Your post shows a complete lack of understanding of pricing and the basic tenants of supply and demand. Heck, why don't they just charge $500 a customer because in your economic world, prices don't affect demand.
Pricing? Actually, your disbelief to the idea that companies add in and account for expected monies lost or not gained due to discounts and theft when creating a budget shows you have never played with a P&L in a major retail company. I have. I understand how it all works. I did not in any way say that price doesn't affect demand. I am saying that part of the reason they budget for discounts is because of economics. Heck, manufacturers build into their price the costs of defective units that will come back to them, and products that will get broke and not even make it out of the factory.
Its not a lot, but its enough to make a difference. A while back DIrectv had pulled back on discounts a lot, as a result of them giving out to many to to many people and seeing their profits erode faster than expected. Fast forward and you notice that they have increased their static non programming based fees quite a bit over the last four years or so and it seems discounts are back to the levels they used to be. (I still have a feeling the MRV fee is a DIRECT result of people asking for discounts and decreasing profits from programming specific fees due to higher contract fees with channels) Gee, wonder if that may be a correlation. Had they not had such large increases in programming fees, they may have been able to avoid that because they would have eaten into the programming profits, but since they where be eroded there too, they had to make additional price increases to offset other things. They all work like a giant clock with 50 gears. It all affects the others, in a balanced way, and there is no doubt from anyone who understands a p&L that some of the price increases over he last few years are to allow them to continue to give some people discounts to keep them happy and to keep them as customers, in addition to new customer spending.
Your assertions that they'd just charge anything is absurd. In fact, supply and demand is exactly why they have to budget for discounts, because many people will be fine paying a higher price and not calling in often, where as some people will demand lower pricing, and they have therefore budgeted in some money to spend on those discounts to keep those customers. Get rid of all discounts, assume no one asks for them anymore, and they won't have to budget any of that money towards spending on discounts, so they could look at the P&L and simply reduce the costs of services by the total amount they had originally budgeted for discounts. Of course, you will never see anyone go backward, but you can say they might now increase fees less if they stopped all discounts cold. Of course we all know as well that this will NEVER happen, but it is how a P&L and budgeting works.
Kinda like Coupons and marketing dollars. You pay for it somewhere, whether you want to believe it or not.