EPB is launching a free service to help customers find the TV channels and content they want at the best value—whether that includes EPB's own Fi TV or simply streaming services carried on EPB's internet-only service.
The Chattanooga utility announced Friday that it is partnering with a web-based service, MyBundle.TV, and is making customer service representatives available to help consumers pick the best video plan for the channels they want to watch.
EPB also is delaying its usual yearly increase in its video fees from November until next March for its own video service after revamping some of its video offerings earlier this year and negotiating to hold down annual increases from other providers.
"We know many customers are facing additional financial hardships right now," EPB President Dave Wade said. "We were thankful that several national content providers were more reasonable in negotiating new rates this year. We also cut some less popular channels hoping that these factors would allow us to delay a TV rate increase for another year. Unfortunately, several of the major networks are demanding a huge increase starting in January, and we will have no choice but to pass it along to TV subscribers."
EPB has increased its video rates each November since 2016 to cover rising fees from cable content providers like ESPN or broadcast stations like the local TV network affiliates. Such increases in video subscriptions and the growing popularity of streaming services offered over the web instead of cable connections have encouraged a growing number of television viewers to cut the cord to their cable provider and subscribe to streaming services such as Hulu, Amazon Prime or Disney Plus instead.
Wade said one of the biggest consumer complaints EPB receives about its video services is the inability of customers to pay for only the specific TV channels they want to watch.
"This new service we are introducing allows our customers to tell us what channels they like and want to watch and it goes through all of these streaming services, as well as EPB's own video offerings, and tells you what are the best options based upon what you want to watch," Wade told EPB directors Friday during their monthly board meeting. " It only shows EPB-FI if it is the best solution. In many cases, we find that customers can get more of the content they want while paying much less with either a single streaming service or some combination. I think that is unique to put something out there that is not intended to sell our product."
Wade said there are now more than 600 million U.S. subscriptions to streaming services, or nearly two streaming services for every person in the country. Streaming services outgrew cable TV revenues in 2018 and continues to grow as streaming video services offer targeted options and alternative programming.
EPB, the city-owned electric utility which entered the broadband market and began offering video services a decade ago, has grown its total EPB fiber optic customer base to over 115,000 customers in its 600-square-mile service territory, including 6,000 households with about 10,000 students who have been signed up this year for EPB internet service through HCS EdConect.
But only 47,300 of those customers, or 41% of those getting their broadband service from EPB, also subscribe to one of EPB's video services.
Under the state law that allowed EPB to enter the telecommunications market, the municipal utility must not cross-subsidize its services and it is not allowed to sell its video services below cost.
Wade said EPB also doesn't try to make any extra money as a deliverer of video content. Most of what EPB Fiber Optics generates in income comes from providing the basic internet service, which many use to subscribe to one or more web-based streaming services.
EPB spokesman J. Ed. Marston said customers are invited to call EPB or go to EPB.com/mybundle to receive personalized recommendations to help them take control of their TV content. After answering a few easy questions, customers are able to comparison shop EPB Fi TV and a range of streaming services to identify their best fit for TV at the best price.
Contact Dave Flessner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6340.