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In marketing, product bundling is offering several products or services for sale as one combined product or service package. It is a common feature in many imperfectly competitive product and service markets.[1] Industries engaged in the practice include telecommunications services, financial services, health care, information, and consumer electronics. A software bundle might include a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation program into a single office suite. The cable television industry often bundles many TV and movie channels into a single tier or package. The fast food industry combines separate food items into a "meal deal" or "value meal".

A bundle of products may be called a package deal; in recorded music or video games, a compilation or box set; or in publishing, an anthology.

Product bundling is most suitable for high volume and high margin (i.e., low marginal cost) products. Research by Yannis Bakos and Erik Brynjolfsson found that bundling was particularly effective for digital information goods with close to zero marginal cost, and could enable a bundler with an inferior collection of products to drive even superior quality goods out of the market place.[2][3]

Most firms are multi-product or multi-service companies faced with the decision whether to sell products or services separately at individual prices or whether combinations of products should be marketed in the form of "bundles" for which a "bundle price" is asked. Price bundling plays an increasingly important role in many industries (e.g. banking, insurance, software, automotive) and some companies even build their business strategies on bundling. In bundle pricing, companies sell a package or set of goods or services for a lower price than they would charge if the customer bought all of them separately. Pursuing a bundle pricing strategy allows a business to increase its profit by using a discount to induce customers to buy more than they otherwise would have.


Bundling is most successful when:

While many well-known examples of bundling are all products or services from the same store or provider, such as the sports package for a car or a grocery store's gift basket, in some cases, cross-industry bundles are assembled and sold. For example, some travel agencies have vacation tour bundles that may include air tickets, rail tickets, a rental car, hotels, restaurants, museum and sightseeing attraction tickets and live music event tickets. These bundles include products and services from the transportation, accommodation, tourism, food service and entertainment industries.

Consumers have heterogeneous demands and such demands for different parts of the bundle product are inversely correlated. For example, assume consumer A values a word processor software at $100 and spreadsheet processor at $60, while consumer B values a word processor at $60 and spreadsheet at $100. Seller can generate maximum revenue of only $240 by setting $60 price for each product—both consumers will buy both products. Revenue cannot be increased without bundling because as seller increases the price above $60 for one of the goods, one of the consumers will refuse to buy it. With bundling, seller can generate revenue of $320 by bundling the products together and selling the bundle at $160. Thus, bundling can be considered a form of price discrimination.[4]

Venkatesh and Mahajan reviewed the research on bundle design and pricing in 2009.[5] A 1997 study by Mercer Management Consulting, in Massachusetts stated that good bundles have five elements: (1) the package is worth more than the "sum of its parts" for the consumer; (2) the bundle brings order and simplicity to a set of confusing or tedious choices; (3) the bundle solves a problem for the consumer; (4) the bundle is focused and lean in an effort to avoid carrying or including options, goods or services the consumer has no use for; and (5) the bundle generates interest or even controversy.[6] Number 1 can be read as simply that a bundle should cost less than buying each item separately; however, even if the bundle were to cost the same in dollars, a bundle may still be an appealing value proposition for a consumer, as they do not have to hand-pick each accessory and add-on item (this is the 2nd and 3rd point).

Bundling is often thought of mainly as a value pricing strategy, in that product bundles often cost less than if each item were purchased separately. However, bundling can also have other strategic advantages. For example, when a grocery store is making up a gift basket, they can use the design of the basket item list as a way to promote new products or brands that a customer may not know or as a way to liquidate merchandise that is not selling well. As well, even though many bundles are less expensive than all of the items if purchased separately, in some cases the bundle costs more than if each item was purchased separately; this tactic is particularly effective in high-end retailing where conspicuous consumption and prestige pricing elements come into play. A well-off home theatre enthusiast with a very high budget may find a $10,000 home theatre package attractive, even if it costs a bit more than buying each item separately, because this is an impressive total cost.[citation needed]


Bundling in political economy is a type of product bundling in which the "product" is a candidate in an election who markets his or her bundle of attributes and political positions to the voters. For example, a political candidate may market herself as a centrist candidate by ensuring she/he has centrist social, economic, and law enforcement positions.

Advantages and disadvantages


Disadvantages to the consumer:

Disadvantages to the seller:


For software bundled in an operating system, see Pre-installed software.

In the computer industry, bundled software is distributed with another product such as a piece of computer hardware or other electronic device, or is a group of software packages which are sold together. Software which is pre-installed on a new computer is an example of bundled software. For example, as of 2017, most desktop, laptop and mobile computers are bought pre-loaded with various software and software applications ("apps"). A pack-in game is a form of bundled software.

Early microcomputer companies varied in their decision to bundle software. BYTE in 1984 observed that "Kaypro apparently has tremendous buying and bargaining power", noting that the Kaypro 10 came with both WordStar and Perfect Writer, plus "two spelling checkers, two spreadsheets, two communications programs and three versions of BASIC".[14] Stating that year that a computer that weighs 30 pounds "really isn't very portable", Creative Computing concluded that "the main reason that the Osborne was a success was not that it was transportable, but that it came with a pile of bundled software".[15] Compaq, by contrast, did not bundle software, stating that "You remove the freedom from the dealers to really merchandise when you bundle in software ... Why should you be constrained to use the software that comes with a piece of hardware? I think it can tend to inhibit sales over the long run."[16] MacWrite's inclusion with early Macintosh computers discouraged developers from creating other word processing software for the computer.[17] Many companies sold multimedia upgrade kits—a CD-ROM drive, sound card, speakers, and what Computer Gaming World described as "a boatload of bundled software"—during the mid-1990s.[18]

Home theatre in a box

In the 1990s and in the 2000s (decade) and 2010s, many consumer electronics companies designed home theatre equipment bundles, known as Home Theatre in a Box (HTIB). For a customer who already owned a TV, and in some cases a DVD player or other source for playing back movies, a HTIB package provides all of the electronics hardware, speakers and cables needed to set up a home cinema. There are three grades of HTIB bundles: economy bundles, aimed at the lowest price point; mid-tier bundles, the most common type; and higher-cost HTIB bundles made by BOSE and other higher-end manufacturers. At the economy grade HTIB package, the customer is provided with a basic home theatre set-up, with modest sound quality and relatively few options for adjusting the sound. The mid-tier and upper-tier packages offer better performance and more set-up options. All three HTIB tiers, though, have a similar value proposition for the buyer: the HTIB package ensures that all of the speakers are of the correct impedance and power handling capabilities, the cables are of the correct type, and the crossover points and other technical details have been set up by the manufacturer.

The most serious home theatre enthusiasts do not typically buy HTIB bundles, as they are a more sophisticated target market. As such, the most serious home cinema-philes typically purchase each component (power amplifiers, speakers, subwoofer cabinet, speaker cables) separately, so that they can choose which items meet their specific movie-watching goals. For example, a serious home theatre enthusiast may wish to have a large cabinet subwoofer enclosure with heavy bracing, a type and size of subwoofer cabinet that would not be found in any HTIB bundle due to its large size and high cost. As well, a serious home theatre enthusiast may wish to have a powered subwoofer with a user-adjustable crossover, a "subsonic" filter and other higher-cost advanced features.

Market power and competitiveness

In oligopolistic and monopolistic industries, product bundling can be seen as an unfair use of market power because it limits the choices available to the consumer. In these cases it is typically called product tying. Some forms of product bundling have been subject to litigation regarding abuses of market share.

United States v. Microsoft

United States v. Microsoft was a set of civil actions filed against Microsoft Corporation pursuant to the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 Sections 1 and 2 on May 18, 1998, by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and 20 states. Joel I. Klein was the lead prosecutor. The plaintiffs alleged that Microsoft abused monopoly power on Intel-based personal computers in its handling of operating system sales and web browser sales. The issue central to the case was whether Microsoft was allowed to bundle its flagship Internet Explorer (IE) web browser software with its Microsoft Windows operating system. Bundling them together is alleged to have been responsible for Microsoft's victory in the browser wars as every Windows user had a copy of Internet Explorer.

TV programing bundles by cable and satellite providers

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Cable and satellite television (Pay TV) have bundled TV channels since the inception of both. In the early years of the cable industry this was necessary due to the technological constraints associated with allowing and blocking channels transmitted via analog methods. The progress towards complete cable, internet, and telephone packages gave subscribers many more options as well as offering hundreds of channels. The "package" price depends on the level of service a customer prefers within each bundle. The services range from low speed internet and minimum channels to high speed internet and the addition of many premium channels. In the US prices for pay TV have doubled in the last twenty years, averaging 6% per year, while wages have remained the same for nearly 20 years[19] causing dissatisfaction and many cancellations.[20] Costs have risen 53% since 2007 and Comcast and AT&T's Direct TV went up in January 2018.[21] With the Digital television transition opportunities for competition to pay TV ushered in online video companies and forcing pay TV companies to examine à la carte cable company packages.[22]

A 2018 consumer report shows many subscribers are dissatisfied with cable TV, mainly over prices, which has led to many complaints. Google Fiber was an exception to widespread consumer dissatisfaction. Verizon and the two satellite-TV companies —AT&T's DirecTV and Dish Network rated better than Cox Communications, Comcast, Spectrum, Optimum, CenturyLink, SuddenLink Communications, Atlantic Broadband, Frontier Communications, and Mediacom was rated at the bottom. Internet providers EPB (Fiber Optics) and Google Fiber received top ratings for value. Of the smaller companies only Armstrong received top ratings and RCN, Hawaiian Telcom (bought by Cincinnati Bell in 2018), and Grande Communications received slightly higher ratings.[23]

The high price of current complete bundling, upwards of $180–200, along with poor customer service, surprise bills, and technical difficulties, resulted in Angie's List reporting that these things were the number two most complained about category.[24]

Alternative streaming-based providers of cable TV channel bundles in the United States, also known as vMVPDs, such as FuboTV, Hulu + Live TV, Philo, Sling TV, and YouTube TV, launched in the 2010s, providing additional options for consumers who want access to linear cable channels but are dissatisfied with local providers.[25] Additionally, reduced-price bundles of streaming service packages, such as The Disney Bundle, are also offered by some providers.[26]

See also


  1. ^ Adams, W.; Yellen, J. (August 1976). "Commodity bundling and the burden of monopoly". Quarterly Journal of Economics. 90 (3): 475–498. doi:10.2307/1886045. JSTOR 1886045.
  2. ^ Bakos, Yannis; Brynjolfsson, Erik (1999). "Bundling Information Goods: Pricing, Profits, and Efficiency". Management Science. 45 (12): 1613–1630. CiteSeerX doi:10.1287/mnsc.45.12.1613. JSTOR 2634781.
  3. ^ Bakos, Yannis; Brynjolfsson, Erik (2000). "Bundling and Competition on the Internet". Marketing Science. 19 (1): 63–82. CiteSeerX doi:10.1287/mksc. JSTOR 193259.
  4. ^ a b "Second-degree price discrimination".
  5. ^ Venkatesh, R. and Vijay Mahajan (2009). Vithala R. Rao (ed.). "The Design and Pricing of Bundles: A Review of Normative Guidelines and Practical Approaches" (PDF). Handbook of Pricing Research in Marketing. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing Company: 232–257. doi:10.4337/9781848447448.00020. ISBN 9781848447448. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-23. Retrieved 2012-12-10.
  6. ^ "BUNDLED GOODS AND SERVICES". Reference for Business. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  7. ^ Biswas, Indranil; Avittathur, Balram (2018-03-19). "The price-setting limited clearance sale inventory model". Annals of Operations Research. doi:10.1007/s10479-018-2811-5. ISSN 1572-9338. S2CID 125857534.
  8. ^ Olderog, Torsten; Skiera, Bernd (2000-04-01). "The Benefits of Bundling Strategies". Schmalenbach Business Review. 52 (2): 137–159. doi:10.1007/BF03396614. ISSN 2194-072X. S2CID 167045671.
  9. ^ O'Brien, Daniel P.; Shaffer, Greg (2005). "Bargaining, Bundling, and Clout: The Portfolio Effects of Horizontal Mergers". The RAND Journal of Economics. 36 (3): 573–595. ISSN 0741-6261. JSTOR 4135230.
  10. ^ Harris, Judy; Blair, Edward A. (2006-10-01). "Consumer Preference for Product Bundles: The Role of Reduced Search Costs". Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science. 34 (4): 506–513. doi:10.1177/0092070306288405. ISSN 0092-0703. S2CID 167928144.
  11. ^ a b c Jonathan, Leibowitz. "Re: Potentially Exclusionary Bundled Discounts for Pediatric Vaccines" (PDF). The American Antitrust Institute. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  12. ^ Nalebuff, Barry (2004-02-01). "Bundling as an Entry Barrier*". The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 119 (1): 159–187. doi:10.1162/003355304772839551. ISSN 0033-5533.
  13. ^ Pierce, Brooks; Winter, Harold (1996-12-01). "Pure vs. mixed commodity bundling". Review of Industrial Organization. 11 (6): 811–821. doi:10.1007/BF00174408. ISSN 1573-7160. S2CID 154884072.
  14. ^ McMahon, Steve (May 1984). "The Kaypro 10". BYTE. pp. 206–224. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  15. ^ Ahl, David H. (December 1984). "Top 12 computers of 1984". Creative Computing. Retrieved 2019-03-16.
  16. ^ Zientara, Marguerite (1984-04-02). "Q&A: H.L. Sparks". InfoWorld. pp. 84–85. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  17. ^ McNeill, Dan (December 1987). "Macintosh: The Word Explosion". Compute!'s Apple Applications. pp. 54–60. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  18. ^ Weksler, Mike (June 1994). "CDs On A ROMpage". Computer Gaming World. pp. 36–40.
  19. ^ NY Post: Cable prices have been too damn high for nearly 20 years: (By Chris Mills, BGR; posted April 30, 2018)- Retrieved 2018-08-26
  20. ^ Average Monthly Cable TV Subscription Bills May Top $200 by 2020: The NPD Group press release (April 10, 2012)- Retrieved 2018-08-26
  21. ^ TV rate hikes: Why cable bills are rising again and what can you do: The Associated Press Published January 5, 2018
  22. ^ The Digital Revolution is Disrupting the TV Industry: The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Posted- March 21, 2016- Retrieved 2018-08-26
  23. ^ Consumer report: People Still Don't Like Their Cable Companies, CR's Latest Telecom Survey Finds (By James K. Willcox August 08, 2018)- Retrieved 2018-08-26
  24. ^ Why Cable, Internet and TV Customer Service Sucks- Retrieved 2018-08-27-06
  25. ^ Perez, Sarah. "YouTube TV and Hulu Live TV now have hundreds of thousands of subscribers, says report". TechCrunch. Retrieved August 11, 2022.
  26. ^ Littleton, Cynthia (August 6, 2019). "Disney to Offer Streaming Bundle of Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and Hulu for $12.99". Variety. Archived from the original on August 6, 2019. Retrieved August 11, 2022.

Further reading