Well, the experts seem to think you're right. But since most 'experts' are just former drips under pressure, I don't hold much stock in what the say.
At worst for most, a la carte would mean no reduction in cost to us in total although each channel might be higher.
Let me give an example. HBO is $16/month and is what 10 channels? That means $1.60 per month per channel. In my setup, I have 38 channels other than premiums that I watch on at least an often enough basis to have them in a custom list, so 38x$1.60=$60.80/month for programming. About $9 less per month than I now pay D* to get those same channels.
In reality it would be even less because some of those 38 channels would get dropped by me since they aren't really watched very often at all.
And I'd still have so much recorded I would always be behind!
The problem with that math is channel popularity. Some channels might be more than $1.60, some may be less. If you have any sports channels in there at all such as ESPN, your cost would be a lot higher.
Another thing to think about that most people forget.... is the cost to DirecTV.
Billing is not so complicated now. You have about 10-15 different options, 20 at most with all the big sports premium packages. 5 basic packages as listed on the website (one being Premier, which makes the premium movie packages and sports packages obsolete for this count), HD extra, Sports pack 4 or 5 premiums, and then the out-of-market sports.
With a-la-carte, you may get 200+ different options. More chance to make a mistake. You need more CSR's for people that want to make changes, those CSR's could make a mistake and tick Disney XD instead of Disney JR, or MTV instead of MTV2, people complain about it being wrong, the billing gets screwed up for a number of days....
It adds quite a complexity layer to billing/csr/logistics in general, thus an extra cost for DirecTV. Also, they need to recoup their cost of operating their business in general, which is incorporated into the Choice packages. Only about HALF of that is probably programming cost, the other HALF is.... the cost of doing business, from the leases of their buildings, the salary of their employees, the gas that the trucks drive on, the buying, launching, and managing 24/7 of satellites, the design/development of new equipment, etc, etc.....
In order for a "a la carte" to work, they may have to start you with a $25 BASE fee, which includes.... e.g. the locals (or east/west DNS) and nothing else. (And allows DirecTV to get some money for the cost of doing business) THEN you start adding channels on top of that, keeping in mind the logistics for CSR's to deal with customers wishes for channel changes. And it might have to be more than $25.... I can't really determine how much of the revenue they make is to keep the business going, and how much goes towards programming cost.
Then you will get people that only watch ESPN during football season, and get it in October, drop it in March, or just get it for the 1 or 2 games they want to watch, then drop it....only get AMC during Mad Men, then drop it after the season, etc, etc.... it adds a big layer of complexity and a higher operating cost for DirecTV.
I don't ever see it work like that.