Getting Free Premium Cable Channels – How Paying Attention Netted Us HBO, Cinemax, And More

Back when we moved into our new home we had to sign up for a new TV/Internet/Phone provider as our previous company wasn’t in our new neighborhood. As far as cable goes, we like to have the basic channels but we’ve been fine without the premium movie channels.  If we wanted to catch up on a series or a movie we had Netflix.

We were able to get a good deal on a combo that would actually be a few dollars cheaper than what we were paying for from our old provider and this new deal actually included some premium channels like Showtime.  Cool, I’ll take a movie channel.  When talking with the representative I asked if the package would include channels like IFC (Independent Film Channel) and Sundance  (you ever see Spectacle: Elvis Costello with…?  Awesome music interview show!).  I was just making sure since I liked those channels and they weren’t considered premium on our previous provider.  I was told they were included so I was happy.  Fast forward to our installation day and our technician told me that IFC wasn’t included in the package I ordered.  Grrr.

Understand, I can live without the channel, but I was told it would be included and it did help, in a small way, with my decision on what TV/Cable provider to go with.

So I called up our provider and asked about IFC.  I told the customer service rep the situation; spelling out what happened very nicely and in an upbeat manner.  “Let me take a look,” she says.  A couple of minutes later she comes back and tells me that since they told me the channel was included they would upgrade my package to include it.  But their system couldn’t add just the one channel – they would have to add Encore and Starz as part of the package.  At no extra charge?  Works for me!

I was able to have this happen because when I originally made the order I wrote down everything I was told about the package.  I also took down the name of the person I spoke with.  The provider we have was also smart to add the channels as there are a few different providers in the area all looking for my business.  It was good customer service (I appreciate that!).

Back to the phone call with customer service. After we cleared up the IFC business, the rep asked if I would like to try out HBO and Cinemax for three months.  “What’s the catch,” I asked?  The catch was I had to make sure I canceled before the three months were up or I would be charged monthly for the channels.  I said yes to the deal and now had two MORE channels on our plan at no extra cost.

To make sure I canceled HBO/Cinemax in time (I wasn’t going to pay for the channels), I went into my Google Calendar and set up a reminder to email and text me about a week before my three months were up.

In the almost three months I received numerous offers from the other providers in our areas to switch to their plans.  I even had one person selling a service door-to-door!  Though annoying at time, these other offers proved useful.

See the offers were pretty good plans that included channels like HBO in their price, which was close to what I was paying already (not cheap enough to switch though).

When I received my email and text reminders to cancel HBO and Cinemax I called up our provider and told them I was calling to cancel.  Then I mentioned that I received offers from the competition that included HBO and Cinemax in their price.  I asked if there was anything they could do to match the offer.  “Hold on while I check,” I was told.  A minute or two later, the service rep. said they could extend my deal another three months.  Score!  [Back to my Google Calendar…]

To recap: Because I paid attention to my original order that was supposed to include IFC, I received Encore, Starz, and six months of HBO and Cinemax.  Not too bad of an upgrade, huh?

Key points to take away from this:

  • Pay close attention to any order you make.  Get all of the details and keep a record of them.  Ask for a confirmation, either in writing or via email and get the name and/or rep. # of the person you spoke with.
  • Follow up if something isn’t to your liking or wasn’t included.  I think this is where a lot of people miss out.  For whatever reason we don’t follow up when we don’t get what we expect.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for an upgrade.  Open-market capitalism can be a powerful ally in getting more for your buck.  If there are similar companies out there that want your business, see what they will do to get it.  This works not just for cable channels but for anything like a new car or shopping for electronics.  Ask.  The worst you can be told is no.
  • Be nice.  Customer service reps take a lot of crap from angry customers all day.  Don’t be one of them.  As the saying goes: “A little honey goes a lot farther than vinegar.”  When you start off on the attack the other person tends to start off on the defensive.  Talk nicely and simply explain your situation.  If you don’t get the answer you are looking for, ask for a supervisor, but be nice.  You will be amazed at how far it can get you!

Do you have any experiences with great upgrades?  Share what they were and how you got them!

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Published or updated December 11, 2014.


  1. I do this when I fly. I take notes on my luggage, the experience, any delays and then send a letter to customer support. Get a couple of free meals/baggage out of it every time.

  2. I love that you used your Google Calendar for the reminder ~ glad I’m not the only one who does that kind of thing so I don’t forget. We got free Cinemax for two years for a a similar situation with the cable company. I think they change their packages and rates so much the customer service reps can’t even keep it straight most days.

  3. Craig, these are great points and I do the same things when I change my cable plan!

    I actually do consulting work in the industry and I’ll add one other little tip. The type of rep you talk to makes a big difference in what they are able to offer. Most cable companies have a retention department and reps in this department have a lot more promos and discounts at their fingertips. The easiest way to reach this department is to follow the prompts to “cancel service”. Don’t worry, the IVR system will never cancel your service without having you talk to an agent first. So just get to the right person, then start wheeling and dealing.

    • Ahh yes, I’ve spoken to retention departments before! I was able to get a free month on my old provider when their service went out a few days and their repair crew couldn’t come out. I told them I was fed up and ready to find another solution. They offered up the free month.

  4. I LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS. I am a huge negotiator and am never amazed when I can get more service for free!!! Steps are laid out very nicely. Good job!

  5. It is amazing how consumers now days accept such crappy business models as the norm, and rack it up to just the way things are. If any of these services were truly trying to win and earn customers they would be offering their absolute best deal right off the bat, true competition. Instead, they’re going to stick you for all they can, and if you find it somewhere cheaper, they’ll match it so they don’t lose your business. I can’t believe that doesn’t infuriate people, or at least bother them. That pretty much boils down to, face to face we’ll be nice and friendly to you, but if you turn your back on us be ready for us to stick a knife in you. Real business used to offer the best product or service they could for the best price, that’s called winning and earning customers. Now, that we’re in a wonderful stock market based economy, businesses is run with an investment type of mindset, which offers the cheapest made (quality) product, or service, for the highest price. We’ve been shifted from an economy that put the consumer first, where business actually worked for their customers, to one that puts business first, and uses and abuses the consumer as much as possible. Your a customer for 5, 10, 15 years or more, your rates are constantly going up and up, yet you notice that offers for new customers are considerably lower than you’re paying, and they’re only available to new customers. How’s that for customer appreciation? More and more companies no longer offer any kind of email correspondence. Why? Less manpower for them, and more importantly, no paper trail so to speak of, locking them into any agreement they may have made which is now verbal without any proof, unless you record the phone conversation. All the notes a person makes are great at reminding them what was said but it doesn’t prove anything, even with someones name. Sir, or Mam, you must have misunderstood what you were told, that is not included in the package, is more than likely the answer a person will get. And what’s the retaliation to that? Well, I’ll go somewhere else. Yeah, to their so called competition, that is priced the same, and operates the same.

    Business never used to act like this in the past. This is the results of our wonderful new stock market based economy where the object is to screw the consumer as much as possible, while getting out of as much responsibility as possible. Sadly, even people who are considered middle age (40 and mid to late 30’s) now accept this kind of treatment because it’s mostly all they’ve known. To younger people, it’s definitely all they’ve known, and that is sad and pathetic. You buy someones service, then every 3 months, 6 months, or 12 months, you have to play the barter game so they don’t rape you for unjustifiably extreme price hikes. If the price hikes were due to wage increases for their workers that might actually be acceptable, but the increases are more times than not due strictly to providing higher investment returns.

    Frankly, since the internet has become such a standard of communication, it should be considered a public utility and regulated. It should be separate from TV, and billed at rates that everyone can afford. Otherwise, we’re allowing business and investment interest to silence and shut out a large part of our citizens. To think otherwise just shows how people have been steered away, and brainwashed from what the United States of America is supposed to be about. We the people. Ignorantly, so many now are more inclined to think the United States of America, is about, We the corporations, and that is going to lead to one very ugly situation.

What Do You Think?