Parent company Charter Communications has apparently brokered a deal between Spectrum cable service and Apple TV to perhaps boost the sales of two laggers in the marketplace. Spectrum has been losing ground to streaming services, as have all cable providers. Apple TV, while slick and fancy, does not yet have the content of a provider like Netflix. It is really just a pricy Roku.
Spectrum has been advertising cable service at 44.99 if you bundle it with internet service. This means that your internet service could go from 79.99 to 44.99. But beware. The deal includes an Apple TV adapter to stream Spectrum cable. This Apple TV adapter will cost you $183 in $7.99 chunks. You are not renting the device, you are buying it. Once you open it, you cannot return it and will have to pay the price even if you cancel your cable service. The catch is that you cannot find out how, or even if, it works unless you open it. None of this is explained in advance.
It’s not clear if Spectrum deliberately set out to fool customers with this odd marriage prenup, but if it wasn’t a mirky business deal designed to benefit two hard-to-sell products, then Spectrum did not do the research it should have done. Turns out that this device will not stream Spectrum cable on all TVs. The TV can’t just be any smart TV, it must be smart enough. This device only works properly on 4K TVs. Once you are hooked up to the Apple TV device you have to install the Spectrum app. If you don’t have the correct TV, the installation doesn’t work. So you can’t watch Spectrum TV on your nice big screen. You can probably watch TV on your smaller computer screen or on your phone, but, for most adults, that would not be acceptable. And because you opened and hooked up Apple TV you cannot return it.
Try speaking to Spectrum about this. You are met with a totally inflexible company policy which has been indoctrinated in all employees that you must pay your $183 for that Apple device which doesn’t work. If you get too insistent they refer you to Apple Support. They will even give you the number. When you speak with Apple Support they will tell you that Charter Communications purchased those Apple TV devices and Apple no longer supports them. They are supported by Spectrum. But Spectrum will insist that you call Apple. The consumer is caught in a ridiculous round robin whose only goal is to steal your money. Shame on both companies for making this bad business deal.
Wait until you experience that difficult to navigate Apple TV remote with its minimalist offerings and its overly sensitive touch pad. If you’re twelve you’ll get it. Over twelve you will want to throw it in the garbage, or against a wall, lose it permanently under a seat cushion. There you’ll be in luck. We are great at losing remotes and this one is very small.
It is unclear how you get any satisfaction, although you will get a useless apology, as if the company has nothing to do with this marketing mess. You may end up OK if you have the right TV. You may end up with no cable and out $183. And Apple insists that the person who bought the deal must be present to accept the delivery. They may call it security, but it feels more like legal protection so you can’t claim the thing you don’t want was never delivered. Have some pillows ready to punch because you will be frustrated and tempted to throw expensive electronics, perhaps one that costs $183.