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How Disruptive TV Changed the Way Providers Market Traditional television companies are becoming more creative to retain customers.

By Lucinda Honeycutt

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Since the dawn of Netflix and other online streaming services, we've seen a change in how people consume media. As the landscape continues to change, with streaming services competing against network and cable TV with their own series, cable and satellite companies are getting more creative with marketing to retain customers.

Cutting the cord: Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.

Studies show the number of people cutting the cord is rising, with 4.9 million fewer U.S. households subscribing to cable or satellite services than the year before, and that number is expected to increase another 12.5 percent in 2016, with steady losses until 2019.

Related: Looking to Cut the Cable Cord? Dish Network's Sling TV Is Now Available to Everyone

That's a result of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime video, along with standalone offerings from HBO making it easier for people to watch what they want, when they want. Since devices like Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV, as well as Blu-Ray players and gaming consoles allow people to stream content to their TVs, rather than tying them to the computer to watch – it's easy to get the shows you want to see without having to pay a cable bill.

There are, however, some people who still keep paid cable TV service, but opt for a smaller channel package and supplement with digital streaming services. Cord "shavers" are also more common than in the past, with basic packages representing 12 percent of pay-TV subscriptions, compared to just 8 percent to 10 percent a few years ago.

But, data also shows more Americans will subscribe to TV services provided through telecom companies, as they've done a better job marketing their services, with the segment expected to jump 1.8 percent in 2016.

Network TV at a fraction of the cost.

Even though people are opting to completely ditch cable TV service in favor of streaming services, SlingTV offers the best of both worlds. For as little as $20 per month, with the option to add-on extra channels for $5 per month, or HBO for $15 per month, consumers can get around having to pay a hefty cable bill, while still getting their favorite content from channels like Food Network, TBS, HGTV, History Channel, ESPN and more.

Related: Brands Must Embrace Cable Cord-Cutters for Marketing Effectiveness

The caveat is, only one TV can view it at a time -- so there's no luxury of everyone in the house watching separate things at the same time. That's where traditional Digital TV subscriptions still have the upper hand.

How digital TV providers are fighting for market share.

To keep the competition fierce and help convince people to keep their cable and satellite TV subscriptions, companies are offering extra perks to sweeten the deal. And for many providers, it's working.

SuddenLink, for instance, offers what they call the VIP Perk Program. Subscribers who elect to get their bundle with digital TV service, Internet, and phone are automatically enrolled in the program. It includes:

  • Special discounts
  • Periodic free movies
  • TV Caller ID
  • Priority service – a separate customer service number to ensure calls are answered fast
  • Surprise perks – exclusive sneak previews and discounts on new products and services

Charter may have retired their Live it With Charter rewards program where customers earned points redeemable for products based on the amount of their monthly bill, but that doesn't mean they've stopped trying to woo customers. Now, they're offering to pay up to $500 to buy people out of service contracts with competing providers. Plus, they run limited time only only specials to include freebies – such as installation or DVR service.

Related: 7 Technologies That Are Disrupting the Cable TV Business

DirecTV doesn't offer a customer loyalty program, instead locking customers into a two-year contract. But, for that first year, customers are given discounts on their packages, and the NFL Sunday Ticket, which provides access to all out-of-market games, except those that the NFL blacks out for the entire season. They're under contract with the NFL as the only provider for this package, which gives them a competitive edge among football fans. An upgraded version of the package allows for access via mobile device. They've also got similar packages for other sports, including MLB Extra Innings, NBA League Pass, and NHL Center Ice.

Beyond this, many providers are also making it possible to watch TV on-the-go, on your tablet, laptop, or phone, offering the same freedom and flexibility as streaming services.

Whether you're still paying for a digital TV subscription, shaving the cord in favor of streaming services but not ready to cut it, or have abandoned paid cable completely, media companies are still vying for your attention, and that will likely never change.

Where do you stand? Do you still pay for cable?

Lucinda Honeycutt

Freelance writer and web designer

Lucinda Honeycutt is a freelance writer and web designer nestled in the mountains of western North Carolina. She's a tech geek, foodie and research junkie who writes about a little bit of everything.

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