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Discount Diva: Pay Spectrum Cable $141 more per year (or try this)

Samantha Christmann

Hey, would you like to add another $141 to your annual cable bill? Didn’t think so.

But if any of the TVs in your house are screwed directly into your Spectrum cable line, you won’t have a choice. Because Spectrum is upgrading to a scrambled, all-digital signal, those TVs will no longer broadcast your cable channels unless you start leasing one of Spectrum’s digital receivers.

And that’s going to cost you.

On the bright side, the new set-top receiver will give you access to thousands of On Demand movies and shows, plus an interactive guide, search options and parental controls.

But on the other hand, each of those boxes costs as much as $11.75 per month, per television. That’s more than Netflix, Hulu, even Amazon Prime. If you have more than one TV that requires a box, you’ll pay the full fee for each box on each TV, and you’ll pay it every month. Forever.

You cannot buy the box outright. But by leasing the equipment monthly, the company said, there are benefits. You’ll avoid upfront costs, you’ll always have the latest technology, and you’ll have access to Spectrum’s stellar technical support and customer service.

See? It’s like they’re doing you a favor.

From all the emails I’ve received, you guys seem slightly perturbed by the change and its accompanying fee. And by “slightly” I mean you have got your pitchforks sharpened and are ready to light the torches at any moment.

[You asked, we answered: Why do you need Spectrum's digital converter?]

But a lot of you still aren’t ready to cut the cord yet, so this column isn’t about getting rid of cable altogether. Instead, here are a few ways to get around Spectrum’s recurring digital receiver leasing fee, which is $6.99 a month for Spectrum packages and $11.75 a month for legacy TWC packages.

• You may be eligible for free use of a receiver for a limited time, depending on your programming package. And customers with the “Limited Basic” or “Starter TV” package who also qualify for Medicaid may be eligible to receive two free receivers for up to five years. Talk to customer service to see if you qualify.

• Use the Spectrum app on a streaming device, which will let you watch everything you watch now, including live TV, guide listings and On Demand. The app is free to download and works with the paid Spectrum subscription you already have.

The cheapest streaming device you can buy is a Roku (a one-time purchase price of $29.99 on or in Target stores), which plugs into the HDMI port in the back of your TV. You won’t need to pay a recurring fee for the Roku, but you will need high-speed internet service in order for it to work. As a bonus, Roku gives you access to 500,000 movies and TV shows without a cable subscription.

• If you’ve got an Xbox One gaming device, you can stream the app through that the same way. But you won’t have a remote, so you’ll have to use the game controller instead.

• Upgrade to a Samsung Smart TV made in 2012 or later. You can get a new 32-inch for $199, roughly $50 more than a year’s worth of receiver payments. At least you’ll have something to show for your money.

• Switch to a mobile device or computer. You can access the app on most Apple, Android and Kindle devices, or online.

You may soon pay a lot more for Spectrum Cable

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