Interesting numbers but I think you should say "maintain their current subscriber income" instead of "break even" since we don't know what their profits are and they are getting money from commercials as well. If they have to lower their price to remain competitive and maybe produce a few less Sharktopus movies per year to stay within their budget, I am OK with that.
HBO shows that you can be a la carte and successful. All I know is a world where sports networks pay escalating sums of money for rights fees that they expect MSOs to then take out of everyone's pockets is eventually doomed to failure. I heard on the news that the number of cable/satellite subscribers continues to drop and while the percentage is still high, I am sure it will continue to drop as rates keep increasing. I think D* is realizing this too as they are becoming slow to add new sports nets like the Pac-12 and the new TWC Lakers channel. Sports at least need to be a la carted immediately and I say this as a sports fan. If ESPN is going to charge HBO like subscriber fees, then they need to be a la carted the same way.
I of course meant "break even" on top line revenue, not bottom line profits. But since you brought up advertising revenue, if SyFy were suddenly delivered to only 1.2 million homes instead of 98 million, their advertising value would be diminished. While current ad rates are based upon viewer ratings, some shows draw more than the average share, other less. In an a la carte scenario NO show can draw more than the number of subscribers. In other words, that 1.2 million includes occasional viewers that watch SyFy now because it is there, but wouldn't want to pay $16 for it.
Bottom line, a la carte pricing is a sure fire way to drive at least half, perhaps as much as three quarters, of all currently operating channels into oblivion.
Here are the top 20 cable channels for 2011, based upon total primetime viewers:
Channel Millions of viewers
1. USA 3.165
2. Disney Channel 2.647
3. ESPN 2.342
4. TNT 2.232
5. History 1.987
6. Fox News 1.883
7. TBS 1.614
8. A&E 1.561
9. FX 1.532
10. ABC Family 1.462
11. Nick At Nite 1.344
12. SyFy 1.330
13. Discovery 1.288
14. Adult Swim 1.237
15. HGTV 1.205
16. MTV 1.189
17. AMC 1.182
18. Food Network 1.177
19. Comedy Central 1.006
20. Bravo 0.926
If you favorite channel is not on this list, it might not survive in an a la carte world.
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