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ESPN costs me $6-12 a month: outrageous


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#61 OFFLINE   Gloria_Chavez

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 09:42 PM

I signed up for DirecTV in 1995. The cost was $29.95/month. There were about 70 channels, and many of the popular ones were not included because they were on USSB. There was no HD, and no DVR option. Local channels were not available, except in NYC and LA.

Today, I have an HD DVR and 250 channels, plus locals. That's 3.5x more channels. 3.5x $29.95 would be over $106/month. The package price for AT250 is about $85, including all DVR fees. This assumes a fixed dollar, but inflation over that period would indicate the price should be about double that, so about $212/month just based on channel prices.

Granted, this is a snapshot, not a long-term historical comparison. Still, it puts things in perspective, does it not?


So, I've got to ask, are you watching 350% (3.5x in percentage terms) more TV today, compared to 1995?

If you're a median household, you're watching just 13% more TV.
Since 1995 the average cable bill has increased 122%, while TV consumption per household just 13%.

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#62 OFFLINE   sregener

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Posted 28 May 2012 - 02:54 AM

So, I've got to ask, are you watching 350% (3.5x in percentage terms) more TV today, compared to 1995?

If you're a median household, you're watching just 13% more TV.


Much less than in 1995. But I'm getting a picture that is at least 3.5x sharper.

But a dollar today isn't worth what it was in 1995, either. Using the cost of a gallon of gas as a comparison (since government inflation figures are cooked to make things look better than they are), it was $1.16 in 1995 and about $3.66 in 2012. So are you getting 2.2x as far on a gallon of gas as you were in 1995?

Using that 2.2x number, the $29.95 package would be $65.89. Dish's Top 120 is about the closest package that I can come up with that is comparable to DirecTV's Total Choice package of 1995, and the retail price for the AT120 package is $44.99.

My guess is that if you're like most Americans, you spend more on gas than you do on cable/satellite. Maybe you should be more worried about rising energy costs than entertainment...

#63 OFFLINE   Stewart Vernon

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Posted 28 May 2012 - 03:11 AM

My guess is that if you're like most Americans, you spend more on gas than you do on cable/satellite. Maybe you should be more worried about rising energy costs than entertainment...


That's actually a pretty good point... and coincides with a discussion I was having recently with my father about how people seem to get way more up in arms about things of lesser importance, while the things of greater importance keep on trucking.

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#64 OFFLINE   Darcaine

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Posted 29 May 2012 - 03:01 PM

Keep in mind that the content you watch on Netflix only exists because it was paid for elsewhere. The movies exist because they were made for the movie theater... the TV shows exist because they were made to air (mostly) on commercial TV.

IF commercial TV goes away then those shows might go away... then Netflix doesn't have new content to stream!


That's not exactly true anymore. Netflix is now in the content creation game because its getting harder and more expensive to license content from the content providers. HBO won't license any of their content, and sees netflix as a direct competitor, esp with HBO Go on the same playground as Netflix.

Lilyhammer, new seasons of Arrested Development, possibly a reboot of Jericho etc will only be available via Netflix for first run viewing. Hulu and Youtube are also now in the first run content business (at least for the States). Won't be long before Amazon does the same thing. Once HBO and Showtime wake up (if they ever do) and realize there's a whole world outside the service providers that desire their content and are pirating it because they refuse to pay for this archaic system the content providers/distributors want to keep in place, and offer direct to consumer subscriptions ala Netflix, there will be a ton of (commercial free for a lot of it) first run content that doesn't require linear tv to access.

Outside of a few shows, most cable channels are becoming less desirable as competiton for first run video content increases from other places, especially to younger people, the likes of who will likely never subscribe to traditional tv.

Edited by Darcaine, 29 May 2012 - 03:12 PM.


#65 OFFLINE   Wilf

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 07:32 AM

That's not exactly true anymore. Netflix is now in the content creation game because its getting harder and more expensive to license content from the content providers. HBO won't license any of their content, and sees netflix as a direct competitor, esp with HBO Go on the same playground as Netflix.


Also, there is a lot of great stuff from the Brits and some gems from Canada on Netflix. No ads, bugs, or banners is a major plus for this viewer.

#66 OFFLINE   Inkosaurus

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 10:01 AM

Also, there is a lot of great stuff from the Brits and some gems from Canada on Netflix. No ads, bugs, or banners is a major plus for this viewer.


Stewarts point still stands though, this is all content that was created elsewhere.
Part of the novelty of Netflix is its cost, if it becomes a venue for original content it wont have that price anymore.

Netflix is great but it wont be a "cut the cord" option for ever, especially if people keep cutting the cord.

#67 OFFLINE   Stewart Vernon

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 12:46 PM

Yeah, that was my point... the more Netflix becomes an original programming venue, the more they will need to charge.

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#68 OFFLINE   Wilf

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 02:28 PM

If they need to charge more, I will pay it. Life is too short to spend 20 minutes/hr of TV watching ads. For me, it is the difference between un-watchable "TV", or "TV" I can enjoy.

#69 OFFLINE   goinsleeper

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 02:12 PM

Going back to A La Carte for just a second, I'm at a bit of a loss for the discussion. The easiest model to set the potential for A La Carte would be the current A La Carte, correct?

Why is HBO so expensive outside of the fact that it has no advertisements? Number of customers vs cost for content and exclusive rights?

If customer base drops, HBO would either need to raise it's rates or lower it's content. Same effect would apply to all channels that moved to A La Carte.

#70 OFFLINE   Darcaine

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 03:07 PM

Stewarts point still stands though, this is all content that was created elsewhere.
Part of the novelty of Netflix is its cost, if it becomes a venue for original content it wont have that price anymore.

Netflix is great but it wont be a "cut the cord" option for ever, especially if people keep cutting the cord.


My point is that it already has become a venue for original content (Lilyhammer, new episodes of Arrested Development, possibly new episodes of Jericho etc).

But you guys are right about the cost going up. It already has in the form of cutting DVD rentals from the streaming service. The streaming service will be getting another price hike in the next couple of years, I'm sure.

Going back to A La Carte for just a second, I'm at a bit of a loss for the discussion. The easiest model to set the potential for A La Carte would be the current A La Carte, correct?

Why is HBO so expensive outside of the fact that it has no advertisements? Number of customers vs cost for content and exclusive rights?

If customer base drops, HBO would either need to raise it's rates or lower it's content. Same effect would apply to all channels that moved to A La Carte.


Or the third option, market directly to subscribers and pick up all the folks who refuse to subscribe to MVPDs and pirate HBO content instead. Give them an option that is cheap, easy to use, offers quality and security that bittorents don't and a lot of people will pay for their content.

Not a likely situation for all channels sure, but the ones that can't compete in the new market don't deserve to survive.

Edited by Darcaine, 04 June 2012 - 03:13 PM.


#71 OFFLINE   maartena

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 03:26 PM

But none that take as big a bite of the pie.


Start adding up all the channels geared to women, and children. I don't watch any of it. There are about 15 channels for women (and I am including channels like E! in that), 10 channels for children and teens. I can do without Fox News and MSNBC as well as one is too right, the other too left. I never watch anything VH1/MTV related, including CMT, and that's a good 10 channels right there.

Wanna bet those 30-40 channels cost about as much as the 5-6 ESPN/Sports related channels?
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#72 OFFLINE   lee635

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 04:58 PM

Several years ago, I subscribed to "Dish Picks" where you could choose 10 channels for $15 bucks. The expensive channels weren't allowed of course, still there is an example of an actual ala carte program instead of all this speculation about prices jumping sky high. All this talk about the sky falling from unbundling channels is over-the-top.

I would love an option to choose the channels I want and only pay for what I want. And I am quite certain it would be CHEAPER than what I pay now. :D
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#73 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 05:27 PM

Several years ago, I subscribed to "Dish Picks" where you could choose 10 channels for $15 bucks. The expensive channels weren't allowed of course, still there is an example of an actual ala carte program instead of all this speculation about prices jumping sky high. All this talk about the sky falling from unbundling channels is over-the-top.

I would love an option to choose the channels I want and only pay for what I want. And I am quite certain it would be CHEAPER than what I pay now. :D

That option went away several years ago ... 10 for $15 is $1.50 per channel ... and the basic "AT40" package was $19.95.

I don't see $1.50 adjusted for 10-15 years of inflation per channel to be cheap. Perhaps cheaper than AT120 if all the channels you wanted were available at that rate instead of needing AT250 to get one good channel.

In some ways, that "Dish Picks" pricing illustrates how expensive a la carte today could be. Channels that are 10c to 25c each when sold to 14 million customers turning into $1.50 (or more) per channel subscriptions. Where would the price of $5 subscription groups such as ESPN go other then up?

14 million DISH subscribers (plus subscribers on other distributors) paying $5 to ESPN gives them the money to purchase the sports needed to make ESPN the premier group of sports channels that they are. Cut their subscribers and they will need to raise their prices.

The same goes for the smaller channels getting 10c to 25c per 14 million subscribers. $1.4 to $3.5 million per year helps keep them on the air. If they had to rely on payment ONLY from people who thought of watching the channel in advance they would simply go out of business.

The challenge is figuring out what a channel is worth ... is a Fox Sports regional network worth $2 per month? A local TV station worth $1 per month? AMC worth 75c per month? Or are those channels worth less? That is the challenge for programmers to decide.

#74 OFFLINE   jbart1965

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Posted 24 June 2012 - 11:29 AM

I am amazed at all the smart people defending ESPN, high cable costs and the excessive control of programmers - that's what you are doing even if you don't think so.

You may accept and even rationalize the current system, but it's not ideal. Consumers have far less choice than they should to exert market pressure on programmers. That is never a good thing in an ostensibly competitive market.

It's true, a la carte could destroy some channels and the "hidden" cross subsidization helps some survive. This argument is overrated, though. ESPN certainly isn't in the business of cross subsidizing non Disney channels. I am sure they try to capture every penny of what they charge for themselves. The industry likes to tout that argument, but the economics are suspect.

There has to be a way for consumers and cable operators to fight back against high prices. Once people top the $100 a month the cost really starts to bite.

ESPN is a big offender. As a sports devotee, I'd be reluctant to give the station up, but how else is anyone going to hold the line on costs? I think ESPN and its family should be folded into a premium channel or higher tier.

A la carte will probably never come, for arguably some good reasons, but I do think Congress or the FCC could do one useful thing: bar programmers from tying. Dish should not be forced to carry ESPN on the basic tier or lose access to other Disney stations.

#75 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 24 June 2012 - 12:06 PM

You may accept and even rationalize the current system, but it's not ideal.

It isn't our system. We are just the ones who pay for it.

ESPN certainly isn't in the business of cross subsidizing non Disney channels.

Not directly ... but in order to get ESPN one has to subscribe to a package of channels that includes non-Disney channels. The absence of a la carte works both ways. One cannot call up a provider and buy just ESPN/Disney. A person who wants ESPN puts money into the pocket of every channel in ESPN's tier.

I think ESPN and its family should be folded into a premium channel or higher tier.

The math is pretty simple. If ESPN is currently getting $6 per subscriber and is being distributed to 14 million DISH subscribers they are collecting $84 million via DISH. That is $84 million that they can put toward purchasing the rights to broadcast and producing broadcasts of the sports people want to see, plus some sports people may not want to see but would not see anywhere else. If ESPN goes into a higher tier or becomes a premium package the per subscriber price has to go up just for ESPN to break even.

Dish should not be forced to carry ESPN on the basic tier or lose access to other Disney stations.

It would just be done another way ... for example, higher prices if other networks are not carried. Buy ESPN for $8, Disney for $6 or both for $9. That kind of pricing may sound silly but that is the kind of deal that is being done. Being in all 14 million DISH homes is important enough that discounts are given to get the "lesser" channels a provider offers included along with the "popular" channels.

Perhaps no provider would be forced to carry ESPN to get the Disney stations, but the pricing would be set to where it would make the most economic sense to buy the bundle ... and pass the savings (and cost) on to the subscriber.

#76 OFFLINE   jbart1965

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Posted 24 June 2012 - 12:18 PM

Your points are all well and good, JL, bu this industry simply does not have to face true market pressure. That's partly true in many industries, but especially so in entertainment.

There are plenty of studies that are critical of the rationale of cross-subsidization as an excuse for cable not to do a la carte. This argument is vastly overblown. I've covered this issue before Congress and am familiar with all the arguments pro and con.

That said, there ARE good reasons for companies not to do a la carte from a cost standpoint. I would do the same if I were an industry exec. There are also some benefits to some customers. Just not as much as the industry claims.

What bugs me is that ESPN pays these high fees to get programming, but customers have no way to say to ESPN that it's overpaying. Fact is, if ESPN did not get the rights, another viewable station would. Yet ESPN overbids and pushes up prices for everybody because there's not much reason for ESPN not to do it.

ESPN/Disney has a lot of leverage and they use it. Just wish customers had a little more leverage too, but it's probably a pipedream.

#77 OFFLINE   Stewart Vernon

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Posted 24 June 2012 - 01:58 PM

What bugs me is that ESPN pays these high fees to get programming, but customers have no way to say to ESPN that it's overpaying. Fact is, if ESPN did not get the rights, another viewable station would. Yet ESPN overbids and pushes up prices for everybody because there's not much reason for ESPN not to do it.

ESPN/Disney has a lot of leverage and they use it. Just wish customers had a little more leverage too, but it's probably a pipedream.


Customers have all the leverage we need.

If we all called and dropped pay TV tomorrow, then the model would have to change OR go extinct.

The fact that 100 million or more people sign up for pay TV seems to indicate that many people believe the model is good enough for them.

If you are paying too much or paying for something you don't wish to buy, then stop paying. It really is that simple.

Arguments of "it isn't fair" can be applied to everywhere. Why is a six pack of Coke cheaper per bottle than 1 single bottle price? Why can't I get 1 bottle at the same price? Why is there not a Kroger closer to me? I have to drive too far to Kroger, so I'm "forced" to buy groceries at a closer store that I don't like.

Why is Wendy's the only fast food place with Chili? Why can't I get Chili at McDonald's or Burger King? I want McDonald's fries, Wendy's Chili, and Burger King's Whopper... why do I have to go to three different restaurants to get what I want? Why are the companies greedy and keep their own products only at their stores?

And so forth.

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#78 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 24 June 2012 - 02:57 PM

Customers have all the leverage we need.

If we all called and dropped pay TV tomorrow, then the model would have to change OR go extinct.

The fact that 100 million or more people sign up for pay TV seems to indicate that many people believe the model is good enough for them.

If you are paying too much or paying for something you don't wish to buy, then stop paying. It really is that simple.

Arguments of "it isn't fair" can be applied to everywhere. Why is a six pack of Coke cheaper per bottle than 1 single bottle price? Why can't I get 1 bottle at the same price? Why is there not a Kroger closer to me? I have to drive too far to Kroger, so I'm "forced" to buy groceries at a closer store that I don't like.

Why is Wendy's the only fast food place with Chili? Why can't I get Chili at McDonald's or Burger King? I want McDonald's fries, Wendy's Chili, and Burger King's Whopper... why do I have to go to three different restaurants to get what I want? Why are the companies greedy and keep their own products only at their stores?

And so forth.

Hmmm. As I mentioned elsewhere, I see a different sort of analogy.

I see the situation with a satellite/cable company as the Road Department billing me monthly a "retransportation fee" for every restaurant in town plus a charge for the car it provides (of course like our dvr's I still have to provide the fuel and insurance).

As it turns out, I don't eat pizza and am not crazy about tacos, but since they are popular foods I still have to pay to the Road Department a "retransportation fee" that they must transmit to the international corporation Yum! Brands which includes $6 for Pizza Hut, $5 for Taco Bell, and $7 for KFC so I can get to the local Chinese food restaurant which only gets 25¢.

The fact that 100 million people might accept this doesn't make it the best economic model. If that were standard, we really ought to seriously consider adopting the Chinese model of government as more people put up with it than any model in the world. In the case of television, it just makes it what is.

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#79 OFFLINE   jbart1965

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Posted 24 June 2012 - 03:42 PM

Customers have all the leverage we need.

If we all called and dropped pay TV tomorrow, then the model would have to change OR go extinct.

The fact that 100 million or more people sign up for pay TV seems to indicate that many people believe the model is good enough for them.

If you are paying too much or paying for something you don't wish to buy, then stop paying. It really is that simple.

Arguments of "it isn't fair" can be applied to everywhere. Why is a six pack of Coke cheaper per bottle than 1 single bottle price? Why can't I get 1 bottle at the same price? Why is there not a Kroger closer to me? I have to drive too far to Kroger, so I'm "forced" to buy groceries at a closer store that I don't like.

Why is Wendy's the only fast food place with Chili? Why can't I get Chili at McDonald's or Burger King? I want McDonald's fries, Wendy's Chili, and Burger King's Whopper... why do I have to go to three different restaurants to get what I want? Why are the companies greedy and keep their own products only at their stores?

And so forth.


Your arguments are simplistic, at best, and quite unrealistic. Everyone cannot just decide to stop paying for cable, and voila. Prices fall.

It's also beyond silly to argue that most people think the cable model works for them. Other than on this board, I have never heard a single person tell me they think their cable bill is a fair value.

To some extent people "need" TV and they are partly captive to the programmers because the market is not fully competitive. So prices are higher than they otherwise would be.

Is that fair? I don't know. If you look at my original post, I never mentioned the word "fair." I do have the choice to cut the cord entirely, as you have repeatedly stated in this thread.

Nor am I arguing that cable prices are very excessive. I quit DirecTV because I was paying $105 or so a month for service that I thought should have cost about $80 to $85.

Personally, I tried to send a message to DirecTV by switching to Dish. I have some power as a consumer. Just not as much as in other, more competitive markets.

You mention restaurants. Well, if cable were as competitive as that industry, we'd all be paying lower prices. It isn't.

You examples of supermarkets and six packs are similarly simplistic. I have the choice of more than a dozen supermarket chains within driving distance of me. And six-packs are cheaper because of basic economies of scale.

Yes, programmers can argue economies of scale - but they have far more market power than grocery stores and soda makers. So I am all in favor of laws that make markets more competitive, but not necessarily more regulated.

#80 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 24 June 2012 - 03:47 PM

Hmmm. As I mentioned elsewhere, I see a different sort of analogy.

I see the situation with a satellite/cable company as the Road Department billing me monthly a "retransportation fee" for every restaurant in town plus a charge for the car it provides (of course like our dvr's I still have to provide the fuel and insurance).

DBS satellite is not a common carrier. If they were your analogy might have legs ... or wheels.

To modify your analogy, we pay taxes to support our roads. Most people don't mind paying for roads that take them where they want to go but when the money seems to go to fix other people's roads it is more noticeable. There are roads I never drive on ... and quite frankly would not care if the road department ever repaired - except that if people didn't have those roads they would probably wear out the roads I do use faster.

But DBS is not a common carrier ... their job is not to simply provide transportation for the products of others.




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