No choice? Someone is holding a gun to your head and insisting that you subscribe to a package that includes ESPN? You always have a choice. The fact that a choice you would like better is not available does not mean you do not have a choice. It means that you have had to compromise.
In a perfect world, I would insist that stations sell their channels individually. They do not. They sell them in groups, and they negotiate which tiers which channels must go into.
Here's my a la carte solution: eliminate programming packages. Allow each company to create their own list, and set the prices accordingly. So if Disney wants you to buy ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNNews/ESPNU/ESPN Classic/Disney East/Disney West/Broadcast ABC and the price is $20/month, you can choose to buy the Disney corporate package or not. Time Warner can create their own TNT/TBS/TWC/etc package, and you can choose to buy it or not. Dish can put together a package of freebies (channels whose advertising pays for itself, or loss leaders) available to all. What I suspect is that if ESPN were moved to its own package, along with all the other channels Disney owns, 90% of you would buy it because you would want the other channels, EVEN IF YOU NEVER WATCH ESPN! Disney will never agree to move ESPN to its own tier, without tying it to the other channels.
What you seem to want is the perfect world, where you only pay for the channels you actually want. Here's the rub: if ESPN isn't in that mix, you'll end up paying more for your perfect world of a la carte because your channels are not as popular as ESPN. By making ESPN optional, you'd make your favorite channels optional, and because so few people (relatively speaking) would opt into your favorite channel, the cost per subscriber would jump up quickly. In many cases, these smaller audience channels would cease to exist. We'd probably end up with 20-30 cable channels, but we'd each only get a subset of them and it'd cost us about what we're paying now for the 8-10 channels we wanted. On the other hand, the quality of the available content would jump dramatically, as the good stuff wouldn't be spread over 250+ channels. But niche viewers would be left out altogether.
Other than the basic package, I cannot get much of anything else without getting robbed for ESPN. I know of no other basic programming channel that cost more per customer than ESPN. I'm not asking for al carte. Just a choice of not having to pay for ANY premium channel. Not asking for too much. Dish does not require everyone to pay for HBO? Not much difference in price if you add ESPN and FOX SPORTS together. If everone would pay for HBO, I could save some each month. Yeah, that's stupid. But whats the difference?
If I end up paying the same for less channels, what did I lose? ESPN, FOX SPORTS and local sports. NO LOSS FOR ME AND MANY OTHERS. Sounds good to me!
Edited by tommiet, 16 May 2012 - 10:03 AM.