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Cable a la carte


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25 replies to this topic

#1 OFFLINE   Chris Blount

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Posted 21 June 2004 - 05:44 AM

By Chris Walsh, Rocky Mountain News
June 21, 2004

Love VH1 but don't want your MTV?

Prefer the kid-friendly fare on Nickelodeon to similar shows on The Cartoon Network?

Rather receive just the handful of TV channels you actually watch than a package with 60 additional networks you couldn't care less about?

The day when consumers can select individual channels instead of subscribing to multinetwork packages arranged by cable and satellite providers may be on the horizon.

Amid heightened concerns over indecency and rising cable rates, several federal lawmakers are aggressively pushing efforts to provide consumers with the option of ordering only the channels they want, via an "a la carte" programming model.

Supporters say the move will give parents more control over what their children watch, increase consumer choice and provide a way to rein in escalating cable bills.

"Cable operators are making more and more money, forcing bigger packages of channels on consumers," said Kenneth DeGraff, policy advocate for the Washington D.C.-based Consumers Union, a nonprofit testing and information organization that serves consumers. "The average consumer only watches a small handful of channels regularly. There should be options for people who want to watch just those few channels."

Douglas County-based EchoStar Communications Corp., the nation's No. 2 satellite-TV provider, supports efforts to study the feasibility of a la carte.

But the nation's largest cable companies - including Comcast and Time Warner Cable - as well as the largest satellite-TV provider, DirecTV, vehemently oppose the idea.

They argue that a la carte programming will fracture the industry's economic model and create a host of new problems.

Programmers that provide the channels also are against the idea because they have the most to lose. Many smaller networks likely would fold in an a la carte world, while profits at the larger ones could shrink enormously.

"It's our feeling that a la carte is not going to have the positive benefits that some of the folks pushing it are asserting," said Paul Rodriguez, a spokesman for the Washington D.C.-based National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which represents cable companies and programmers.

"It's going to lead to fewer choices for consumers, much less diversity in terms of programming and ultimately higher prices."

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#2 OFFLINE   Ray_Clum

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Posted 21 June 2004 - 11:16 AM

Easy way around it. Continue to offer packages, but offer ESPN a la carte at $5/mo, ESPN2 at $4/mo, Disney at $4/mo; simply price the a la carte pricing so that the packages make the most sense...
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#3 OFFLINE   KeithKN6K

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Posted 21 June 2004 - 12:13 PM

How can a la carte be done in the analog cable world with no set top boxes being used by most customers, you can't filter every channel you don't want out of 60 or70 offered.

#4 OFFLINE   Geronimo

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Posted 21 June 2004 - 12:56 PM

Oh well back to STBS I guess.
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#5 OFFLINE   Hoobastank

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Posted 21 June 2004 - 09:41 PM

I'd love to see a la carte. However, the article does raise several key issues against it, including smaller stations folding and fees increasing. Perhaps if there were a basic lineup of channels of 30 or so, and then you could build on that.

I don't think people will see the price savings in the long run that they thought they would. I vote no. poll anyone?

#6 OFFLINE   SimpleSimon

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Posted 21 June 2004 - 10:08 PM

Let the free market rule. If the smaller stations can't bring in the viewers to survive, than they are, almost by definition, a "waste of bandwidth". The more of them that go, the more room we'll have for HD - maybe they'll go right around the time some good HD content is available.

The monthly subscription charge for Bingo, TVGC, and all shopping channels should be $100/month each. That'll clear some space. :D

#7 OFFLINE   FTA Michael

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Posted 21 June 2004 - 10:18 PM

The handful of major programming providers would see diminished profits. They're the ones predicting that some networks would fold.

If it's true that normal viewers only watch 10-15 channels, then it's easily possible that those people would pay less for those 15 channels than they do now for the tier that includes all of them.

A la carte won't work on analog cable, but it's all going digital anyway. Maybe it could work as an option. Until we know the parameters a la carte would take (packages? all individual channels? "opt-out" reverse a la carte?), it's impossible to guess how the system would shake out for viewers.
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#8 OFFLINE   Jacob S

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Posted 21 June 2004 - 10:47 PM

This would also get some better content on those channels to persuade you to purchase those channels.

#9 OFFLINE   Nick

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Posted 22 June 2004 - 06:37 AM

Let the free market rule. If the smaller stations can't bring in the viewers to survive, than they are, almost by definition, a "waste of bandwidth"...

Simple, if your thinking were, God & the FCC forbid, to prevail, then programming on multi-channel television would be reduced to little more than reality shows, ambush makeovers, 24 hr shopping channels and wrasslin'. I don't want that, do you?

Maybe you do. :confused:

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#10 OFFLINE   jrb531

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Posted 22 June 2004 - 07:42 AM

I vote a BIG yes!

I would pick my 10 channels I watch (currently spread over 3 packages forcing me to subscribe to a higher package) and save tons of $$$.

This cry of lower fees in packages is just a way to try and scare us into keeping the same old system.

Now I will acknowledge that if they force them to do this they will also have to do something to keep big media from just pricing the channels so high that this system will fail but I fail to see how "we" save money in packages unless we watch the majority of channels in that package. (ever wonder why they put a few "MUST" have channels in each package?)

Does each channel not have separate costs for equipment, programming, etc...? Sure some minor costs savings can be had but not to the point that I am better off paying for 30 channels instead of the 10 I want.

In days gone by (still???) the cable boxes only had so many scrabling methods and thus could only turn on or off a select number of channels (packages) but in today's world there is no reason NOT to allow us to pick and choose other than to force us to PAY for channels we do NOT want. I would LOVE to be able to subscribe to ONE HBO channel instead of 8+ that cycle the same programming for the most part. Even if one channel of HBO costs me $5 instead of $12 for 8 channels of HBO I would rather pay the $5 for the one channel and use my PVR to tape what I want to watch when I want. (the original idea for multiple pay channels was to allow staggered programming which in the day of PVR's is no longer 100% valid)

Worried about startup channels taking time to gain popularity and viability? No problem... offer the new channels free for a few months to everyone then ramp up with a low price the first few years like other new product launches do.

Since I do not watch ESPN yet I want 2 of the channels in that forced package then why in the world do I pay $5 a month for ESPN?

So bring this on and bring it on now! If a number of channels go belly up then so be it... IMHO we have too many crap channels already and if they cannot stand on their own two feet with original compelling programming then maybe they do not have to hog space that could better be used for HD programming or programming that we want.

And BRAVO for DISH for being the ONLY one to support what the consumer wants and not big business.

#11 OFFLINE   Cyclone

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Posted 22 June 2004 - 08:57 AM

Let the free market rule. If the smaller stations can't bring in the viewers to survive, than they are, almost by definition, a "waste of bandwidth". The more of them that go, the more room we'll have for HD - maybe they'll go right around the time some good HD content is available.

The monthly subscription charge for Bingo, TVGC, and all shopping channels should be $100/month each. That'll clear some space. :D

The free market does rule, and it has a tiered system.

The a la carte system is the product of government intervention. The opposite of a free market.
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#12 OFFLINE   jrb531

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Posted 22 June 2004 - 09:07 AM

The free market does rule, and it has a tiered system.

The a la carte system is the product of government intervention. The opposite of a free market.


You forget that the government steps in when companies get so huge that they create monpolies in which lack of competition takes away choice.

Why can't we get ala cart? Simple... a "few" huge companies have decided that it is in "their" best interest to force us to pay for a product we do not want.

Look at it this way:

If company "ABC" makes crackers, motor oil, TV sets and paper plates and decided that the only way you can buy a TV set was if you were to buy a package that contained a years supply of oil, crackers and paper plates would you be ok with this?

Just because they package the same "types" of product together (entertainment channels) does not make it an acceptable practice.

Now if each of the 100 channels were owned by 100 separate companies then we would have a choice as there would be no packages. It's "ONLY" due to the relatively few HUGE companies that control 99% of the channels that freedom of choice and competition has been taken away from us.

Each new channel would have to have enough compelling content to survive on it's own... not on the back of a forced package. Each channel would compete directly with all the other channels. As it stands now we have 3-4 major companies that control everything.

#13 OFFLINE   lee635

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Posted 22 June 2004 - 11:17 AM

The free market does rule, and it has a tiered system.

The a la carte system is the product of government intervention. The opposite of a free market.


Not true. The free market did not rule in this case. The media market is more of an oligarchy with a handful of providers controlling the system. A free market would be more like the stock market where there are many buyers and many sellers and a small group does not control either side of the equation.
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#14 OFFLINE   SimpleSimon

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Posted 22 June 2004 - 03:01 PM

Simple, if your thinking were, God & the FCC forbid, to prevail, then programming on multi-channel television would be reduced to little more than reality shows, ambush makeovers, 24 hr shopping channels and wrasslin'. I don't want that, do you?

Maybe you do. :confused:

Not at all. I'd be happy to take the same dollars I pay now to get tons of crap channels I never watch and funnel them to the few I do. My favorites list is: ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, UPN, WB, USA, CMDY, A&E, HIST, SCIFI, FX, DISC, TLC, TECH (although that one is gonna be removed).

I'm tired of subsidizing crap like LIFE, FOOD, E!, GAME, PBS, etc. Of course, someone else may have exactly the opposite favorites, and think mine are crap. That's cool by me - let them buy those channels instead!

#15 OFFLINE   SimpleSimon

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Posted 22 June 2004 - 03:05 PM

Not true. The free market did not rule in this case. The media market is more of an oligarchy with a handful of providers controlling the system. A free market would be more like the stock market where there are many buyers and many sellers and a small group does not control either side of the equation.

Thanks lee - I couldn't quite put my finger on how to answer that one.

#16 OFFLINE   waydwolf

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Posted 22 June 2004 - 04:35 PM

The name of the game is "What the Market Will Bear".

IOW, divide your monthly cable bill by all the channels you are paying for and take that per-channel cost as your ala-carte cost. Pennies if you hardly watch anything.

But right now, you can bear the bundled price. Why in the world should they leave that pennies price down where it is when you CAN afford more?

The price WILL creep up, and in a matter of a few years, the total cost of all the bundled channels you used to get will now be ten times what it was or more.

Give them this opening, in cable OR DBS, and they WILL take it. It's as stupid an idea as making people pay for phone and data service by the bits. You CAN afford the bill you pay right now whether or not you use it. You WILL pay more until your price is right where it was and now you're getting less than you had before.
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#17 OFFLINE   Greg Bimson

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Posted 22 June 2004 - 09:37 PM

Just because they package the same "types" of product together (entertainment channels) does not make it an acceptable practice.

Well, before we forget it, who created "America's Top 60"?

Echostar creates these packages, as does every multi-channel provider. However, the distributors have the right to negotiate which of their programming belongs in the multi-channel providers' tiers.

The free market has gotten us this far. There would not be a AT60, AT120, AT180, AT Everything, TC, TC+, or TC Premier package unless the multi-channel providers were able to package programming.

#18 OFFLINE   SimpleSimon

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Posted 23 June 2004 - 01:06 AM

... Give them this opening, in cable OR DBS, and they WILL take it. It's as stupid an idea as making people pay for phone and data service by the bits. ...

People DO pay for phone & data "by the bits".

In landline phone it's called "measured service" (rare in most markets). For cellular phone, it's your monthly minutes.

For data, at the user end it's limited monthly connect time (extremely rare nowadays). However, at the ISPs, they pay "by the bit" in one way or another.

#19 OFFLINE   Mike123abc

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Posted 23 June 2004 - 09:03 AM

Well if it comes down to paying $25 bucks a month (the price of AT60) and you got to pick the 20 channels you wanted to watch out of any of AT180, which do you think most people would pick. I would be tempted to just go with the 20 of my choosing. Yes it would be a disaster for unpopular channels since I would only be paying for 20 rather than my current 180. 160 channels would suffer.

A lot of new and less popular cable channels would probably become free. Since they would have no way to force people to buy them.

#20 OFFLINE   Nick

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Posted 23 June 2004 - 09:20 AM

People DO pay for phone & data "by the bits".

In landline phone it's called "measured service" (rare in most markets). For cellular phone, it's your monthly minutes.

For data, at the user end it's limited monthly connect time (extremely rare nowadays). However, at the ISPs, they pay "by the bit" in one way or another.

My internet connection is totally wireless with a "go anywhere" nationwide coverage map equal to that of major cell phone providers. There are no usage charges and I get unlimited bandwidth with no ups for anything else whatsoever.

I have accessed the 'net while enjoying breakfast at McDonalds, the Huddle House and Cracker Barrel; I've checked email down by the river, and posted on this board while sitting on the shores of the Atlantic. I have cruised for property while driving around, and at the same time logged on to a relevant MLS real estate site.

How much of a small fortune does this wonderful, unlimited internet access cost me, you ask? A fixed cost of only $29.99 per month, believe it or not. When I first got my wireless connection last December, I tested it for a month or so, then fired my ISP, divorced Ma Bell after nearly 45 years of marriage, and now enjoy a net savings of $26 per month.

In case you couldn't read the amount shown above, try this:

Spoiler
Now I am the one that is spoiled by my wonderful, go-anywhere wireless connection.

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