Q. I am in a two-year contract with Dish and I can’t take any more channel blackouts. I want to end my contract and go to another TV company. I heard about Charter Spectrum buying out your contract. How does that work and do they force you to go into a contract, too? — Theresa, Chincoteague, Virginia. 

Theresa, over the years, I have heard from many DIRECTV and Dish subscribers that they would drop their service if it were not for those two-year contracts, The satcasters require new customers to agree to two-year deals in return for incentives such as lower prices, and in the case of DIRECTV, free NFL Sunday Ticket. DIRECTV charges $20 a month for every month left in the contract if you cancel early while Dish last July reduced its fee from $20 a month to $10 a month for new customers.

The contracts seem like a good deal until your TV provider does something you don’t like, such as dropping a favorite channel or raising prices. You can’t switch services unless you pay the termination penalty.

Click Amazon: See the New Year Discounts!

But Charter’s Spectrum TV service has a contract buyout offer that you will give you up to $500 if you switch to them.

“In a contract? Don’t worry, we’ll buy it out up to $500,” the cable operator states on its web site.

Of course, there are some catches. First, you have to live in a market served by Charter. The company is in 41 states so you can check your eligibility here.

Second, you have to purchase a qualifying Spectrum Triple Play plan (video, phone, Internet), which begin at around $90 a month (125 channels) for new customers. (Charter says select Double Play packages, video and Internet, are eligible in certain markets.)
And those are the first-year promotional prices; they rise by $20-40 a month in year two.

Once you purchase your plan, you must submit a ‘Spectrum Contract Buyout’ form (found on their site), and the last bill from your previous TV provider that shows the early termination penalty. After you submit those documents, Charter will verify their accuracy, which it says can take up to 5-7 business days. Once it finds the information is correct, your payment should arrive within 10 business days.

Unlike Dish and DIRECTV, Charter does not require you to sign a contract. But to get your penalty payment, you must install and actively maintain a Triple Play plan throughout the redemption process. That is defined as the time from when you send in the required documentation to when you receive payment. After that, you could cancel at anytime.

Bottom line: The Charter buyout could be an alternative for some DIRECTV and Dish subscribers who have grown weary of their providers. But before you jump, make sure you would be happy with Charter’s channel lineup, and pricing structure. The Triple Play plan could be more expensive than your current plan.

You can learn more about Charter Spectrum, and its contract buyout offer, here.

Need to buy something today? Please buy it using this Amazon.com link. This site receives a small portion of each purchase, which helps us continue to provide these articles.

Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at swann@tvpredictions.com. Please include your first name and hometown in your message.

— Phillip Swann