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The Cable Industry's a La Carte Bait and Switch

Unknown Lamer posted about 3 years ago | from the television-is-so-90s dept.

Television 447

jfruhlinger writes "For years, cable operators have insisted that a la carte pricing, in which users could chose the channels they want, would undermine the both their own business models and the existence of important but less-watched channels currently wrapped into bundles. That's why it was surprising to hear that major cable companies are privately working towards offering a la carte pricing. But when you look at the details, it seems more like a bait and switch: those lesser channels (which pay cable companies for their place on the dial) will still be bundled with the local stations cable companies are required to provide, whereas pricey sports channels (which cable companies have to pay for) will become HBO-like premium services."

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Makes sense actually (4, Interesting)

bruce_the_loon (856617) | about 3 years ago | (#37541098)

For those of us who don't like sport and don't like subsidizing those who do, this is a win. For a sport fan, it's a good way to part him from his money.

Re:Makes sense actually (5, Insightful)

Fortunato_NC (736786) | about 3 years ago | (#37541168)

Your assumption is that once the sport channels are removed, the price of basic cable will fall. I am not sure that the cable companies are on board with you here.

Re:Makes sense actually (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | about 3 years ago | (#37541500)

Mine recently lowered some of their prices, and contacted me to tell me that my service price was lowered. So... I think mine might do this again.

3 my cable company. So glad I'm not stuck in a Time-Warner only region of the city.

Re:Makes sense actually (2)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | about 3 years ago | (#37541740)

One thing you can be sure of - cable companies aren't going to make changes that get them less money overall.

My situation is that I was paying Comcast about $70-80 for their lowest cable and HD package, and I was really only buying it for Fox Sports and ESPN. (I already get local channels in HD over the air). So I cancelled my cable. I can live without ESPN and the local hockey team, if it saves me $80 a month.

If Comcast is going to come to me and say "Come back! You can buy any one of our basic channels for $10 a month, per channel!" then I'll be back. I'll have a $20 cable bill, and be getting exactly what I was getting before.

If Comcast is going to come to me and say "Come back! You can buy individual tiers of programs, but we'll put the ones you really want in groups with other garbage just like before, and you'll have to pay equipment rental fees, agree to a contract, and end up paying us approximately what you were before", then no thanks.

Re:Makes sense actually (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541776)

Agreed. We should Prostrate ourselves thanking them that this won't double the monthly
intallment. Pray they make no further changes to their agreement...
I already pay way too much/hour for TV (when you consider actual viewing time).
This is all smoke 'n mirrors - and was supposed to be (about) LAW 20+ years ago.
Just like cable wasn't (and originall didn't) supposed to have commercials.

If no sports, then why not try Netflix? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 years ago | (#37541276)

I thought people who don't like sports had already migrated to services such as Hulu Plus and Netflix, and people who don't like sport had migrated to their own countries' counterparts.

Re:If no sports, then why not try Netflix? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541710)

Doesn't work because Netflix isn't actually hi def and Hulu is only low-end hd and neither one have the shows I want.

Re:If no sports, then why not try Netflix? (1)

Technician (215283) | about 3 years ago | (#37541774)

The bundling is even worse. With Comcast, they dropped the Internet only option. I had switched to DSL for faster speed and less throttling. They recently pulled fiber and are knocking on doors offering Internet at 20 meg speeds for less than my 6 meg DSL, which was an upgrade from my 2 meg original Comcast. The catch is, it comes bundled with basic cable, no opt out. The nice thing is the bundle is currently less than my DSL. I'll be giving the DSL guys an option to match the offer before switching again.

Re:Makes sense actually (5, Insightful)

s73v3r (963317) | about 3 years ago | (#37541424)

You realize that every damn thing you watch is subsidized by others as well, right? That you're not an island, and rely on others to split the cost of providing the channel with you just as much as they do for sports?

Re:Makes sense actually (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541656)

Except for the fact that not all channels cost the same amount. ESPN is the costliest channel per subscriber, and once you factor in all of its related channels, it adds up to close to $10. I'm going to guess that lesser watched channels like IFC, Hallmark, NASA, etc cost much much much less. The cable companies should give us a price list, and let us choose what we want. If they don't want it that granular, at least bundle them into somewhat sensible groups (ie Sports, Home/Cooking, News, etc) If the network wants to raise its rates, then it becomes clear to the customers that it isn't the cable company gouging us, but the network.

Re:Makes sense actually (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541662)

Some people don't like watching sweaty men touching each other over and over. Frequently piling on top of each other in the guise of chasing a "ball". But hey, if that is your thang, have at it!

I think the parent was saying more about supporting things he DOESN'T partake in. If he doesn't like sports, and they take sports out of the bag, then there is more chance his $ will go to subsidizing something he does like. Note, I have NO idea what %es or even if they are relevant. IMO, they'll win in the end anyway.

Anyway, back to your sweaty-men-on-top-of-one-another Steelers dream. :D

Re:Makes sense actually (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541494)

For those of us who don't like sport and don't like subsidizing those who do, this is a win. For a sport fan, it's a good way to part him from his money.

Cool childish hate and undeserved sense of smug superiority, bro.

Re:Makes sense actually (1)

mrsnak (1818464) | about 3 years ago | (#37541588)

Dish is the way to go for non-sports viewers. DirectTV has all their money tied up in sports fees, so regular viewers don't get the HD variety you do on Dish. You also pay more to subsidize the sports viewers. Been my bone of contention with DTV for years, but wife hates the Dish user interface.

Re:Makes sense actually (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541592)

You realize that sports are going to end up subsidizing TV... if you are lucky that is... Between ESPN3(60), BTN2GO, and NFL.COM... I could probably get 95% of the sports I watch online already if I wanted to.

You think we are the suckers? no, us sports fans are simply the ones who want to watch the events live, and thus the last great advertising avenue... but we don't care how we get the game as long as we do.

If you think you are subsidizing us sports fans you're mistaken.

Re:Makes sense actually (1)

uigrad_2000 (398500) | about 3 years ago | (#37541712)

Let's say the average customer pays $45/month today. If cable companies suddenly start sending people only 20% of the channels that they did before, they still are going to need to get an average of $45/month from each customer, or else they will no longer be solvent. I don't think this works out as you would like.

So, I am one of the sports-only type people that you are referring to. I would have dropped cable long ago, except that I need ESPN and the Big-10 network (a lot of my social life involves inviting friends over to watch sports). I would resubscribe with only those 2 channels. Let's say that they count as 3 channels each, because they are more expensive than most others.

You, on the other hand, choose 4 non-sports channels, possibly Discovery, and History, E!, and MSNBC.

Another family (single parent) wants 5 channels: Lifetime, TNT, TBS, Disney, and Cartoon Network.

I think this is a pretty good illustration of how people would buy channels with an a la carte system. The 3 customers above have bought an average of 5 channels each (counting my sports choices as triple). Comcast divides $45 by 5, and gets $9/basic channel, and $27/sports channel.

In summary, the consumers are paying pretty similar prices as before, but are getting far less channels. If a movie comes up on AMC that one of us wants to watch, none of us can. You are right that sports fans (like myself) suffer the most, but you are wrong about how. We don't just go and buy every channel like we did in the past, we just trim down to just 2 channels, and watch the heck out of those 2 channels.

Don't see the problem. (2)

wiredog (43288) | about 3 years ago | (#37541102)

whereas pricey sports channels (which cable companies have to pay for) will become HBO-like premium services.

So why is this an issue? If I don't want to watch ESPN 9, why should I pay for it?

Re:Don't see the problem. (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 3 years ago | (#37541240)

Heh. Because you won't end up paying less.

Re:Don't see the problem. (1)

alen (225700) | about 3 years ago | (#37541346)

if you RTFA you'll see that ESPN aka Disney is paying a huge premium to carry the sports games and will ask the cable operators for higher fees. of course they are trying to hide them by making the cable operators carry ESPN as part of the basic subscription

there is no way comcast or TW can keep paying higher fees and charge you the same amount of money

Re:Don't see the problem. (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 3 years ago | (#37541378)

Haha! Have you ever been a cable subscriber?

Re:Don't see the problem. (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 3 years ago | (#37541612)

I think you need to go back and re-read that last sentence alen posted.

Re:Don't see the problem. (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 3 years ago | (#37541650)

I think you need to read a little bit about what cable companies are like. You will not find many stories about how they pass the savings off to their customers.

Re:Don't see the problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541446)

The point is that Comcast will unbundle that crap, and keep charging you the same. You are not going to see a dime of the savings, you'll just pay extra for any of those "premium" channels you want to use.

Re:Don't see the problem. (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | about 3 years ago | (#37541574)

Hmmm. I might.

My cable company recently lowered the price of my plan (non contract) and called me to tell me they had done so. I can see them doing this again in the future, if their costs go down. They are one of the more expensive in the city, but it seems they are actually spending the money on customer service and a decent infrastructure, unlike Time Warner.

Re:Don't see the problem. (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 3 years ago | (#37541620)

Do you feel they were being proactive and maintaining good customer service, or do you think they did this to give you the impression that they pass the savings on to you so they can more easily raise rates later?

Hmm I asked a question that's difficult to answer so I'll offer this alternative: What's the competition like?

Re:Don't see the problem. (2)

jank1887 (815982) | about 3 years ago | (#37541622)

It appears you are in an area without a cable monopoly. Let us now introduce you to the rest of the country...

Re:Don't see the problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541822)

I guess the corollary is that you wanted to pay less yourself, by not paying for any of those "lesser channels" and paying a 1/n price for the small number of channels you care about watching.

Re:Don't see the problem. (1)

John Napkintosh (140126) | about 3 years ago | (#37541260)

You shouldn't. However, to contrast with my other posts, larger channels and networks with enough sway to do such things have actively resisted being placed in an a la carte situation in order to make sure that people who don't want it are still paying for it. "You either put is in the standard package that reaches 95% of your subscribers or you don't get us at all".

So I'm not sure how this idea will actually go anywhere.

Re:Don't see the problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541266)

It's an issue because the price of basic cable will not go down when you get fewer channels.

stupid suckers (4, Insightful)

Thud457 (234763) | about 3 years ago | (#37541366)

Cable?
Is that where old people pay to get programming with ads?

Re:Don't see the problem. (1)

zoomshorts (137587) | about 3 years ago | (#37541536)

Back in the day, when cable started, there were NO ADS, sure, the same movie/program was played each day/week over and over, bit just like newspapers, cable is ad supported. I sat only allow the first 5 minutes to be commercials, and 55 minutes of programming. Anyone who thinks different , is a Home Shopping Network asshole who needs killed. End of story. Karma is overrated!!!

Re:Don't see the problem. (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 3 years ago | (#37541334)

So why is this an issue? If I don't want to watch ESPN 9, why should I pay for it?

Because the people who do watch ESPN-9 want you to help them pay for it.

Re:Don't see the problem. (1)

s73v3r (963317) | about 3 years ago | (#37541468)

And you want the people who do watch ESPN-9 to help you pay for whatever it is you watch.

Re:Don't see the problem. (2)

s73v3r (963317) | about 3 years ago | (#37541448)

You're not going to pay less. And I could say the same damn thing for whatever channel you don't like to watch. And if you go to the whole "Then just let everyone pay for what they watch" thing, then I'm going to submit that what they watch is popular enough to survive on it's own. Odds are what you watch isn't.

Re:Don't see the problem. (2)

jpstanle (1604059) | about 3 years ago | (#37541750)

whereas pricey sports channels (which cable companies have to pay for) will become HBO-like premium services.

So why is this an issue? If I don't want to watch ESPN 9, why should I pay for it?

Yeah, I mean if I choose pay full retail price for my smartphone, I don't have to subsidize cheap smartphones for people on 2 year contracts.

Oh wait...

Re:Don't see the problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541856)

Maybe I'm a tad out of date, but I thought the whole point of a two year contract was to subsidise the cost of the cheap smartphone. I don't think people who pay full price are subsidising anyone. So what was your point exactly?

Sounds like what most people would want (1)

John Napkintosh (140126) | about 3 years ago | (#37541110)

ESPN, for example, is watched by 10%-15% of subscribers in any market. Yet every last customer pays for it.

Re:Sounds like what most people would want (1)

what2123 (1116571) | about 3 years ago | (#37541248)

If that is true, I'm sure that's much higher than a lot of the other "news" outlets on the cable market.

Re:Sounds like what most people would want (1)

pak9rabid (1011935) | about 3 years ago | (#37541258)

ESPN, for example, is watched by 10%-15% of subscribers in any market. Yet every last customer pays for it.

You're joking, right? You do realize that this is the US, and football season has started, right?

Re:Sounds like what most people would want (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541332)

football

I believe you mean handegg. [saasta.fi]

Re:Sounds like what most people would want (1)

Fned (43219) | about 3 years ago | (#37541400)

He's not joking.

Football is gigantically popular compared to many other sports, and indeed compared to many other forms of entertainment.

But it's nowhere near as popular as portrayed by football fans and the media companies that cater to them.

Re:Sounds like what most people would want (1)

residieu (577863) | about 3 years ago | (#37541590)

And network TV usually covers the local teams' games, you don't need ESPN to watch football.

Re:Sounds like what most people would want (1)

WraithCube (1391567) | about 3 years ago | (#37541862)

Monday Night Football is covered by ESPN and holds the record for most watched series on cable television with the 2008 season

The 2009 game of Favre playing against the packers is highest-rated cable program to date.

As somebody who has their television turned to espn more than most other channels (gotta keep up with my fantasy football team), there are plenty of other channels I could care less about having, but fork over cash for the whole package with HD. And for those of you who are fond of your high-definition programming keep in mind that the NFL and other sports are one of the main things that actually pushed out the widespread adoption.

Re:Sounds like what most people would want (2)

Hatta (162192) | about 3 years ago | (#37541764)

The superbowl is watched by about 100 million Americans, or 1/3 of the population. That's the biggest game of the year, on free to watch over the air TV. About 50% of US homes have cable TV, so 1/3 * 1/2 = 1/6 = 16%.

He's not that far off.

Re:Sounds like what most people would want (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541282)

How is that any different than any other channel?

Re:Sounds like what most people would want (1)

John Napkintosh (140126) | about 3 years ago | (#37541354)

It's different to HBO in that you don't get HBO unless you specifically request it. It's also different to a lot of networks, local and educational programming in that the FCC doesn't require ESPN to be carried as it does with many channels.

Re:Sounds like what most people would want (1)

s73v3r (963317) | about 3 years ago | (#37541490)

You're gonna need to break out something to back up your assertion that ESPN is required to be carried by the FCC.

Re:Sounds like what most people would want (1)

John Napkintosh (140126) | about 3 years ago | (#37541524)

Reread. DOESN'T require.

Re:Sounds like what most people would want (1)

jpstanle (1604059) | about 3 years ago | (#37541348)

Can you cite a reference for that? That assertion sounds unrealistic to me. I'm working entirely on anecdotal evidence, but I'd be willing to bet the ESPN is by far the single most watched cable-only channel in the US.

For me as a sports fan, ESPN is the only thing that could have enticed me to pay for cable over the past 5 or 6 years. Live sports are the only thing these days that you can't get online or over-the-air.

Re:Sounds like what most people would want (1)

networkBoy (774728) | about 3 years ago | (#37541584)

For me it is discover/science channel not ESPN. I don't think I've ever watched ESPN except at a friends house....

Re:Sounds like what most people would want (3, Interesting)

jpstanle (1604059) | about 3 years ago | (#37541840)

This may have been true for me a few years back, but Discovery Channel isn't compelling anymore. Most of it is scripted "reality" show drivel... Hardly any good documentaries like the good old days. MythBusters is good, and I still like Modern Marvels on the history channel, but most of that is available online through netflix or some other avenue. Nearly all new documentaries worth watching come from PBS or the BBC. These days the only 'documentaries' on the Discovery channel are pipedream speculation about absurd engineering projects that will never be built.

Re:Sounds like what most people would want (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541682)

That's why ESPN can charge cable companies to carry it. ESPN may be the single most watch channel, but would it still be if it were a premium channel? You see, sports fans cannot fathom a world where no one cares about sports. Sports fans cannot imagine life without sports. ESPN capitalizes on that fanaticism in that a sizable populations wants ESPN, but would not pay for it directly and at the same time that same population would not buy cable if there were no ESPN. What's a cable company to do? The solution is to make every cable customer pay for ESPN whether they want it or not thereby sharing the pain.

It's kind of like sports stadiums. Fans don't want to pay for new stadium themselves, but they and the sports establishment (ESPN, papers, t.v., etc) convince local authorities to make the entire population pay for a new stadium through sales and entertainment taxes on non-sports related items.

Re:Sounds like what most people would want (1)

quintus_horatius (1119995) | about 3 years ago | (#37541762)

I'd be willing to bet the ESPN is by far the single most watched cable-only channel in the US.

Even if it is the single most-watched channel, that doesn't mean that a large fraction of people watch it.

Re:Sounds like what most people would want (-1, Flamebait)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 3 years ago | (#37541440)

You can probably say the same thing about any cable channel, not just ESPN.

However, I still like the idea of the cablecos screwing over the stupid sports fans for more money. Doesn't affect me anyway as I don't have cable; Netflix + rabbit ears works fine for me.

Re:Sounds like what most people would want (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541644)

Wow, way to show your bias; "the stupid sports fan"?

Sometimes my fellow geeks are as bad, if not worse than, the stereotypical jock...

You know... there is life without cable. (5, Insightful)

cpotoso (606303) | about 3 years ago | (#37541128)

Who needs it? I can get about 10 channels over the air, for free, most of them in HD. Then there is the internet (which comes from my cable company, but with whom I do not have any service other than internet). Don't like their pricing schemes, don't buy it. It is not air, water, food, shelter, education or transportation. It is really optional.

Re:You know... there is life without cable. (1)

John Napkintosh (140126) | about 3 years ago | (#37541158)

And this is no doubt the driving force. Most people have a select few channels they would actually watch and pay for. Now that there are alternatives to subscribing to ridiculous $100/mo. bundles just to get the few channels you want, cable operators are going to have to subdivide their offerings to regain those customers who are leaving for more attractive alternatives.

Re:You know... there is life without cable. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 3 years ago | (#37541368)

Also right now these channels that are bundled are not really trying too hard to get viewers. So you get one channel in that bundle that is valuable then the rest are showing repeats, or those fringe anti-science science shows that Discovery puts on every once in a while about alien abduction... over and over again... If we can pick our channels then every station will need to fight for our viewing, and not just do reruns of their bundled partner.

Paying $100+ a month for TV is really too high.

Re:You know... there is life without cable. (1)

shadowsurfr1 (746027) | about 3 years ago | (#37541202)

I gotta agree with this. I have an antenna that I got from a relative and it works really well, especially in HD. I have all the major networks (Fox, CBS, NBC, ABC) and some other channels, all over the air.

Re:You know... there is life without cable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541872)

I've been told by the Cable co. tele support themselves, that they are working very
hard to get HD off the airwaves - I kid you not. They don't like it and refuse to allow it.

I've used an antenna with a digital over-the-air HD TV and the quality is generally better,
Cable companies can't hit the bit rate needed for good HD - they either flatten the
colours (8 bit), or introduce noticable artifacts in their compression.

Re:You know... there is life without cable. (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | about 3 years ago | (#37541230)

I've actually been looking into going back to over the air myself. A few months ago we cut cable back to the bare minimum and hardly noticed the difference after a week. We live in a deep fringe area of Canada and can probably get six channels at most but for all the overlap in programming I doubt we'd need more. For everything else, we can just watch it online or wait for it to come out on DVD. The biggest bonus of course is that even the most expensive antenna would pay for itself inside of a year, bringing in ~$300 in savings annually after that.

Re:You know... there is life without cable. (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 3 years ago | (#37541602)

We cut back too - for us the best deal was Dish Network's $20/mo DishFamily package, paying a la carte for PBS ($2), with a receiver from eBay ($80) and a dish from Freecycle ($0). We also have DSL ($45), a Roku ($80) with Netflix (who can tell, $15 maybe) streaming and Amazon Prime ($0, had it before streaming video) and a few 'private' news channels ($0).

Counting the VoIP provider's fee ($8), this gets us the 'triple play' for under $100./mo (including equipment amortization), which beats the basic cable offerings by about 30% (not that cable has the streaming options that Netflix+Amazon does).

So, yeah, cable needs to compete on its fees. If everybody is paying for channels they don't watch, that's one place to trim the fat.

Re:You know... there is life without cable. (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 years ago | (#37541300)

Who needs it? I can get about 10 channels over the air, for free, most of them in HD. Then there is the internet (which comes from my cable company, but with whom I do not have any service other than internet).

For one thing, if you already pay your cable company for Internet only, it's probably willing to sell you TV for negligible additional cost. For another, if your favorite NFL team is playing in this week's Monday Night Football, then this week's game is off limits to you unless you have ESPN and all the other channels bundled with it.

Re:You know... there is life without cable. (1)

Bigbutt (65939) | about 3 years ago | (#37541528)

At least for me, every time I've paid for Internet service, I get basic cable for free as long as I don't get the digital box. So I get the main local channels along with a few stragglers. I think there are a few sports and Spanish language channels but I have them disabled on the TV.

[John]

Re:You know... there is life without cable. (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | about 3 years ago | (#37541570)

For one thing, if you already pay your cable company for Internet only, it's probably willing to sell you TV for negligible additional cost. For another, if your favorite NFL team is playing in this week's Monday Night Football, then this week's game is off limits to you unless you have ESPN and all the other channels bundled with it.

I strongly get the impression OP isn't interested in adding cable TV, especially since the cable company is competing with a free service.

Re:You know... there is life without cable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541596)

Re negligible cost

Not true at all. Where I am, my cable internet package is around $50. My bill for internet + tv was over $100. I could get just the basic channels for $17... or for free over the air. Once you get past the basics, you're looking at ~$50 more a month. I'm fine paying $50 for just internet.

Re:You know... there is life without cable. (1)

s73v3r (963317) | about 3 years ago | (#37541514)

Oh go to hell. Just because something is "optional" does NOT mean that the person offering it should be able to take advantage of their customers. This whole "don't buy it" meme is retarded, as it doesn't get any kind of solution to the actual problem.

Re:You know... there is life without cable. (1)

fr8_liner (780267) | about 3 years ago | (#37541530)

I haven't had cable or even a TV set for the last 8 years. Being an early adopter, I had cable before any of my friends and remember MTV having maybe 20 videos on rotation at the time. Then I moved to rural Pennsylvania where there is no cable TV and opted out of the ridiculously overpriced satellite packages. I'm somewhat shocked these days when I visit friends who have cable and see what's currently popular. It seems impossible, but to me, TV is even more of a vast wasteland than it was 8 years ago. You can keep it. I do miss NFL games but there's a sports bar only 11 miles down the road.........

Re:You know... there is life without cable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541562)

oh look a capitalist apologist!
the cable monopolies need to be regulated into the ground

You know... there is life without TV (2, Insightful)

wall0645 (1665631) | about 3 years ago | (#37541816)

Why settle for not buying cable when you can just not watch TV period? All of a sudden I have time to learn guitar, read books, exercise, cook my own food, etc. Plus, I don't have advertisements constantly flashing before my eyes (which you pay to watch on cable; you "get them" for free on non-cable) telling me "consume, consume, CONSUME."

At this point, only bandwidth matters to me (2)

hsthompson69 (1674722) | about 3 years ago | (#37541150)

Forget ala carte channels - I've got a cable subscription for the 60mbps download, and if a TV channel wants my eyeballs, they'll need to have a website to stream from.

Of course, they keep calling me up asking me if I want to add a cable TV package for some low low price, but they just can't seem to understand that if I'm not going to use it, I'm not going to buy it.

Re:At this point, only bandwidth matters to me (3, Interesting)

bemymonkey (1244086) | about 3 years ago | (#37541356)

+1

It isn't a la carte until you can choose when, where and on what you want to watch your show.

The Cable Industry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541188)

Ah the Cable Industry, Just when you though they couldn't sink any lower.

Re:The Cable Industry (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 3 years ago | (#37541228)

Sure they can, they haven't quite sunk to the depth of cell phone carrier.

Re:The Cable Industry (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 3 years ago | (#37541476)

And they haven't quite sunk to the depth of landline provider. Over here, pathetic Qwest is trying to revamp their image by changing their name to CenturyLink, hoping everyone will forget their horrible experiences with them.

Doesn't know anything about the business (1)

vlm (69642) | about 3 years ago | (#37541256)

"allow all those hundreds of independent and semi-independent channels to stay alive"

The itworld guy doesn't know anything about the business. 99.99% of viewer hours are from around half a dozen big media corporations. Big annual or so contracts at the megacorp to megacorp level, not individual channel negotiation level. You'll have to change literally the entire business relationship structure with the upstreams before the downstreams (individual customers) can go a la carte.

The problem is not the hundreds of independent "local public access" and "local school district" channels.

The other problem is cablecos are not telecoms. A telecom company is a billing system designed to nickle and dime every little activity of each user at enormous cost, with a side effect of providing service; its a billing focused company. A cableco finds billing anything more complicated than $X/month to be kind of difficult for them. Major structural internal changes will have to be made to nickel and dime cable customers; I'm not sure on average that a nickle and dime relationship will save me any money anyway.

Re:Doesn't know anything about the business (1)

residieu (577863) | about 3 years ago | (#37541654)

So you haven't seen cable companies with premium channels, pay-per-view, on-demand programs, and DVR rentals before? They know how to collect more than a single flat fee.

still not what i want (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541272)

I dropped cable a few months back, for two reasons:

1. The only thing worth watching (for me, anyway) was about a dozen races in a series I follow on Versus. That came out to about $50/race. Might as well attend them myself.

2. To have cable, you have to have a cable box now. No way around that. That's four in my house (one for each TV), including two TV's that are wall-mounts, with no place to put the box. I considered satellite as well, until I realized that it has the same requirement.

So I have OTA channels only, and I'm happy with that. Oh, and my cable modem.

If they allowed a la carte, they'd need to offer Versus only, and offer it without a cable box. I doubt the former will happen, and I don't expect the latter to ever happen.

Because we get what we ask for... (1)

landofcleve (1959610) | about 3 years ago | (#37541314)

We just asked for a la carte, we didn't place our order at the same time, and they brought us the scraps from yesterdays blue plate special.

Why do people want a la carte? (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 3 years ago | (#37541336)

Do they think that they'll end up paying what the cable company pays per channel? It doesn't work like that. They charge the price that will maximise profits.

Ideally they want to charge the value of each channel to each customer. they can't do that though. They need fixed pricing. If the price is too high, people will stop subscribing, too low and the profits no longer make the channel viable. But different people assign different values to different channels. They can actually charge the average amount for each channel. Many of the customers who aren't willing to pay the average price for channel A are willing to pay above average for channel B so they subscribe.

People weren't exactly happy when netflix unbundled their services. why do they think cable companies would be any different?

Re:Why do people want a la carte? (1)

demonbug (309515) | about 3 years ago | (#37541756)

Do they think that they'll end up paying what the cable company pays per channel? It doesn't work like that. They charge the price that will maximise profits.

Ideally they want to charge the value of each channel to each customer. they can't do that though. They need fixed pricing. If the price is too high, people will stop subscribing, too low and the profits no longer make the channel viable. But different people assign different values to different channels. They can actually charge the average amount for each channel. Many of the customers who aren't willing to pay the average price for channel A are willing to pay above average for channel B so they subscribe.

People weren't exactly happy when netflix unbundled their services. why do they think cable companies would be any different?

People like me want a la carte because out of the 200+ channels (plus hundreds of music channels) available to me, I actually only watch about 5. While I'm sure I would be paying more than what the cable company pays for each channel (well, no shit - they do have to make money somewhere), it seems highly unlikely that it would cost more to get those five channels than the $60 per month I pay now.

So far, yes, I have been willing to pay it because I can afford it without any trouble. But my willingness to continue paying for large amounts of media I have absolutely no interest in is waning as other, more efficient (for my dollar) options become available.

And so what if a channel doesn't have enough interest to be sustainable in an a la carte market? If that's the case, the channel should fold. No reason for everyone to be subsidizing channels that only a relative handful of people are interested in. That might mean the death of a few channels I like, but so be it. Most of the niche channels I once liked have whored themselves out to such an extent that I don't watch anymore anyway (History, TLC, Discovery to name a few).

Because I want at most two channels I can't get (1)

Shivetya (243324) | about 3 years ago | (#37541758)

I pay $12.95 for basic cable, which had all my locals and then all the government forced channels and some shopping networks I do not look at.

If I want SyFy I have to go to 54.95. I don't want the other channels they are offering, I have a very limited need for televised entertainment and see no reason I should subsidizes the channels someone else wants. Yeah I know it probably will cost more than it cost them, but I DON'T CARE. It certainly won't be the forty two dollar difference I am faced with now.

Pay Per View and Ala Carte is fine by me

Oh wait! (2)

CrackedButter (646746) | about 3 years ago | (#37541388)

So Americans have willingly been participating in a socialist pay model when it comes to cable channels? Bummer, so who are the Communists and anti-Americans in this evil scenario.

Re:Oh wait! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541684)

It's not socialism when us stockholders profit from this little scheme. Suckers!

How is this Bait and Switch? (4, Insightful)

drb226 (1938360) | about 3 years ago | (#37541410)

The idea is to let you choose how much money you want to waste on TV. If you want the popular, lucrative channels, then you may pay for them. Or not. This is not a bait and switch. This is someone whining that they will now have to pay slightly more for the channels they want to watch, rather than forcing the rest of the viewership to subsidize them. Just because the cable companies will end up getting more money doesn't mean this is a bad thing for me; it just means that a lot of people are dumb enough to shell out more money for the dumb things they watch on TV.

Re:How is this Bait and Switch? (1)

sanosuke001 (640243) | about 3 years ago | (#37541648)

It's a bait and switch because the channels nobody wants to pay for will now be bundled with the "required to support" channels and the base price for service will probably remain close to the same so that tier you used to pay $15 for will instead be split up into premium groups and all the cruft that was bundled in that tier will be moved to the base plan and it will still get subsidized. If I didn't want the cruft (ie. I want to choose which channels I get in the base plan as well) I have no choice here either. I don't particularly like paying for Disney, Lifetime, CNN, etc but they'll probably be a part of the base plan and I'd have no say in subsidizing them.

What are the Slashdot editors smoking? (4, Informative)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 3 years ago | (#37541436)

Just how is this bait and switch?
"That's why it was surprising to hear that major cable companies are privately working towards offering a la carte pricing. But when you look at the details, it seems more like a bait and switch: those lesser channels (which pay cable companies for their place on the dial) will still be bundled with the local stations cable companies are required to provide, whereas pricey sports channels (which cable companies have to pay for) will become HBO-like premium services.""

Okay so the channels that are cheap or that pay that cable companies will be "included" with the local channels. The channels that are expensive will be charged for! That is the single must fair and logical way of doing things that I have never heard.

For years the cable companies where subsidizing the cost of ESPN buy bundling it with other channels. I wonder how many people will pay for ESPN when they see the real cost. Heck I think it is great. I could get the channels I want and pay the real costs of those channels.
How the heck is this bait and switch. This is actually dumber than the summary that implied that using old missiles to launch satellites was something new.

unintentional humor alert (3, Insightful)

waddgodd (34934) | about 3 years ago | (#37541458)

I've seen this issue from both sides, as a consumer, and as working as a CSR for a cable company. The absolutely hilarious part here is that most consumers that want ala carte channels think that their cable bills will go down with ala carte. Needless to say, they won't. What will end up happening is they'll look at the ten or so most popular channels, make them total $20-$30/month, then make the rest of the other 200+ channels total up to the remaining $30-$50 that cable customers know and dislike. THEN the premiums get thrown in. So basically, ala carte will raise your bills for less service. What's not to like from the Cable company's standpoint?

Would be nice if I could get JUST sports (1)

jpstanle (1604059) | about 3 years ago | (#37541512)

Live sports and racing are the only thing that could potentially entice me to pay for cable. Any scripted television I might be interested in watching is easily available streaming online or free OTA. I have no interest in actually keeping up with the kardhashians, and thus have no interest in paying $50+/month for crap like E network or MTV. I want to watch college football and motorcycle racing. If I could get all the sports channels for $20/month, I'd fork it over, even if that is a huge mark up.

I ditched cable to avoid "packages" (1)

sfranklin (95470) | about 3 years ago | (#37541526)

I don't have cable any more. The main reason is that I was paying $60/month for a package that had only three channels that I used. (MLB Network, ESPN, Versus in HD - I watch live sports but not much else.) If I could pay $15/month just for those channels, I'd be doing it. But since I can't, I just ditched the whole thing. I realize I'm not the typical customer, but it would be awfully nice if there was a company that could cater to those of us that really only want a few channels, and aren't willing to pay ridiculous amounts for them.

Re:I ditched cable to avoid "packages" (1)

fr8_liner (780267) | about 3 years ago | (#37541804)

In our area the only option is Dish network. In the small town of Quarryville, PA, the basic no-frills package includes the major networks and an equal number of religious channels. I laughed in the face of the Dish network sales guy because I thought he was kidding. Because he was a Mennonite and easily offended, I asked if they could provide a number of raunchy porn channels instead of all that "religious crap". The sales call ended badly of course.

who cares (2)

cornface (900179) | about 3 years ago | (#37541532)

Technology has already zoomed past the need for concepts like "channels" and "timeslots."

The cable companies trying to cling to this as a model will just produce ever more convoluted business plans attempting to delay the obvious and inevitable, much like the music industry before them, and the e-book industry now.

If their offerings don't compare favorably with ease of use, convenience, and features of the latest version of whatever the pirates and hackers have cooked up (xbmc, sickbeard, couch potato, etc) then they are going to have increasing trouble convincing people that their service is worth the ever inflating prices they are charging for it. I think that most people gravitate towards what is easiest and best before what is free, as evidenced by the success of itunes and other paid music and television services.

Meh.

Re:who cares (1)

Dorkmaster Flek (1013045) | about 3 years ago | (#37541748)

I was going to reply "Cable? What is this cable you speak of?" but this pretty much sums it up exactly. I don't have cable. My brother recently moved out to his own place, and he doesn't have cable. I don't know anyone who has their own place under the age of 40 who has cable.

Wrong question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541568)

What bugs me about this entire discussion is it assumes the media megacorps, Comcast and the FCC can find a "right" or "fair" pricing structure. There isn't a single one. Cable companies ought to be free to experiment with whatever pricing and bundling model they like. Ideally, customers would also have a choice of which bundle provider to contract with, so if I liked AT&T's pricing model better than Comcast's, I'd buy AT&T's service. Quickly everyone will settle on a deal both parties are happy with. Look what's happening with Netflix: Blockbuster just announced a package that's very attractive to disaffected Netflix customers like me.

Companies will always try to maximize profit, that's what they do. Without negative feedback, of course they'll create monopolies and raise rates to the heavens. The question is, what is a more effective way to find equilibrium points on the price/demand curve? I assert competitive marketplaces are much more effective than FCC regulations.

Charge More, Provide Le$$ (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541686)

You have to always keep their motto in mind... Charge More, Provide Le$$

I use Mythtv. When will they make there system compatible with third party hardware without those decoder boxes? I am not going to pay extra for decoder boxes! When the signal was analog, I could plug into any port in the house. Now, I need to have a decoder box for each plug. Those boxes cost too much and can't easily be interfaced with a Mythtv box! So, a la carte or not I still won't go back to Comcast.

Free broadcast using an antenna... And compatible with Mythtv... Who needs Craptastic service?

i wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37541716)

What is this "cable" you speak of?

Kill your TV! (4, Insightful)

roc97007 (608802) | about 3 years ago | (#37541794)

Ok, maybe not kill it, but wound it severely. We dropped cable a year ago and I tell ya, I really appreciate that extra $120 each and every month. It's like getting a raise.

If you're in a place that will support it, real TV antennas are making a comeback. The price is modest and the content is free! And just about everything else is available off the internet, especially if you don't insist on watching it the very moment it's broadcast.

I think cable TV is the dial-up service of this century. It's expensive, redundant and unnecessary, but is still popular for reasons that aren't entirely clear.

A Comcast salescreature comes by about once a month and tries to sell us on switching to a package deal. I say I'm happy with what I have (fibre to the house). He says but your carrier is getting out of the cable business!!! You're not going to get cable TV anymore!!! In the same tone of voice you'd say They're going to cut off your Oxygen!!! I tell him yes, I don't get cable TV , just internet. He looks at me like the refrigerator salesman looked at the Amish couple. They just can't understand not wanting cable TV. It's AOL all over again -- they couldn't understand why I didn't need them anymore when I switched to broadband. "But what about email?" Free. "Our content?" Crap. "How are you going to get to the internet??" Broadband includes the internet, that's kinda the point. And so on.

sports is the only reason for cable (1)

JulianDraak (1918564) | about 3 years ago | (#37541806)

It would be nice if I could just have Versus, ESPN channels, & my local sports cable channel (Root Sports, formerly FSN Pittsburgh.) Only reason I have cable is for hockey & football. If I could just get sport channels & then get a digital receiver for my local channels, I'd be pretty happy. Netflix & Hulu the rest.

all a matter of perspective (1)

FudRucker (866063) | about 3 years ago | (#37541832)

i dont like sports, i lock out espn in my TV, i find it boring and stupid to watch grown men run around on a field chasing a ball or whacking it with a stick or club, and if i can get my basic cable subscription a few dollars cheaper by excluding items i dont want to see is fine with me, same with MTV CMT and VH1 not interested in it, i watch maybe 5 to 8 channels out of 62...
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