Time Warner Cable starts to cave with subsidized Slingboxes

Summary:Time Warner Cable accepts the reality of consumers' need for Internet-connected TV with an upcoming Slingbox promotion.

It's no secret that cable companies are suffering financially across the country. That's mainly thanks to the rise of easier and improved HD video streaming from services like Netflix, Hulu Plus and others that offer plenty of content at a far cheaper price. And it's not like cable companies are known for their charming customer service agents.

Well, these companies have to do something to stay afloat. Time Warner Cable tried to go a different route with a home entertainment service, SignatureHome, that tries to make its customers (who are willing to pay more) to feel like they're having special and better treatment.

Now, it's pulling a more drastic move: it's going to subsidize Slingbox purchases. Yes, that box that technically enables buyers to be able to sling their cable accounts to multiple screens worldwide from just one paid account.

However, only select customers are going to be eligible -- those who pay for the $99-a-month Wideband Internet service. Starting this September, they will receive a rebate worth $300 to purchase the device. (Presumably, that allotment is intended for the Slingbox Pro HD, which retails for $299.99. There are a few other solutions from Sling that are a bit cheaper.)

The move comes across as a bit peculiar at first, but Time Warner has definitive motives. The New York Times reports:

As a sales promotion, the rebate offer reflects the fact that Internet connectivity, not television, is becoming the core part of the business for companies like Time Warner Cable. But it doubles as something else: as a shot across the bow to cable programmers who say that distributors should pay them more for the right to such place-shifting.

The NYT adds that this promotion is also intended to remind "programmers that there are other ways to port channels to different screens and places, though it wouldn’t admit to such a tactic on the record.

At the end of the day, this deal is to get customers onboard with Wideband, and nothing else really. This promotion is probably not going to do much for Time Warner as a cable company, but it could entice subscribers into paying for faster (and therefore, more expensive) Internet packages to be able to keep up with the Slingbox and similar Internet-connected devices.

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About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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