and that would be bad.
The thing is, it's not that they need me that badly as a customer. It's that having me is mostly profit; in aggregate, their customer base could just barely cover the fixed costs of the satellites and licensing fees and all that, but once that level is achieved any new customer is mostly profit. It's like having a garden full of plants that make perfect nickels; you have to pay for the land, but once that's taken care of you've got a whole bunch of free nickels.
It's not that I don't like being a nickel-plant. I just want my nickels for myself; I have plant food and fancy plant treats I can spend my nickels on. I could give my nickels to DTV, but my nickels go farther in my own hands.
For instance: once I have four dollars worth, I'll have two rolls of nickels, which are a lot easier to carry than loose change.