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Congress To Force Cable a la Carte Plans

Hemos posted about 10 years ago | from the please-do-so dept.

United States 864

unassimilatible writes "Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain seems to be leaning towards sponsoring legislation mandating something I have wanted for a long time: Forcing cable companies to offer "a la carte" programming packages. No U.S. cable or satellite currently offers such a plan. However, as the Washington Post reports, "That may change, if some lawmakers and consumer groups get their way, as the cable industry finds itself under increasing scrutiny. Lawmakers report that their constituents are angry about cable bills that have risen at three times the rate of inflation since the industry was largely deregulated in 1996." McCain money quote: "I go down to buy a loaf of bread. I don't have to buy broccoli and milk to go with it." Bottom line is, cable companies have a government-authorized monopoly, so maybe they need to recieve government-mandated "innovation." Why should I pay for 15 non-English channels?"

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864 comments

Are you a racist (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702810)

Why should I pay for 15 non-English channels?"

What do people in Japan call people that only know one language?

Americans.

Drop cable!

evil cable companies (3, Interesting)

swschrad (312009) | about 10 years ago | (#8702816)

unbundle everything except the local channels now! McCain is right.

Re: Evil Government Intrusion (-1, Insightful)

MotherInferior (698543) | about 10 years ago | (#8702866)

If this is somehow a free-market economy, how is it that Senator John McCain has any business telling cable companies what products they should offer?

Re: Evil Government Intrusion (5, Insightful)

mgs1000 (583340) | about 10 years ago | (#8702887)

But cable companies don't work in free markets, they are given a monopoly over their customers.

Re: Evil Government Intrusion (1, Insightful)

MotherInferior (698543) | about 10 years ago | (#8702944)

But cable companies ... are given a monopoly over their customers
Huh? Cable Companies (plural) are a monopoly? Try oligopoly. Maybe. Or, try not watching cable [netflix.com] TV.

Re: Evil Government Intrusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702928)

Yeah, it's a free market as long as the big corps get to control it. Everyone else gets the door slammed in their face.

The free market is a MYTH, and the corps control not only the market, but government too.

Re: Evil Government Intrusion (4, Interesting)

maroberts (15852) | about 10 years ago | (#8702947)

The point is, it's not a free market economy. One cable provider ahs a monopoly in your area, so its his cable service, or nothing. A free market economy would have multiple cable providers in an area.

But then the concrete on your roads would nver set for cable companies laying down cable. And the investment is too high for too many competitors. So the market has to be as free as possible. And freedom to choose what to buy is the best answer in the circumstances.

And here Slashdot shows its leftist bent (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702820)

Why should the governemnt force this? Let the market decide. If you don't like how cable or satelite TV does its pricing then DON'T BUY THE SERVICE!

Re:And here Slashdot shows its leftist bent (5, Informative)

Omega1045 (584264) | about 10 years ago | (#8702897)

Why should the government force this? Let the market decide.

Uh, huh huh. It is a government-sanctioned monopoly. There is no free market, so the market is probably not going to be able to decide. I totally agree with the article - lets force them to innovate, or make them give up their monopoly!

Of course there is a "market" for this (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702968)

NO ONE is forcing anyone to subscribe to cable or satelite TV. Sure, there's lots of government intervention going on in that area, but you TV-addicts are the ones fueling the market with your subscriptions. If everyone gave up their subscriptions then the market will be forced to innovate or DIE. That's the way it should be. Kill your TV.

Re:Of course there is a "market" for this (2, Interesting)

radja (58949) | about 10 years ago | (#8702992)

that's the way it COULD be (theoretically). over the way it SHOULD be can be argued.

Re:And here Slashdot shows its leftist bent (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702926)

How does not watching anything send the message that "we want unbundled channels"?
The problem is not the pricing, it is the concept that because they force you to pay for channels that have no appeal to you, you pay more.
The way to let the market decide is to force the service to exist first, and then let the market decide if it wants it.

Re:And here Slashdot shows its leftist bent (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702927)

Who modded this "insightful"?
There are no "market forces" for a government-mandated monopoly.
The cable companies have charters which GUARANTEE that they cannot lose money on cable; and which GUARANTEE that they will NEVER face competition except from other forms of media.

Re:And here Slashdot shows its leftist bent (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702963)

Why? Because if you want to get TV there is no other choice now the way the market operates right now. It's not a free market, it is the exact opposite: a monopoly. In my area we can only get cable from Time Warner Cable, for example if all I want are news channels plus some movie channels I also have to pay for sports channels and other channels I have absolutely no interest in.

Re:And here Slashdot shows its leftist bent (5, Insightful)

Tree131 (643930) | about 10 years ago | (#8702969)

RTFP

Bottom line is, cable companies have a government-authorized monopoly

monopoly = monopoly is a situation where for technical or social reasons there cannot be more than one efficient provider of a good

Unlike Microsoft, there is no alternative to the 2 or 3 services, one of them being the Cable Monopoly, because they ALL bundle their channels.
I have to buy 100 extra channels just to watch TechTV and Cartoon Network, and then spend an hour Removing all the shopping and religious channels, as well as Fox News and A&E.

So get rid of your subscription. Easy as that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8703012)

Don't whine to me because you willingly help finance a system that "forces" all these channels on you. Getting rid of the government controls would be a good thing too, but of course removing government from the lives of people is unpatriotic.

Re:And here Slashdot shows its leftist bent (5, Insightful)

JohnnyCannuk (19863) | about 10 years ago | (#8702977)

Yeah! Let the market decide! If you don't like the price don't by it and force the price down, just like gasoline and electricity and natural gas....

Oh wait....

Dude, sometimes the market can't or won't decide. Then the government, who are supposed to have the interest of the electorate not the cable company executives and shareholders, will decide.

Sometimes governement interference is bad, sometimes its not.

Re:And here Slashdot shows its leftist bent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702993)

If the cable companies actually offered such a plan, I might consider buying Cable. As it is, it isn't worth it to me, so I don't. My DSL service costs less than it would cost me to get cable and I get far more value from it. They also lose my internet service business because of their insane Cable TV pricing.

Re:And here Slashdot shows its leftist bent (5, Informative)

A55M0NKEY (554964) | about 10 years ago | (#8703013)

RTFP(ost)

You don't have the choice to buy channels a la carte because nobody, not even satellite offers it. This is a symptom of a breakdown of the market called an oligopoly, a cousin of the better known monopoly. Both the monopoly and the oligopoly are vulnerable to having the benefits of their position taken forcably by a govenment because they are not benefiting consumers as best as they could. Since only people (consumers) vote, they have all the power, so they can ( justly IMHO ) steal from mono/oligopolies of the world that would parasitise us all if left unchecked.

Non English? (3, Funny)

ellem (147712) | about 10 years ago | (#8702826)

Why should I pay for 15 non-English channels?

Dude Xuxa, ilLvatello, those chicks are all so hot and slutty.

A la carte (1)

Geek of the Week (845) | about 10 years ago | (#8702827)

If this goes through it might be enough to bring me back to cable from DirecTV. Then again, maybe it would be applied to satellite too, in which case I'd be deliriously happy.

Finally... (1)

ersgameboy (571332) | about 10 years ago | (#8702835)

Good Idea. My parents, despite being the first people I knew with an Internet connection, have never gotten cable TV installed, for this exact reason. Maybe now they will

He who pays the Piper calls the tune (5, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 10 years ago | (#8702836)

While I am completely against government regulation of things like cable, the Cable Companies have made their own bed on this one. They scammed themselves a legal monopoly, now they have to dance to the government's tune. Of course, they'll just pass the 'costs' of this on to the consumer. But they can't claim some kind of moral high ground against 'government interference', when they've been sucking off the government tit for the last 20 years.

This will do nothing (2, Interesting)

TykeClone (668449) | about 10 years ago | (#8702840)

but raise cable prices for all.

Bundling is how the cable companies can get away with charging what they do for basic cable, but I'll bet that the cost per channel will be higher if this were to happen.

Re:This will do nothing (3, Insightful)

That's Unpossible! (722232) | about 10 years ago | (#8702919)

I'm not saying I support the government meddling in the affairs of businesses (for they are not subtle and quick to raise prices), HOWEVER...

They would have to raise their prices quite a bit for most people's bills to go up and not down. Considering I watch about 10 channels of the hundreds I receive.

Re:This will do nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702925)

I'll bet that the cost per channel will be higher if this were to happen.

Ok, so instead of $40 (translate to your local rates) for 100 channels, we'll pay $30 for the 6 channels we watch. Why is this a problem?

Re:This will do nothing (2, Interesting)

Bluesman (104513) | about 10 years ago | (#8703004)

Because you'll end up paying $45 for the six channels you watch.

The cable company isn't sponsoring daily corporate carnivals for the CEO's kids with the money they make. The service they provide costs money. If they make less money, there will be an increase in prices to pay for the costs, or there will be a decrease in service.

Also, many channels that are decent but not necessarily profitable, i.e. CSPAN, will be the first to go.

It'll be a lot of fun paying current rates for six channels, because those are the only six channels available, no?

Re:This will do nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702959)

Bundling is how the cable companies can get away with charging what they do for basic cable, but I'll bet that the cost per channel will be higher if this were to happen.

Yeah but that is fine since I only watch 4 or 5 cable channels. I think most people don't watch more that. How will they explain charging me the same for 5 channels as they did for 60 before?

My thumb thanks you (4, Insightful)

thebra (707939) | about 10 years ago | (#8702841)

I've been wanting this for so long. I hate paying for things I don't need.

"Besides adding to the cost, cable companies say, selling channels individually might make it difficult for lesser-watched, niche channels to survive."

This is bad how?

Re:My thumb thanks you (5, Insightful)

EricWright (16803) | about 10 years ago | (#8702975)

Well, I hate to break it to you, but what's stopping TW/Charter/Cox/etc. from charging you $3/channel (or pick your favorite insane amount) on the a la carte plan? They will still be (essentially) a monopoly.

And what about the niche channel you like (TechTV maybe?) that the general populace couldn't care less about? Will you be happy when they go under because only a select few people want to pay for it?

I'd love to see a la carte television myself, but only if it's a reasonable price and the selection doesn't decrease. In reality, I just don't see that happening.

Re:My thumb thanks you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702978)

Assuming they are telling the truth, it is bad because shows that become cult hits before moving to mainstream might not have that opportunity.
But the if is pretty big. If public access television can survive, I imagine that those niche channels can manage too.

Re:My thumb thanks you (3, Insightful)

Trespass (225077) | about 10 years ago | (#8702979)

This is bad how?

This is bad because it further encourages the homogenization of the entertainment industry.

Re:My thumb thanks you (1)

bricriu (184334) | about 10 years ago | (#8702995)

well, say, that one channel that plays Science Fiction all day long... what's it called again?

That being said, I think any fear of higher costs or closing channels is a smokescreen. They're going to make less money, and they know it. Tough.

Re:My thumb thanks you (1)

Tingler (56229) | about 10 years ago | (#8703008)

"Besides adding to the cost, cable companies say, selling channels individually might make it difficult for lesser-watched, niche channels to survive."

This is bad how?


If all / most of the channels that you are currently watching considered a niche market by the cable company.

Quality (4, Insightful)

glpierce (731733) | about 10 years ago | (#8702843)

"...angry about cable bills that have risen at three times the rate of inflation..."

Don't forget that quality has also dropped noticeably. We're paying more for more channels, not more good programs.

Re:Quality (1)

Gudlyf (544445) | about 10 years ago | (#8702958)

"We're paying more for more channels, not more good programs."

Very true, and a good point. I have to imagine that having this will force networks to offer better programming or find that nobody watches them anymore, which leads to no advertising revenue, etc.

Enforcing quality? (1)

Faust7 (314817) | about 10 years ago | (#8702971)

We're paying more for more channels, not more good programs.

Exactly. Out of the 60+ channels available to me, I'm only interested in a few (Sci-Fi, CC, CN). But I don't get them, because I refuse to pay ~$45/month and watch only those. I guess I could force myself to watch equal amounts of all the other channels, but that would be ten gallons of crazy.

One way to improve the quality of programming is to let the public dictate it by voting for channels with their dollars. I won't go so far as to say it's the best way (we've seen what the unwashed masses like, Joe Millionaire etc.) but it's definitely an option.

Get government out! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702844)

The problem is the government-sponsored cable monopolies. My local government shouldn't be serving up an unwilling populace to a single cable company. I doubt McCain's more big government will solve the problems of big government. After McCain-Fienberg I'm beginning to believe McCain is becoming synonymous with bad legislation.

Why a big government solution? (2, Insightful)

stry_cat (558859) | about 10 years ago | (#8702846)

My cable company (Comcast) which I hate, does offer me a variarity of packages. If the government would ever allow more than one cable company to serve an area I bet they would offer me even more choice and for less cost. This is a solution looking for a problem. Better would be to lift the current regulations on TV.

Re:Why a big government solution? (5, Insightful)

Bodhidharma (22913) | about 10 years ago | (#8703006)

It's not the cable/satellite providers. It's the channels themselves. If I'm running Jim's Cable TV and I want to offer my customers TNT, for example, Turner might make me buy TBS, The Cartoon Network and the CNN channels as one package. That means I have to charge my customer for all those. So I might as well give him the channels he is paying for.

I know this because I worked for a satellite TV provider. It was like pulling teeth to be able to offer ESPN to our customers. Finally one of our managers had to call Eisner personally to straighten things out. As much as I'd like to make the cable companies out to be the bad guys, it's really the networks.

Jim

Yay! Now everything will be more expensive! (4, Insightful)

MadWicKdWire (734140) | about 10 years ago | (#8702851)

So when did a-la-carte mean cheaper? Go to a mexican restaurant and order a 3 enchilada meal, and order 1 crispy taco on side. Unless you are going to Taco Bell... that damn crispy taco is going to cost you just about as much as 1.5 enchilada!

The cable company is going lobby against this big time. If someone just wants TechTV only at their office, it's going to cost them big time. The cable company would at least like to make some profit off of everyone of their subscribers.

Thats my $0.02... oh yeah forget... since I'm only making one comment today, I'm charging more... that'll be $3.50.

Awesome! (1)

Beatbyte (163694) | about 10 years ago | (#8702852)

Now I can get rid of everything besides 4 or 5 channels. This may put a dent in their little monopolistic position.

Does this not apply to satellite providers though?

Channels of choice... (4, Insightful)

Faust7 (314817) | about 10 years ago | (#8702853)

However, less-watched channels that serve distinct but smaller audiences, such as TechTV and BET, may not survive, because not enough viewers would pay for them.

Which is fine. TechTV and BET are both complete garbage. What better way to improve the quality of programming than to mandate it through public dollar votes?

(Just give me Sci-Fi, Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, and the Playbo--er, Discovery, and I'll be good to go. Heck, maybe NBC as well, if for no other reason than this year's feisty presidential election.)

Subjective (1)

HarveyBirdman (627248) | about 10 years ago | (#8702915)

And when TechTV survives and Sci-Fi goes away, what tune will you be singing then?

Give me a break. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8703001)

lol, tech tv survive? don't get me wrong, cat schwartz is a hottie, but if I need tech info I have waaaay better sources than what tech tv shows.

sci-fi go away? heh. sci-fi will NEVER go away. there are too many geeks out there with questionable taste for cheese like Lexx for that channel to ever die. which is good, because decent programming can then still survive on that channel.

It's about time (3, Insightful)

G27 Radio (78394) | about 10 years ago | (#8702856)

It's ridiculous for me to have to spend over $50/month for cable just to watch Comedy Central. I'd much rather pay just $5 a month for Comedy Central instead of the $30 extra or whatever I have to pay to get the "package" that includes it. Comcast sucks.

oh, and forgot to mention (1)

G27 Radio (78394) | about 10 years ago | (#8702941)

Cable Internet from Comcast here is about $50 a month. Unless you ONLY want Internet, and aren't interested in cable channels. Then It's $70 a month. I wish they'd do something about that too.

Re:It's about time (2, Insightful)

Lucius Septimius Sev (766060) | about 10 years ago | (#8702980)

That is not going to happen. Most channels like Comedy Central will not be sold as one shot deals. You might like it but its not a very popular channel compaired to TBS and USA. Those will be the channels that are sold like that because they are the most popular if at all. A bill like this will be punted around in Congress for a few years if it even gets to the president's desk. Do not underestamte the cable industry.

McCain... (0, Offtopic)

fm6 (162816) | about 10 years ago | (#8702857)

... is a right-wing, right-to-life militarist. But if he runs for President again I might have to vote for him!

Prevent channel surfing? (1)

toesate (652111) | about 10 years ago | (#8702860)

Good idea if this helps to get us off channel surfing?

On the other hand, maybe all we need is just one channel - Slashdot.org editors reporting live on site...

Do this for DirecTV (4, Interesting)

HarveyBirdman (627248) | about 10 years ago | (#8702862)

I'd like to see it set up so I can pick and choose each and every channel, preferably via an onscreen check list at the set top box. And if there's something I want to see on a channel I don't normally have, I can order it just for that program right at the box.

Not all cable compaines are evil... (2, Interesting)

Nos. (179609) | about 10 years ago | (#8702863)

In fact, mine [accesscomm.ca] just upped my limit on my cable modem. I went from 1Mbs/1Mbps to 5Mbps/1Mbps - without asking, or having to pay any more. Downladed some ISOs at combined speed of over 450K/sec :)

Re:Not all cable compaines are evil... (1)

sirinek (41507) | about 10 years ago | (#8702962)

Charter recently upped the speed of its cable modems too! :D

English channels (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702864)

Why should I pay for 15 non-English channels?
Even without seeing them, I can confidently say they're likely to be more entertaining than the english ones. Nope, no greek Survivor, chinese Friends, or japanese that want to be millionaires.

Re:English channels (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8703000)

> or japanese that want to be millionaires.

Clearly you haven't seen japanese game shows. Or Japanese TV in general. If you thought american TV was brainless...

and while were at it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702865)

force local cable channels that are owned by cable companies (eg - Comcast SportsNet and CN8) to be available on satellite TV in the same sense that my local broadcast channels (eg, my local ABC/NBC/CBS/Fox/WB/UPN/etc channels) are now.

TechTV (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702867)

I think TechTV should be "a la carte".

nooooo! (0)

monkease (726622) | about 10 years ago | (#8702869)

you don't understand!!

i need my five hundred channels so i can toggle through the girls-gone-wild infomercials when that annoying white guy pops up!

the government is forcing me to pay more for my pseudo-pr0n!!

Channels (1)

stateofmind (756903) | about 10 years ago | (#8702873)

I would love it if they changed to that type of plan.

The first channels to go would be the far-out religion abusing channels.

But the Hispanic/Spanish channels, hell I would order more of those if I could. They have the most beautiful women on them, and it's interesting to try and figure out whats being talking about.

But see, bottom line is we all have different tastes, and shouldn't have to pay for some over-priced package. Where your paying $75 a month, and only watch 8-10 of the channels on a regular basis.

Josh

It might sound good on the surface ... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702884)

... but are you sure you want big government interfering in private business like this? Sure, your bills will decrease, but once the government has latched onto this industry it'll never let go. We could soon see channels with an anti-war bias get censored off the air 'for our own good', and copy protection built right into the cable system (protected by the DMCA, naturally).

Cable companies now have no excuse (4, Interesting)

strictnein (318940) | about 10 years ago | (#8702885)

A big problem for cable companies is that they now have no real excuse to not have plans like this. Before digital cable they could at least claim some technological difficulties in setting up such a system. Now I would guess that it would involve minor changes to their infrastructure and users should easily be able to add or remove channels directly through their cable box.

Wow. (1)

Sevn (12012) | about 10 years ago | (#8702891)

Sometimes it's hard to remember that John McCain is a Republican, and a damn good one at that.

Part of Bush Initiative? (0, Offtopic)

blogboy (638908) | about 10 years ago | (#8702893)

CNN: "Bush wants cheap high-speed Internet access for all by 2007"

http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/internet/03/26/bush.b roadband.dc.reut/index.html

Wish I had a bottomless checkbook...

I'm in. (1)

bjorky (78181) | about 10 years ago | (#8702894)

Personally, I would relish an a la carte cable system, if only for the few pennies I would save dropping channels I do not watch; and if the bonus was available to add other channels which aren't currently available in exchange I would be on board in a second.

Keep:
Food Network
Cartoon Network
Comedy Central
Music Channels (MTV, VH1)
Bravo

Drop:
Lifetime
ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN^2, ESPN(X+1/2)
CMT
PAX
Disney

Add:
TechTV
Boomerang
MTV2
Fine Living
DIY

Re:I'm in. (4, Funny)

stateofmind (756903) | about 10 years ago | (#8702965)

Don't drop PAX! They play the censored version of Sopranos!

Tony, how in the *beep* did you think I *beep* *beep* *beep* the car *beep* *beep* and take his *beep* head *beep* over to Frankies *beep* *beep* *beep* *beep* *beep* *beep* the end.

Josh

I couldn't have said this better myself... (5, Interesting)

jbuilder (81344) | about 10 years ago | (#8702895)


Why should I pay for 15 non-English channels?


Don't get me wrong - I have NO problem with access to any of those channels, but what *I* have wanted for *years* is for cable (and satellite) companies to provide me with the content *I* want at a reasonable price. Not charge me for a 120 channels because that's the only way I can see the 20 that I actually *want*.

I wouldn't mind so much IF cable wasn't so expensive. I looked from switching back from Dish Network to my local cable co.. The price I pay for *everything* that's available on my line-up is US$89/mo. via Dish Network. I wanted to get the local channels in HDTV. But to do that I'd have to switch back to cable. To switch back to cable, and keep my current channel lineup would have been US$170/mo!!! And that's not including the HDTV support...! To add insult - my local cable co (Comcast) doesn't *have* as many channels as Dish Network does.

The Dish Network ads are right - cable cos. *are* pigs...

Foxtel Australia Needs this to (1)

craznar (710808) | about 10 years ago | (#8702896)

Foxtel have actually been pretty blatant in their packaging.

There is about 8 or so good channels, each in its own package along with pretty ordinary offerings.

Many people here like the comprimise idea of a base price for the service + choose for the channels.

I currently pay around $70/month US to get 2 recent movie channels, Two reasonable entertainment channels (Fox8/TV1), three or four other reasonable channels (Comedy, History, Biography). The rest of the 130 channel (advertised) line up is US$4/each 18 month old movies (50 channels), 50 year old classic movies, time shifted channels, 30 audio channels. Add way too many sports channels and I'm paying for around 110 channels I will never watch.

Grrr Arrrgh!! I say.

$1.00/channel (1)

nycsubway (79012) | about 10 years ago | (#8702898)

Why do i feel that could easily become much more expensive than getting their packages. If you pay $1.00/channel, if you currently get 70 channels, and you wanted to pay the same rate, you might only get 40 channels.

If you have more than one person in the household, each one is going to want to watch different channels, and you might end up paying close to the same amount you are now, except when your friend calls and says "check out the show on channel 'etc'!!" and you dont have it, you might wish you did.

I'm sure it'll be good for some people though, especially elderly. But buying things individually is usually more expensive per item than getting a package.

But I'd still save money. (1)

craznar (710808) | about 10 years ago | (#8702942)

"If you pay $1.00/channel, if you currently get 70 channels, and you wanted to pay the same rate, you might only get 40 channels."

However of the 70 channels I'll only watch 8 or 9 - so at $10 I'm still $60 ahead.

My idea! (1)

Random BedHead Ed (602081) | about 10 years ago | (#8702900)

I just commented to my girfriend yesterday that if you could break into the cable market (ha!) offering a cable service in which you can pick the channels you want, you'd actually stand a chance of killing the cable monopolies.

My second idea is a variety channel cable companies could offer showing programming from the channels you don't get. That way even though you pick your own channel list, the provider can show you what you're missing.

All innovative ideas, but all pipe dreams unless there is some sort of legislation involved. The cable indistry is not really into innovation these days.

not totally correct (1)

Blob Pet (86206) | about 10 years ago | (#8702903)

"a la carte" actually does exist but only if you have basic or standard already and you want to add a single premium channel like HBO.

This is great news (1)

fudgefactor7 (581449) | about 10 years ago | (#8702907)

Because now I can get rid of about 90% of the channels I have since I don't want/need/like/or watch them. My price should go down since I only watch like 5 channels. The rest is garbage.

a la carte will = more expensive. (1)

stephenisu (580105) | about 10 years ago | (#8702908)

This will be great for all those folks who want 5 channels, and horrible for all of those who watch more than that.

I'll say it!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702911)

I for one, welcome our new 985-channel Cable-a-la-carte Overlords!!

Never mind, there's nothing good on.

more expensive (0)

skaeight (653904) | about 10 years ago | (#8702918)

This might actually make cable and satellite more expensive. We may end up paying the same price we are now for less channels because bundling actually keeps costs down.

I'm having directv installed today, and of my 125 channels I'll be getting I'll probably only watch 40 or so of them. But currently I have to pay for WE and lifetime even though I won't watch them, just like someone else has to pay for espn and fox sports, even though they don't watch them. It's a trade off, that keeps costs down.

The only way this is good for the consumer, is if they also put some sort of regulation on the content providers. Situations like the viacom / dish dispute should not happen. If a content distributor doesn't want to carry a channel, they should not be forced to, period. However dish caved and added Nick Toons. This is extortion, and hopefully it will also be addressed by Congress. That is where the real trouble lies, it's usually not the cable / sat providers forcing new unwanted channels on you, its the content producers.

Access Control with Analog? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702930)

This could be a bad thing. Analog cable is an open standard that lots of hardware can use. We might lose effective access to the signal if it is not used.

It is very hard for the cable company to do access control on Analog channels --- basically some person has to drive to your house and install a filter on the line. There are only so many filters that you can stack up there. Denying access to analog channels is so expensive, that often times they just forget to do it if you are downgrading from extended basic to basic service and the like.

Meanwhile, digital channels can be individually decoded and decryped. Sounds great, but the problem is that it is proprietary. No TV tuner cards support it and neither does TiVo and the like.

Be careful what you ask for....

This is in follow up to... (0)

Viceice (462967) | about 10 years ago | (#8702934)

Slashdot Articles from here [slashdot.org] and here [slashdot.org].

I was going to yell dupe, but it has been 2 years since the originals and it's a development in the issue, i decided not to.

unwatched channels (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702936)

consumers shouldn't pay for unwatched channels

We should only be paying for the channels we watch!
I don't watch commercials, do I have to pay for those too?

Not exactly correct (1)

katnthebag (766350) | about 10 years ago | (#8702939)

The statement in the article about "No U.S. cable or satellite currently offers such a plan" referring to "a la carte" plans is not totally correct. There is a cable company operating an the part of VA that I live in called Charter that offers "a la carte" plans for high speed internet. Now whether Charter is a US held company or Canadian company---that I haven't determined yet...

Great idea but will never happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702945)

I've been hoping for this for years. Two years ago our cable company (rhymes with Bombast) forced YES, the NY Yankees network on us as part of our basic package. And they were so nice too! They only raised our bill three simoleans a month to cover it.

Unbundle now. That way my hard-earned money can go towards supporting things like the Mythbusters instead of helping to pay off ludicrously high sports salaries.

Unfortunately, the big-biddness folks will never let something that could cut into their bottom line get past 1600 Pennsylvania.

Two things certain: death, and higher cable bills (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702946)

My cable company (Cox) just notified me that they are no longer supporting premium channels over analog, and that instead I need to upgrade to the significantly more expensive digital cable to keep getting HBO. This is after I had to drive to the central office to get the analog box in the first place, as the installer "didn't have any in the truck" when he came to install it (why didn't he read the work order?).. I support their efforts to build a better network but since I don't particularly need to spend more than $100 a month on television, good luck getting me to pay for it.

Something missing... (3, Insightful)

Ranger96 (452365) | about 10 years ago | (#8702951)

I assume McCain's legislation will also include provisions rendering the contract provisions from content providers that require bundling of their offerings null and void. Otherwise, the point is somewhat moot. It's not just the cable/satellite service providers that are the problem.

Super idea. (2, Interesting)

grub (11606) | about 10 years ago | (#8702952)


nb: I cancelled my cable entirely but kept the cable modem access in 2003

This was one of my major complaints about television. I had to pay for sports/golf/etc channels to get .CA's Space Channel (similar to SciFi in the US), PBS and Discovery channel. I used to like TLC but it went from "Learning" (the L) to "Lame" after it started hammering home crap like Trading Spaces, et al ad nauseum. Aren't there channels for that type of stuff already? Discovery channel was getting boring too with "Extreme $FOO"

Pick up a book and read instead or download what you really want to see.

[/curmudgeon]

Not a good thing.. (4, Insightful)

BWS (104239) | about 10 years ago | (#8702954)

as I quote someone I read on Fark, as it applies to slashdot as well:
Members of Fark are a fairly intellectual minority (for the most part). Before you begin going off on your "this is what's best for a free market" spiel, check out the likely results. People here seem to think that the stations they want would be around in a year, because they picked them. Most of them won't. Stations like MTV, VH1, ESPN, SpikeTV, and other mainstream channels have by far the highest viewing (other then the local monsters of CBS, NBC, ect.) The channels I hear people on Fark want: Discovery, some of the News channels, History channel, are channels that, due to their viewership, will not get many subscribers under a "a la carte" system. They die. Pop culture and sports will survive. I'm a sports fan, but I'd like more to TV then sports and sitcoms. I'd rather pop culture not own the airwaves at all times, forcing more useful channels out in a shark tank frenzy of a ratings war, which is exactly what would happen.

Less is sometimes even worse... (2, Interesting)

selderrr (523988) | about 10 years ago | (#8702955)

I wish the Belgian government would regulate similar principles (we have a cable monopoly too here). There are about 10 dutch speaking channels available, only 1 of which is worth watching. But the only way to get that one is by taking the whole shebang of crap with it. And since we don't want our kids to grow up with commercials, we decided to dump the TV and rent a movie every other day.

Invisible Hand Bitch-Slaps Cable Companies (4, Insightful)

handy_vandal (606174) | about 10 years ago | (#8702957)

If companies sell shit you don't want -- don't buy it.

Yes, this means you have to give up the something you want, because it's bundled with a bunch of shit you don't want. Hang in there -- if enough consumers stop consuming the shit, companies will desperately try to save themselves from bankruptcy by selling you what you really wanted in the first place.

-kgj

DISH used to do this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702970)

DISH Network used to do this. They had a package called DISH Pix, where you chose 10 channels for $15, or something like that, possibly more channels than that.

IMHO, this is a Good Thing, since many programmers try to force cable and satellite companies to carry their less popular channels in exchange for the rights to their more popular channels. I certainly hope Congress addresses this as well. If this passes, I'd expect to see quite a few channels bite the dust, since very few people will want them. And I'll certainly be in line to take advantage of this.

Of course, expect programmers and cable and satellite companies to raise rates for a la carte packages, but I'll pay a lot less, since I'll weed out the crap I don't watch anyway.

Be careful what you ask for (1)

catherder_finleyd (322974) | about 10 years ago | (#8702982)

you just may get it. I am concerned that we are likely to see less choice under "A la Carte" cable. The popular offerings (s.a. ESPN) will continue on. But less popular offerings are likely (s.a. TechTV) to be removed.

Unbelievable (1, Flamebait)

GileadGreene (539584) | about 10 years ago | (#8702987)

It is truly mind-boggling how wealthy, secure, and decadent we have become. It seems like every time I turn around there's some politician preparing to legislate about something that, while I'm sure it may be annoying, is
(a) not really life-threatening, and
(b) the result of the aggregate free choices of "the people".
Have we no bigger problems in the world than ensuring that people can get access to cable channels without having to buy entire packages, or keeping the world safe from telemarketers. These do not seem like Earth-shattering issues.

I wonder, do people actually write letters to their congress-critter begging them to tell those nasty cable companies to let them buy the channels they want without having to buy a package? Or is it simply the case that McCain wanted to get HBO without paying for Discovery, got annoyed that he couldn't, and decided that this was "an important issue" to legislate on.

They will still screw us (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8702990)

I use time warner, and to even GET HBO, they require a set top box (I'm using analog). So I don't get it. I bet to get ala cart, you'll need a set top box, digital service, etc, which will add on to the costs...

They suck.

We need more competition (4, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | about 10 years ago | (#8702991)

If there was only one supermarket, then they probably would demand you buy everything in chunks of standard sizes. The thing is, we have competition, so since the customers don't want it, they could go somewhere else that does offer what they want.

Cable companies don't have such competition. There's typically a choice between the local cable provider and a couple of satellite providers. They can get away with this sort of thing by a sort of unspoken agreement. If one of them offered a la carte, so would the others. .

Essentially this is the prisoner's dilemma. They both know that they will both get the best results by cooperating

Technical Nightmare (5, Interesting)

jratcliffe (208809) | about 10 years ago | (#8702998)

While we'd all like a la carte pricing of cable, it's a nightmare from a technical point of view. The only possible way to do it would be to require everyone to have a digital box - trying to do this in analog simply wouldn't be feasible (i.e. try filtering 100-106Mhz out, allowing 106-112Mhz, filtering out 112-124Mhz, allowing 124-130Mhz, etc. - each cable tap would have dozens of filters, and each would push the limits of what passive filters can actually do).

Therefore, we're talking requiring a digital box for each customer, and every single TV set - that alone will tack $5+ per TV onto everyone's monthly cable bill (digital boxes are ~$150-200 and up.

You'd probably also end up with a lot of marginal channels going off the air (outside of Slashdot, how many folks will actually _pay_ for TechTV on an a la carte basis?).

Free market economics (4, Funny)

pubjames (468013) | about 10 years ago | (#8702999)

Lawmakers report that their constituents are angry about cable bills that have risen at three times the rate of inflation since the industry was largely deregulated in 1996.

I thought the theory was that unregulated markets drove down prices and were good for consumers...

I Had No Idea (1)

CowboyBob500 (580695) | about 10 years ago | (#8703002)

That the cable situation was so bad outside the UK. Here (on Sky Satellite or NTL cable) you sign up for a basic package (digital equivalents of the terrestrial channels plus a few extras), then add any extra channels you want on top of that. Some of them come in packages, like "Music", but the packages are not that expensive on their own so you don't mind the odd MTV Base or some other crap sneaking in there.

Of course, the sports channels are extortionate, but you get gems like Film Four for 6GBP (no pound symbol on Slashdot, grrr...) a month which is just about the best film channel going (no blockbusters or filler crap that the studios force the broadcasters to show if they want to show LOTR).

Bob

Different Opinion (0)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about 10 years ago | (#8703010)

While everyone will be in favor of this, I am going to go against the grain and voice my opinion.

Just like with Microsoft, forcing X company to offer Y product is rediculous on the most fundamental level. Imagine your dream of opening up a donut shop, dedicated to cream filled donuts. This is a dream you have had forever, because no one appreciates the wonderfulness of these juicy delights, so no donut shop has any REAL selection. Your whole point of being in business is to realize your dream, and, as an added bonus, make a living from it.

NOW imagine that none of the cops like cream filled donuts, but you have the only donut shop in town. Imagine the city passing law that all donut shops HAD to serve X% of their donuts to be regular glazed, holed, donuts. What then? This KILLS the purpose of YOU being in business.

While that scenario is far fetched, it's obvious the connection to these sorts of ideas.

Rather then forcing cable companies, etc to change what they sell, give incentive, help out, whatever the little guys to compete. In the end, if the customer wants A la carte, then in a proper capatilist environment, it WILL happen. We just need to make it not so painful to fight against the big guy.
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