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Everyone loves a hidden menu, especially if it'll save them money, as may be the case with your cable provider, whether you know it or not. A report has made the rounds that gives subscribers to certain cable companies some helpful information on how to gain legal access to HBO without having to pay for a massive cable package.

Wall Street Journal has discovered a way around these high fees, for those looking to get HBO and don't want the extra hundreds of channels that come with it.

"Internet Plus" or "internet Plan" seem to be the terms to use here. According to WSJ, when they called up Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and AT&T, they were able uncover some non-advertised options. For Comcast, the term for the hidden option is "Internet Plus" (WSJ says that comes with HBO, HBO Go and "about 10 cable channels"). For Time Warner Cable, it's "Starter TV+HBO and an Internet plan." For Verizon Fios, it's "50/25 Mbps + Local News and Sports + HBO (or Showtime)." And for AT&T U-Verse, it's "HBO Internet Plus."

See, the problem with subscription channels and cable is that the extra cost for HBO or another premium channel is in addition to the cost of a full cable package, which is usually required. So you're not just paying $15 or so a month for the premium channel (plus or minus, depending on the channel and the promotion), you're paying for whatever the cable plan costs, plus that subscription fee. Add it all up, and include internet and a lot of us are looking at cable packages that cost well over $100 a month. For some of us, it's more than $150 a month. Never mind what happens to the bill when that "special promotion" expires.

These hidden options offer HBO and/or HBO Go along with the internet and few, if any other channels. While some might not want to go without their cable and basic cable, this is an option for people whose TV watching habits are limited to the latest seasons of Game of Thrones, True Blood and whatever else HBO is offering. And then maybe Netflix or some other affordable streaming service.

It's not surprising that the cable companies would have these options at the ready -- and that they wouldn't openly advertise them. More people are likely deciding that it's much easier and cheaper to rely on Netflix, HBO Go and maybe iTunes or Amazon Instant Video to binge watch their favorite TV shows. While that does little to support those shows in terms of their ratings, the point is, there are ways to watch great TV shows without cable. Alas, HBO is a bit less accessible, as they tend to take a while to get their series on DVD, and they don't often make them available on streaming services outside of HBO Go. Amazon Prime now carries HBO series on their streaming video service, but they don't have the latest seasons.

Anyone that's ever been fed up enough with their ridiculous cable bill and called to either cancel or downgrade their service may have been surprised to find themselves being offered a special promotion in exchange for not canceling. It doesn't always happen. And as WSJ points out, trying to do this can lead to confusion and inevitable frustration -- and you might not get exactly what you thought you signed up for.

WSJ also notes that these cable companies could drop these internet options at any point. It seems likely that the only reason these hidden options even exist is to keep subscribers paying something for cable rather than dropping cable completely in favor of much cheaper streaming options. As long as those options exist, cable will have to compete.
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