You dont think if the big 4 were to go to a single point distro like the rest of the "cable" channels, leaving the OTA stations to the news, local sports, and independent operation, it would be a major entertainment problem? I think the big 4 would do just fine as a "cable" channel, and would prefer the locals to be local anyway.
That is certainly a possibility... but again, without the advertising revenue they would still have to charge more than they do today.
The "big four" have way more original programming than any of the other cable/satellite channels. The money to pay for all of that has to come from somewhere... and today it mostly comes from advertising. So if you take commercials away as a viable source of revenue, then up go the subscription rates. That's just basic math.
Meanwhile... IF this path were chosen by the networks... then what would be left to sustain the local channels? Without the network programming, there would be no reason to watch your local channel except for the local interest stuff... and they wouldn't be able to afford to do that in most markets without the revenue that comes from having the network affiliation.
Just look at any local channel you have that is an independent station and see how well they do compared to the network affiliates. Yeah, there are other channels, but not much to watch on them... and if you suddenly had 4 more channels in your market become independent if the "big four" drop them... a bunch of channels would likely fall off the map.
Maybe that needs to happen in some markets... maybe it even needs to happen for TV in general... but I think a lot of people won't like what they get if they get what they wish for, because the prices are only going to go up. This isn't going to benefit the consumer, you can bet on that.
Consider the AMC dispute where AMC has been tossing around the idea of wanting 75 cents for that channel instead of 25 cents (there's an article somewhere quoting an AMC rep stating that)... and AMC doesn't have anywhere near the ratings of shows on the "big four" and while it does have some high quality original programs, it doesn't have nearly as much as the "big four"... so if AMC thinks it is worth 75 cents... start taking guesses as to there ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC will start the negotiations.