Comcast's Summer of $69

Waltham, Mass. — Comcast Corp.'s New England division is slashing its monthly rate for a bundle of basic video, high-speed Internet and telephone service to just $69 per month, for subscribers that have bolted to DirecTV Inc., RCN Corp. and other rivals.

“Our goal is to win that household back, not just for one product — it's for all of the products,” Comcast New England marketing strategy manager for acquisition Richard Hand said here Thursday, following a Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing panel session on combating competition.

Comcast is only making the offer to subscribers who have disconnected service. The $69 triple-play will only include 20 basic cable channels; local over-the-air broadcast channels; public, government and educational channels; and Comcast-owned regional channels CN8: The Comcast Network and New England Cable News.

The package also includes a 6 Megabits-per-second Internet connection and unlimited local, regional and national phone calls.

The goal is to eventually entice consumers that return to Comcast at the steeply discounted rate to upgrade to digital-cable and premium programming packages, according to Comcast New England northern division vice president of marketing strategy Karen Breen.

Subscribers that opt for the package won't receive a set-top box. In order to upgrade to premium channels or video-on-demand programming, they'll have to order a digitial set-top, Comcast said.

Comcast faces stiff competition in New England, not only from satellite services such as DirecTV and EchoStar Communications Corp., but from cable overbuilder RCN and a new pay TV entrant, telephone company Verizon Communications Inc.

Verizon has won franchises in several New England communities, including Lynnfield, Reading and Woburn, Mass.

Hand said it's too early to gauge the success of the $69 win-back offer. Comcast began touting the low price last month, via direct mail, to subscribers that had dropped its pay TV service.

He also emphasized that the offer is part of Comcast's broader win-back program.

“Win-back is part of our life. We do it every day, in and out. We don't look at win-back as one event. It's top of our mind all of the time,” Hand added.

Comcast New England also runs a satellite dish buy-back program, in which it offers customers of DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dish Network $400 in programming credits if they agree to turn their satellite dish over to Comcast, and sign up for cable.

One risk for Comcast with the win-back program is that existing customers paying higher rates could cancel their cable service, and return to the company as a subscriber in order to get the $69 offer — an industry term called “spinning.”

Hand said he doesn't expect spinning to be a problem with the $69 offer, since it requires more effort and phone calls than most consumers are willing to make.