Why Does My Cable Company Force Me To Subscribe To All These Stupid Channels?

If you’re like most people, you look at your “basic” cable line-up and think: “Why do I have all these stupid channels? Wouldn’t it be cheaper if I could just subscribe to the ones I actually like?”

You’re probably convinced that there’s a huge conspiracy going on to get you to pay for a bunch of crap you don’t want.

You might be right. According to the American Cable Association (an organization that is obviously quite biased toward the cable industry) it’s not your cable company’s idea to force “Lifetime Movies” on you, it’s the big media companies themselves that dictate cable line-ups through a technique called “tying and bundling.”

According to the ACA, big media companies “tie” certain less desirable channels to the “must have” channels. For example, if you’re a cable company and you want to offer ESPN, Disney says that you have to also offer a whole menu of other channels in order to get ESPN for a reasonable price. Big media companies will also mandate that these other channels be placed on the “basic” tier, regardless of how many cable subscribers are actually interested in the channel.

ACA says that in order to get the 13 most “desirable” channels, cable companies are obligated to distribute over 60 other channels. They say that this is preventing or limiting the cable company from offering more customizable options to the consumer. For example, if a cable company wanted to offer an expanded tier of kids programming, it might be prevented from moving certain stations away from the “basic” tier, because they had been bundled with a popular channel like Nickelodeon or The Disney Channel. The smaller the cable company, the harder it is to stand up to big media.

Here’s a few examples of bundled channels from the ACA’s FCC filing:

If you want: Disney Channel
You get: ABC Family, SoapNet, Toon Disney, ESPN Channels

If you want: USA
You get: MSNBC, CNBC, Sci Fi, Comedy Central, Bravo, Olympics surcharge

If you want: ESPN
You get:ESPN2, ESPN News, ESPN Classic, ESPN 360 (Internet), ESPNU

If you want: USA HD
You get: Chiller, Sleuth

If you want: Disney Channel HD
You get: ABC Family HD, Toon Disney HD, ESPN News HD

If you want: Fox Sports
You get: National Geographic, Fox Soccer, Fox Business, Fox Sports College, Fox Reality, Fuel, Big 10 Network, Fox Movie Channel

If you want: Food Network
You get: HGTV, DIY, Fine Living

If you want: CNN
You get: Headline News, TBS, TNT, WTBS

If you want: MTV
You get: TV Land, CMT, VH1, Nickelodeon, Noggin, VH1 Soul, CMT Pure Country, MTV Jam

If you want: Discovery Channel
You get: FitTV, Animal Planet, TLC, Travel, BBC America, Discovery Kids, Science Channel, Discovery Channel, Discovery Health, Discovery Home

The ACA argues that they’d be able to offer more cost-effective and consumer friendly cable packages if big media was forced to offer reasonably priced single channels and was prevented from dictating which channels they had to place on which tier.

What do you consumers think? Would you like to see more themed tiers? Do you trust the cable industry to provide more consumer friendly packages? Do you think things are fine the way they are?

Public Comments on the Review of the Commission’s Program Access Rules and Examination of Programming Tying Arrangements (PDF) [FCC]


Edit Your Comment

  1. darkened says:

    I don’t want change, there is no way changing this will benefit customers it will make all tv service just go up as a whole.

  2. Bladefist says:

    It would be sweet as hell if I pay a fee per channel and only get the ones I want to see. If you think about it, most poeple pay atleast 50$ a month for cable. 25 channels until your up to your normal rate. I need about 5 channels. Not too many people would need more then 25.

    Media companies would never allow this. I’d pay a 20$ surcharge to not get ESPN and CNN. Just knowing those channels arent floating out there on my copper wires would make me feel better.

  3. HRHKingFriday says:

    There’s no way that would ever happen without some iTunes-ish pricing scheme (2.99/month per channel). There are a ton of channels that I watch only one show on (SoapNet for 90210, FX for Nip/Tuck) so I’m not sure how interested I would be. Besides, I got a pretty good deal with a local cable provider that gets me almost everything for 29.99/month

  4. Jon Mason says:

    In theory, it would be awesome to only subscribe to the ones we wanted – I know that out of 100 odd channels I literally only watch around 10-20 of them ever. However, unless you literally only wanted one or two channels, over time the prices would probably end up being about the same. The companies will want to make the same amount of money, so they will not let the average user’s monthly cost go down significantly.

    The current system spreads the money out over the channels a bit more and probably props up some channels that, given true consumer choice, wouldn’t actually be profitable.

  5. tartis says:

    I would be willing to pay $1.00 per channel that I watch per month. Any channel that I flip the channel to and watch for more than 5 minutes in the month would add a $1.00 to my bill. Seems fair to me!

  6. bostonhockey says:

    What a great article. Just the other day I received a thicker-than-normal bill from ComCast. It seems that they are raising their rates again and included in my bill was an explanation and breakdown of all the changes, costs, channels, etc. I skimmed over the bill, looking for anything interesting, and noticed a section that read ‘A La Carte choices’. Wow, right?!?! I sat there thinking how much less my cable bill would be next month after I went through and selected the handful of channels I wanted. But alas…it seems that ComCast hasn’t fully grasped the concept of ‘A La Carte’. It’s simply a marketing ploy for picking-and-choosing which upper-tier viewing package you want to select and pay for. Nice try, ComCast. Your bait-and-switch almost worked.

    (This is my first post…I’ve been lurking here for months. LOVE the site and occassionally send links to friends, etc. Thanks!)

  7. randombob says:

    I DO want change, I want a-la-Carte programming. There’s NO WAY I’m going to pay $70+ to watch the 10 or so stations I’d actually watch, and even then I don’t watch regularly…

    So until they get it straight and let me pay for what I want and not a lot of other stuff too? I guess I’ll keep my money.

  8. Bladefist says:

    Likely it would be sold in packages. A package of 10 channels would be 15$, pick 10. Etc.

    Patent Pending.

  9. HRHKingFriday says:

    @masonreloaded: True. I’d hate to see a good channel like FX go down because their brand only caters to a narrow audience. Then again, that’s how HBO and Showtime have to make a living. Maybe we’d see a little more diversity within each channel? That would be nice.

  10. joemono says:

    I would love to just be able to order individual channels. My wife likes Bravo, but because it’s in the next package up, we also have to get a bunch of other shit that we literally never watch.

    Taking this a step further, why should I have to pay for an entire channel that shows a ton of crap when I really just want to watch one or two shows? Right now my options are to wait until things are released on DVD (this takes too long), hope that it’s available via iTunes or the network’s website, or download it via torrent.

    I’m just waiting for the day when every channel/series/episode is available to purchase on an individual basis.

  11. 8abhive says:

    That would be fine. I just want a couple small pieces. My thumb would certainly last longer.

    Drop the collusion, let the customers decide, and then maybe we’ll have an example of a free market in action.

  12. Geekybiker says:

    Ala carte programing = be prepared to see your favorite niche channel go out of business.

  13. timstep says:

    Cable packages are ridiculous. Imagine if I was at the grocery store and tried to buy a gallon of milk, only to be told, “Sorry Sir, you have purchase eggs, butter and some imported cheese as well in order to buy the milk, because the imported cheese really isn’t that popular, and this way someone will eat it.” It’s not my fault that your product doesn’t appeal to me and I don’t want to buy it.

  14. kidgenius says:

    What I wouldn’t mind is being able to remove some of those tiers as they currently stand. I’d rather not pay for the MTV swath of channels, nor would I need the Disney swath of channels. Those probably don’t come cheap, so I could probably save about $10-15 a month if I wasn’t forced to buy those two “tiers”

  15. Clay_in_TX says:

    I want to pick and choose what I want to watch! I go to McDonald’s and order a cheese burger for .99 cents. They don’t make me order a “McBundle” for $6.99 and throw in a lot of “McOtherStuff” they normally can’t sell.

  16. cmgaviao says:

    As much as I think ala carte cable makes sense… I think it would be hard to beat the $14 (I could be wrong. I have no idea what the pricing would be but I’m guessing at least $2 per channel) that I pay for basic cable which includes HD programming that I bring in on my QAM tuner…now if they offered ala carte channels in addition to $14 basic…well, then we might be talking.

  17. brent_w says:

    Am I the only one that thinks garbage channels SHOULDN’T be profitable?

    I’m all for kicking the media companies in the face with some legislation and forcing a reasonable pricing model.

    One which will ultimately lead to garbage channels going down the tubes permanently and forcing real and channels to actually compete with decent programming for customers.

    I live in Columbus Ohio and that bullshit big10network wanted to be forced into the basic package and spread the price hike across everybody.

    One of the cable companies tried to stand up to them, and the media company launched a mud slinging campaign on TV and the radio trashing the cable company. The cable company fought fire with fire and we had a couple months of political-esque mud slinging ads berating us from all angles.

    When you get right down to it though, the cable company was right, and everyone should not be forced to pay for a one channel that only some people are going to watch.

  18. youbastid says:

    @8abhive: The cable company/big media collusion is a perfect example of a free market in action.

  19. GothamGal says:

    I don’t pay for cable TV. I pay for cable internet, so I get free basic cable. Sometimes, I get cable plus channels, but I never watch TV anyway. I haven’t since 2000. It’s a waste of $100 a month. I rather have Netflix and actually remove my ass from the couch and go out.

  20. braindesign says:

    I’ve been trying out a completely new approach to viewing television, it’s saved me a lot of money ($90/month), given me a lot of free time (about 20 hours a week), and i can remember what happened 2 hours ago….you won’t find many people bold enough to second my advice, but…


  21. IphtashuFitz says:

    I get something like 150 channels in my current Comcast lineup. (basic cable + HDTV + HBO). Among those 150 channels there are literally about 15 that I watch regularly. Some of those remaining 135 I’ve never watched. I’d gladly pay per-channel if the price was reasonable.

    As it is, I wonder if all the cable companies will start losing customers after the big switch to digital next year. I live close enough to Boston that I can pick up HDTV over the air from all the major networks with an antenna sitting on top of my tv. With cable tv prices going up every year, more and more garbage filling the channels, and their customer service as lousy as ever, I’m very tempted to give up on cable entirely and go back to the days of just having ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, etc. It’s probably just a matter of time before you start seeing more and more antennas popping up in the neighborhoods surrounding major cities where HDTV over-the-air signals are strong.

  22. DrGirlfriend says:

    I would like the idea of a la carte cable in theory, assuming it would save me money. But I agree with those who point out that small channels might suffer. I’m a big fan of History International (although I don’t get it now because we downgraded our cable package). But with a la carte cable, I would bet on that channel not getting enough buy-ins and going under. Sure, it’s the law of supply and demand at work, but perhaps losing a small but quality channel can be avoided somehow.

    Perhaps something like what @bladefist suggested would be a decent compromise.

  23. ObtuseGoose says:

    If you want CNN you get TBS and TNT? That sounds backwards.

    I only watch about 10% of the channels I get. So yeah, it seems like a huge waste of bandwidth and money.

  24. HRHKingFriday says:

    @brent_w: One man’s trash (network) is another man’s treasure (network).
    @kidgenius: That would be perfect, obviously if you don’t have kids then getting rid of the whole kid “tier” would be a great way to save money. Similarly, for people who wouldn’t normally have cable, but have kids, they would be attracted to just signing up for the kid tier. Everyone wins.

  25. CurbRunner says:

    It would be great if everyone could exclude the White House TV mouthpiece, FOX News, from their cable lineup.
    FOX needs to understand how many consumers don’t like their lineup cluttered with the trash of their so-called “fair and balanced”, divisive, non-journalistic, propaganda bullshit.

  26. MercuryPDX says:

    I would like Ala Carte as well, but I know it will never happen. As it stands, I have the channels I don’t want blocked out of the Tivo and TV tuner, and I don’t miss them.

    Question about the tier stuff: My cable company has Discovery Channel in its basic lineup. Does that mean I’m supposed to be getting all the other channels listed above in the basic lineup, or do they just have to be part of “some package” somewhere in their offerings (eg. Silver package, Gold Package)?

  27. juri squared says:

    Hmm. Is it bad that half the channels I like are in the “bundled” section?

    I can’t be the only person who watches the Law and Order Channel – er, TNT.

  28. VA_White says:

    I have the ghetto cable – I get cable internet and the TV signal comes along for the ride. Shh. Don’t tell anyone. I’m fine with the channels I get. :)

  29. Mrs. Stephen Fry says:

    Discovery is basic on our cable, but you have to pay to get BBC America.

  30. ARP says:

    I’m with others that worry that channels like Sundance, Indie, FX, etc. will disappear as they cater to a narrow audience. Perhaps a higher a la carte rate for some of these “niche” channels will give them the almightly dollar and keep them in business. I scare myself when I consider how much I’d be willing to pay for “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

  31. smitty1123 says:

    I’d like a’la cart, but my friends might be a bit aggrivated when they come over and all I have is Discover, Food Network and PBS…

  32. emilymarion333 says:

    I only watch about 5 channels. I would love to be able to pick and choose what channels you get on cable!

  33. LionelEHutz says:

    I’d like to get ESPN 8 — “The Ocho”

  34. matt1978 says:

    @braindesign: Don’t be a douche, you aren’t contributing to the debate, nor are you witty.

  35. warf0x0r says:

    I just want the same service but cheaper.

  36. MercuryPDX says:

    @CurbRunner: That’s why FOX News is removed from my Tivo/TV, and to be ‘fair and balanced’ I also removed CNN, HN, MSNBC, CNBC, and FNC.

    Out of the 71 channels I get (including locals), I only need to flip through the 25 or so I actually watch.

  37. eury says:

    I don’t quite get it. I get USA but Comcast has taken my MSNBC and placed it on digital. What gives?

  38. brent_w says:


    Why should I pay extra money for the benefit of a handful people I don’t know or care about just so that they can watch a channel I think is stupid?

    Answer: I shouldn’t.

    So, the channels which are “treasures” to the majority of people will get to stay, and those that arn’t will stop bogging down the system.

  39. MercuryPDX says:

    @eury: Yah… that’s my question above.

  40. jerros says:

    Ala cart is definately the way to go. Cable companies just need to simply say “For tier 1 you get your choice of 25 channels” or what ever it is.

    I’m tired of paying for hundreds of channels that do not intrest me at all.

  41. Boberto says:

    Liberate yourselves!
    Ditch the entire cable company and put up a moderate quality antenna. You would be amazed at the volume and quality of channels that are FREE, even HD!

    An even better solution is a Free to air satellite.

    Pull the plug on your cable company. It’s your money, and you’re their bitch.

  42. jkaufman101 says:

    This is B.S.

    Cable companies should tell the channel bundlers “take the shit channels out now and lower the price, or we won’t carry you at all.” But they will only do this if consumers continue to push – HARD – for some type of protective legislation. Never count on the cable/satellite companies or channel bundlers to do ANYTHING in the consumers’ best interests. Force this issue!

  43. bohemian says:

    Our cable provider baits everyone into getting digital tier by putting the handful of better in demand channels on the digital tier and then flesh it out with hundreds of channels of crap.

    In order to get DIY, Sundance, IFC, BBC America, History International we have to pay for digital and the hundred or so versions of ESPN and other unwatched crap.

    We watch about 20 channels total between everyone in our house. I would be all about buying blocks of channels and then getting to pick what is in those blocks or some other form of ala carte.
    It sounds like we need to go after the media companies first and the cable providers after that.

  44. cristiana says:

    I would love to be able to get rid of the sports channels. I do not watch any of them but, I am still paying for them. I did a quick search and I read that ESPN costs between $3 and $5 per customer. Factor in all the other sports channels and that is a significant portion of your cable bill.

  45. Meg Marco says:

    @mercurypdx: Unless, I’m mistaken it depends on your cable company and what they’re able to negotiate.

  46. NefariousNewt says:

    @jkaufman101: Yes, if the cable companies would grow some stones and tell the content companies to get stuffed unless they unbundle, we’d all be much happier. All we can do is complain and/or ditch the cable companies until they get the hint.

  47. gorckat says:

    I would love to able to kick the god channels off my cable box, followed by FoxLies and about 2 dozen other channels I don’t even know the names of.

    ‘twould make flipping so much faster!

  48. MercuryPDX says:

    @Meg Marco: Boo… BBC is like 50 channels away in the “You actually have to pay us for that” tier. :(

  49. MikeB says:

    This is why the NFL Network commercials cracked me up. Not many people know that the media companies force bundling on the cable companies.

  50. Boberto says:

    The point that we’re missing here is that the Cable/Sat providers will simply have the power shifted to them, as THEY will be the one’s who have the “Ala Carte” choice.

    The will not pass that choice onto you. The will simply use it as bargaining leverage with the content providers, to their benefit. Not yours.

    Let’s not forget, you’re just the end user. The one who pays for it. You mean nothing in this equation.

  51. camille_javal says:

    @Geekybiker: it’s not like tier pricing fucking saved Trio.

  52. Pithlit says:

    @Geekybiker: Yep. This is exactly why I’m against it. There’s basic cable for people who don’t want to spend a lot on their cable bill.

  53. unklegwar says:

    I’ll take discovery, TLC, History, PBS, Comedy, Spike and Animal Planet. You can keep the 4 spanish stations, the 3 or 4 Jump for Jesus channels, all the shopping stations, the kids crap, the “major networks” and lifetime.

    How much will that be?

    Time to just cancel. Period.

  54. BugMeNot2 says:

    We shouldn’t even have channels anymore! How many of the shows on any given channel do you actualyl watch?

    Eventually it’s all going to be on demand anyway.

  55. Meg Marco says:

    @mbouchard: Yeah, exactly.

  56. Buckler says:

    Unfortunately, I can see both sides of the issue. I could certainly do without the Spanish-language channels, religious programming, and shop-at-home networks, as well as the sports channels and “womens-interest” packages. It would be wonderful to be able to pick and choose what I’d like to see. Unfortunately, some channels I enjoy (e.g. the Science Channel) are definitely niche programming that the average “American Idol”-watching viewer would never tune into. Removing the packaging as it is would ensure that cable and satellite TV would devolve into the sea of useless pap that broadcast TV has become, PBS notwithstanding.

  57. slapBOXmaster says:

    The current system ( with all its faults ) is much better then any a-la-carte system in that this like similar things going on in the internet space ( attempts by cable companies to introduce pay per GB pricing ) will only inflate prices by charging a flat rate per channel.

    The cable companies may not be able to offer more specific genre packs but having all the basic channels for $50-70 is much better than have 20-30 ( even if they are the “only” channels you watch ) channels for the same price because you all know there wouldn’t be a cheaper offer for less channels ( it just doesn’t make business sense) .

  58. Corydon says:

    @VA_White: I have the ghetto cable – I get cable internet and the TV signal comes along for the ride. Shh. Don’t tell anyone. I’m fine with the channels I get. :)

    The cable company is well aware that you get basic basic cable along with internet service. That’s why they charge you more for your internet if you don’t subscribe to cable TV. In many parts of the country, you actually come out ahead if you “go legit” and actually subscribe to your basic cable TV.

    @Eury: I don’t quite get it. I get USA but Comcast has taken my MSNBC and placed it on digital. What gives?

    This is a separate issue. Comcast is moving channels off analog and onto digital as fast as they can in order to free up more spectrum on the coax coming into your house (digital channels take up far less frequency “space” than analog channels). They’re doing this to free up space to offer more HD channels, get ready for DOCSIS 3.0, etc.

    Great for the folks who subscribe to premium services, not so much for folks who only want the basics. Guess which group is more profitable.

    Of course, I want my HD and my faster internet, so I’m happy with this shift; it benefits me.

  59. harshmellow says:

    I would gladly pick only the channels I want to watch, even if it was a “pick 10” or “pick 20” type of plan.

    I read somewhere that the reason why the govt won’t force cable companies to offer a la carte plans is because of the religious channels. The owners of the religious channels know that many, if not MOST, people would dump these in a heartbeat. Fools like Pat Robertson and the like have such sway with legislators that they don’t “go there” and introduce a bill that allows us to choose the channels we want to pay for.

  60. catskyfire says:

    The catch to a la carte is that only the most popular channels would actually stay around. Which means if you like, say, the Sci-Fi network, it might vanish against the preferred demand for more football. Especially if Sci-Fi has a bad season.

    As for ‘I don’t want to flip through too many channels’. I can’t speak for your television, but on mine, I can deprogram stations. I haven’t seen Golf Network or Weather Channel, or shopping, for years.

  61. n/a says:

    Better change that “Discovery Health” to “Oprah Health” or whatever shes going to call the soon failed channel.

  62. TheUncleBob says:

    I’m confused.

    Everyone is all “I shouldn’t have to pay for channels I don’t want.”

    Yet, it’s my understanding that you don’t have to subscribe to cable or satellite in the first place.

    If you’re unhappy with the service you’re being provided, then stop giving them money. Unless enough people stand up and stop giving in, nothing will change.

    Those of you who are foolish enough to think the government will be able to stop this, you’re living in a fantasy world. If they even did stop the bundling, you’d just end up paying around the same price for less channels.

  63. eury says:

    @Corydon: Thanks for the info. Are you some sort of cable television insider?

    If so, tell the right hand man that I want to watch “To Catch A Predator” on all my televisions, not just my digital connected one.

  64. That70sHeidi says:

    First of all, if a channel can’t survive based on ala carte pricing, maybe it SHOULDN’T. Obviously it’s got some sort of faulty business model or programming model or whatever they call it in the industry. It’s either not appealing to enough consumers or it’s not advertising itself enough, or well enough. When shows can be bought or moved to another network to stay alive, why keep a whole channel around?

    Secondly, you CAN live without your “favorite” niche channel. I used to love Sundance, but when I stopped getting it, imagine that, life went on. Until I saw it on the list again, I’d forgotten about it.

    Would I pay to get it back? Sure, at per-channel pricing. Would I be willing to tier or bundle it? No.

    Whatever you’re watching just one show of, you’d be amazed to learn what you can live without. Seriously.

    With TV and movies on instant, cheap download from the internet I think cable needs to adapt or die. Per channel pricing should be the way to go but change is always hard. Maybe by the time I’m 50?

    What I’d like to see is the ability to make MONTHLY changes to your per-channel pricing. If you know Sundance is running something good the next three months, add it on. If you discover that FX isn’t as entertaining as you thought it was based on two shows, ditch it. If the cable companies charge a fee for these changes, I’m sure it’d make up for the cost of someone, somewhere, pressing a button on a computer.

  65. forever_knight says:

    if anyone wants a la carte and can live with an old fashioned big dish, then you can have a version of a la carte: [www.bigdish.com]

    i would love a la carte. i only watch 7 channels. paying $32 a month for that ability has been difficult, but paying $54 will be even more difficult when my discount expires in the next month or so. considering dropping to the basic channels at $12 a month.

    screw tv.

  66. Shiroiko says:

    I just want a minimal amount of cable and my Daily Show fix at a reasonable hour. Here in Toronto that means I have to go one level up from basic cable (so as to get The Daily Show at 11:30pm) and pay $60 a month. It’s nuts… I’d love to just have basic and pick one or two channels to add to it.

  67. fluiddruid says:

    As a cable non-subscriber, ala carte pricing would be the only way I would become a subscriber. The networks I want (Food Network, Comedy Central, etc.) aren’t on basic cable with my local provider, so I have to get an even higher plan. This simply doesn’t make sense for me; I’d rather just wait until the shows are on DVD and rent them all from Netflix (if I need more viewing material, a higher Netflix plan is much cheaper than cable… but 3 at a time is more than enough for me).

    I would consider less “desirable” channels if they were offered at a lower rate. It would be great if I could just go online and change around my channel lineup each month.

    It’ll never happen though. They want us to pay through the nose, even when programming sucks (summertime). No thanks, I’ll keep Netflix and save a great heaping wad of cash.

  68. JustAGuy2 says:


    Fox News would do fine in an a la carte world – they’ve got the best ratings. CNN would feel more of an effect, and Current TV would be toast, as would a lot of smaller channels: SciFi’s gone, BET’s history, so are Oxygen (most likely) and possibly Lifetime. TNT should be fine, as should TBS. ESPN would likely make even more money.

  69. forever_knight says:

    @catskyfire: yes, but that’s a good thing. i really don’t like subsidizing crap channels or any channel that i don’t watch. the APPEAL of a la carte and IPTV is great, but we aren’t quite there yet.

  70. nutbastard says:

    Comedy Central
    Cartoon Network
    Sci-Fi Channel

    I dont even scan anything else.

    Sucks though we just lost Comedy Central East on C-Band on the west coast. That makes me a sad panda – I used to be able to watch brand new south park at 7pm!

    BTW Satellite service is the same – all bundles.

  71. JPropaganda says:

    When I was living in Canada they had a specialized tier service. We got fewer channels for more expensive than I am currently paying for my ‘basic’ cable. I like having channel options, even if it’s channels I don’t think I’ll watch. I may not be interested in AMC at one point, but when they come out with Mad Men and Breaking Bad I’d be kicking myself.

    If you have to subscribe to every channel, advertising dollars will go down and exciting new series will never be attempted, or will be ignored. I’m no scifi geek, but Tin Man really interested me, for example. If I had my way I would have never ordered Bravo, and would not know the greatness that is Top Chef.

    There’s a good reason for bundling, and limiting the selection offered in “basic” seems like a terrible idea to me.

  72. Sir Winston Thriller says:

    I don’t want more choice; I want better shows.

  73. nutbastard says:

    Sci-Fi wouldn’t die, the people who watch it do so religiously.

    I miss the days when the channels you got depended on your level of ingenuity in augmenting your rabbit ears.

  74. BadBadKitty says:

    The thing that irks me most is that i pay for these channels , i want to see programming on them 24 hours , im a late nighter , after 2 am i can only choose from dozens of infomercials ,news or animals !
    I think i should be reimbursed for the 4-5 hours a night that they use my cable to advertise crap !

  75. GOKOR says:

    Though I’d like to say I want an a-la-carte programming service for cable TV, I can’t agree with it, not for myself anyway.

    I don’t watch a great deal of TV, but what I do watch generally ends up running the entire spectrum of what I currently am offered. I watch ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS, ESPN, Nickelodeon, MTV, Spike TV, MyNetwork, WB, FX, USA, Sc-Fi, CSN, Comedy Central, MSNBC, VH1, E!, HBO, Showtime, Fuse, IFC, Bravo, Versus, etc….

    So I watch way too many different stations to say I’d want to only pay for the channels I watch, because there’s a little of something for me on almost every channel.

    Now if this type of service were available for Sirius Radio, yeah, I’d choose it, because I listen to MAYBE 20 different channels.

  76. cyclade says:

    A la carte pricing ain’t gonna happen in any meaningful way until Congress steps in and amends the Communications Act to do away with local cable franchising. Because local franchising authorities tend to set the rules for your particular cable TV provider (or competing providers, if you’re in a pro-competition jurisdiction), there’s literally a crazy-quilt of services and pricing offered by various cable companies; even by the same company in adjacent municipalities. My city requires half a dozen “local access” channels (a waste of broadband and money if such a thing ever existed) and a U.N.’s worth of narrow-interest foreign language programming on the basic tier. Neither Verizon’s FiOS nor RCN want to comply with these requirements, so we’re stuck with Comcast or satellite dishes hanging from our apartment windows for video programming, whereas the neighboring towns a few blocks over offer both competing providers. I’d much rather not have to subsidize the “local access” hobbyists and foreign language programming just because I am paying to watch sports and movies at home. And now that I can get uncompressed HD on the major networks and PBS over the air with my 80s-era antenna, why should I have to pay extra because someone *requires* the cable system to carry (and pay for) that content?

  77. kc2idf says:


    I don’t want change, there is no way changing this will benefit customers it will make all tv service just go up as a whole.

    Price per channel would certainly go up, yes. I’m not convinced that the average cable bill would, though. Additionally, the costs to the cable/sat provider to carry all of these channels no-one wants would go away, and the market would dictate what got carried in their stead.

    I recently had to upgrade to get a channel I wanted and already had (National Geographic), because my provider wanted to move Fox Sports up a notch to make room for another sports channel. I don’t give a rats ass about sports, and I find it very irritating that this bundling/tying practice pushed me into an upgrade.

    Ultimately, it cost someone else, though, because I dropped premium channels to make up the difference in the bill.

  78. Pithlit says:

    @That70sHeidi: Why keep the channel around? Because not everyone wants to pander to the lowest common demoninator. That’s what network television is for, and that already exists for free. I choose to pay a high cable bill so I can get the niche channels I like. I’m willing to keep paying to do so if it means they have a better chance of surviving. Apparently so are a lot of other people, otherwise cable companies would be scrambling for customers and bundling would have failed. The main reason people move up to a higher tier is to get those niche channels. Niche channels that wouldn’t exist if cable were run like network television. I don’t understand the push to change cable to a ratings only popularity contest. We already have that. Either continue to pay into the current bundling system so you can enjoy your niche channels, or opt out and get basic cable and enjoy network programming. I pay for the system that allows my niche channels to exist, and so do all the other customers who’s tastes are different from mine. I think the whiners who want to destroy that system should cancel their cable and switch to ABC, NBC, CBS, etc. I’m sure many would happily sign right back on and pay for the selection of niche channels before too long.

  79. youbastid says:

    @harshmellow: Yes. I currently have over 10 religious channels, 15 shopping channels, and almost 20 Spanish language channels. I even have three Korean channels. I want none of them. I’m annoyed they’re even on my lineup, and I have to scroll through them.

  80. bigduke says:

    Do you honestly think for a second that the monopolies that are our cable companies would ever do anything to change their pricing that would be a benefit to the consumer?

    They are looking for ways to increase their revenues, not lower them…

  81. fuzzycuffs says:

    I would pay more if I could _NOT_ get Fox News.

    (actually of course I wouldn’t, but the idea of not even having Faux News sent to me is a nice thought)

  82. Daniel-Bham says:

    They would probably increase their revenues because I have no intention of purchasing crap I don’t watch. I watch ESPN, CSPAN, news channels, and maybe Comedy Central/Sci-Fi/History.

    Outside of that I have no intention of paying any money. So if I could get those for $30 a month instead of having to pay $50 for the whole deal – they’d be getting $30 a month instead of $0 a month from me.

    So – if enough consumers are like me, they will indeed fit this package because as-is they are getting $0 as opposed to $30 even though they really want $50. Better to get $30 than $0.

  83. crazyrenee says:

    I canceled my cable subscription for two years in protest over the fact that I could not get a la carte programming.

    I told Time Warner that I wanted *exactly two* channels — Showtime and HBO — and they quoted me a price that was higher than the bundled “package” of 1000+ channels.

    I agree with the comment above that media and cable companies will not voluntarily take this action. LET’S ALL BOYCOTT CABLE FOR ONE YEAR TO SEND A MESSAGE!

  84. PDX909 says:

    Netflix, PBS and PS3 that’s all I need..Fuck cable TV and the crappy quality, ad riddled, product embedded junk that they broadcast. I’m happier without it.

  85. dothedrewtoo says:

    if i could just get rid of the E! channel… that’s all i want, a world without E!

  86. Hoss says:

    I wonder what the cost would be if they took the internet approach and gave everthing to everyone. Seems to me that part of the cost of cable is the technology and labor it takes to provide customized access.

  87. puddleglum411 says:

    We all want the cable companies to “stand up to” the media companies, but I think we’re missing whats going on here. These groups are two parts of the same drug operation, and we are the addicts. They might occasionally fight over their cut of the profits, but they certainly aren’t going to change their basic business model as long as we keep coming back for a fix. We’re hoping they’ll sell us less product because we’re trying to cut back, but *they don’t want us to use less!* The only thing that’s going to get their attention is if we start quitting cold turkey.

    That being said, I use OTA digital TV exclusively, and I would love to be able to pay, say, $10/month just to supplement that with ESPN and ESPN2. Because man, I gotta have my college football fix!

  88. youbastid says:

    @Hossofcourse: Probably around $750 a month. That includes granting every single person access to every single camera that’s turned on at any given moment in the country.

  89. sleepydumbdude says:

    If my girlfriend didn’t watch food network then I’d drop cable all together and just buy the seasons of the shows I wanted on DVD which are less than 10. Most the shows I watch on cable are syndicated shows like Scrubs, King of Queens, and old Law and Order series. All of which I could buy 3-4 seasons of instead of my cable bill.

  90. Pithlit says:

    @Daniel-Bham: That’s the rub. “If there are enough customers like me”. If only a few people are paying to have History Channel, History Channel goes bye bye. Switching to an a la carte system effectively turns the whole shabang into a ratings race. We see what happens to our favorite niche programs when they debut on a ratings driven network channel. Part of the reason there is a cable system with all these neat channels like The History Channel and The Sci Fi channel is that it isn’t entirely driven by ratings. Ratings do play a part with cable shows as well, but not nearly to the extent they do on network television. The main reason people pay the big bucks for their cable packages is because the offerings are much more diverse than anything on the networks. We’d like to be able to continue doing so. If it isn’t worth it to you to pay extra so you can have The History Channel, that’s fine. But, apparently there are enough of us that do, for the niche channels that we like. A lot of people who pay for those packages and think they want a la carte would probably mourn the days when cable wasn’t just another version of the crap on network TV if they get their way.

  91. UnnamedUser says:

    Why subscribe at all?

    Why not pay by the hour?
    Maybe by the hour with price by show?

    My TV bill would be about $10/month then.

    Never happen.

  92. giggitygoo says:

    Why do all these forums go off topic onto politics? We don’t care what you think of Fox News or Current TV.

    If nothing else, I’d like to see regulatory changes made to stop media companies from forcing packages. At least we might see some savings from satellite/cable competition that way. (Although we’d all be better off if there were more TV providers to choose from)

  93. youbastid says:

    @Pithlit: I don’t understand why people are upset about this whole “But my Sub Saharan Africa Documentary channel will go away!!!”

    If not enough demand is created to keep a channel afloat, then the channel probably shouldn’t exist in the first place. The only reason it does exist is so the parent company could force it to be bundled with a bigger channel and extort more money from the cable company. You will see me playing the world’s smallest violin on the day “CMT Pure Country” goes dark.

  94. tasselhoff76 says:

    I just cannot imagine that this will be beneficial to the consumer. I just imagine the cable companies charging extra money. I think if it’s good for big business, it’s probably not good for me.

  95. dahnEyE says:

    Oh the CRTC has been doing that in Canada for years, they call it “Linkage Rules” e.g. If you want HD Discovery you need to get a bunch of SDTV channels (which I personally would never use) before that can happen which doesn’t seem to make sense to me somehow… but I guess it’s how they protect the cable companies from getting screwed by the customer, god forbid we pay for what we want and get it… so just grab your ankles and smile…

  96. Chigaimasmaro says:

    A change to the current system to an “a la carte” system would probably make us go from being spanked by the cable and corporate companies to being completely sodomized by them. If they offered those channels, then it will be at a per channel price or some ridiculous per tier pricing. Remember… these people are out to make MONEY… which doesn’t include pleasing the people they are selling their services to.

  97. Jamie Beckland says:

    @HRHKingFriday: Why would more diversity on each channel be nice? I thought the whole point of narrowcasting was to target that niche audience.

  98. Pithlit says:

    @youbastid: Why? Why should that channel not exist? There are people who tune in and enjoy watching it. There is value in a niche market, and there is value to a wide variety of niches that bundled together appeal to a broad audience. The channel should exist, and it should exist because its disappearance means one less channel and less variety. enough variety disappears, and you’ve basically lost the reason you picked cable over plain old ratings based network tv.

    There is value in buying into that variety so you can watch those niche channels, even if you don’t watch every single one of them. That’s what higher tier cable is about. If you just want to watch the popular shows that exists to appeal to the broadest audience possible, why not save your money and just get basic cable for the network channels?

  99. Buckler says:

    “If not enough demand is created to keep a channel afloat, then the channel probably shouldn’t exist in the first place.”

    Right. Because personal preferences are irrelevant, and programming that appeals to other-than-mainstream tastes should simply die on the vine. This attitude is what led to “Dancing With the Stars” and “Your-Favorite-Humiliate-This-Week’s-Loser-And-Exclude-Them-From-The-Group” shows.

  100. vermontwriter says:

    For me, it is all the home shopping channels. I counted them this morning – Dish Network added a couple new ones in my area.

    I now have 14 home shopping channels. Two of them are repeated in the lower numbers as well. I can’t imagine anyone needs that many channels!

    My other beef are all the religious channels. I understand that somewhere they have viewers, but I’m not one of them and all 8 seem like a huge waste of space.

  101. Trai_Dep says:

    It’s remarkable how similar the bundled tier model is to the “buy 10 crappy songs on a music CD to get 2 good songs” model that the music labels strapped us to until recently.

    And BOY, did that work out for the music industry or WHAT?

    > Give consumers what they want, at reasonable prices, or watch your business evaporate.

    And, I have less problems (problems, but LESS) with similarly-positioned channels on a tier than the forced genre programming. I’d like to nuke all Family stuff (no kids), all Fox stuff (no starched brown shirts in closet), sports stuff (I play, not watch), no religious stuff (not into buying preachers’ Rolls Royces or seeing a President Huckabee) or shopping (I don’t buy crap).

    Which is a related problem, but different.

  102. Jamie Beckland says:

    @LionelEHutz: I second that. Or, rather, I ocho that.

  103. highpitch_83 says:

    The cable companies could make a KILLING if they switched to a la carte services like iTunes and XBOX Live.

    I’ve lived without cable for over 2 years now and only watch what’s available on DVD, through iTunes or on my 360. I did a price comparison between my current media consumption and the equivilant if I had cable and it comes out about the same (around $60/mo) PLUS I get the benefits of:
    – no commercials
    – only being exposed to programming that is of the highest quality or entertainment value (based off reviews, recommendations, etc… and if I’m unsure I can just rent it)
    – no “hidden fees”, rate hikes, channel package changes, annual contract, etc…
    – I can back everything up on DVD or an external HDD to take with me (WITHOUT paying for TiVo)

    And most importantly: I’m ALWAYS in control (priceless)

  104. Pithlit says:

    @Buckler: Exactly. What I was trying to say, but much more succinct. If a customer isn’t watching any of the niche channels, then why are they getting cable to begin with? If they only want to watch one or two niche channels that appeal to them, they’re going to have to buy into the bundle that allows them to exist in the first place. You have to pay for x channel that you don’t like, but watchers of x channel are paying for your channel y, too, even though they don’t watch it. It all comes out in the wash.

  105. JustAGuy2 says:


    You’d still get all the shopping channels – they actually pay the cable and satellite companies for carriage.

  106. Buckler says:


    Which, unfortunately, is I why I suffer from a certain amount of cognitive dissonance regarding the whole issue.

  107. edrift101 says:

    I would love to be able to opt-out of paying for Fox News. :)

  108. D.B. Cooper-Nichol says:

    @TheUncleBob: Amen, Uncle. (Increased) government regulation will only screw this system up worse.

    And while I’m thankful for the advice from the “turn it off and liiiiiivvvveee, maaaannn” crowd, their point does make sense for those who don’t want to watch FOX News – don’t most cable boxes let you block unwanted channels?

  109. Siegeman says:

    As much as I’d love for that to be the practice, I shudder in fear thinking of the problems that would bring up with Comcast:

    “Hello, I just turned on my TV and all I have is Oxygen and the Home Shopping Network”
    “Sir, according to our records, that’s what you ordered. If you want to change your plan, it will be a one time fee of $59.95, and a technician will be there in five to ten weeks to perform the swap.”

  110. youbastid says:

    @Buckler: Uh, yeah. It’s my “personal preference” that doesn’t want a cable package designed to have something for everyone but offers very little to anyone. I don’t necessarily think that every channel should be a la carte. I DO think that basic cable shouldn’t have 130 channels that I have to pay $60 for, or no cable at all. If I want one niche channel and have to pay $5 for a bundle of them, fine. But don’t make me pay for MULTIPLE religious, shopping, and Spanish channels that I want NONE of.

  111. HappyPig says:

    We gave up cable and have been watching the free TED Talks on iTunes! The best 20 minutes of culture/education/entertainment out there.

  112. youbastid says:

    @Buckler: I know, my attitude totally destroyed TV. It’s not because Networks discovered they could make tons of money by not paying actors or writers. Because Bravo isn’t overloaded with shitty reality shows or anything.

    And too bad my attitude destroyed shows like 30 Rock. Yeah, I mean, there’s nothing on TV at all anymore because everyone wants Dancing with the Stars.

  113. theblackdog says:

    With the way the system is now and the outrageous pricing from Comcast for anything beyond the broadcast networks and public broadcasting channels, it’s why I did not bother to order cable when I moved into my new apartment.

    Netflix, DSL, and Bittorrent FTW!

  114. Aston14 says:

    My concern is that if it went on a channel by channel basis, the cost might go up. I would gladly pay ESPN $1 a month for their channel, but not $10.
    However, if it went totally ala carte, and lets say half of the cable subscribers went for it, ESPN would have to charge a hell of a lot more than $10 a month to recoup the lost costs.
    Plus I like Really small channels like Discovery Times that no one else would probably pay for, and thus go out of business. Boo!

  115. aureolin says:

    Gotta love all the sad sack, self-centered “I hate it so no one should be able to see it” comments.

    Get off the couch and you might discover (much to your horror!) that not only are you not alone on this continent, most people are not like you. They actually have likes and dislikes completely different from yours!!

    I know, I know, it’s quite a stretch for you to believe that at this point. Trust me, it’s true. Go outside and check for yourself.

  116. Imakeholesinu says:

    I just wish that they would stop advertising 150 or 250 channels when 75 of those channels are QVC clones. Tier those to TV Spam.

  117. thefncrow says:

    A-la carte pricing would lower rates for those who look to buy only 3-4 channels. For people looking to keep 15-20, you’d pay about the same rate as you do today for this much more limited selection, and for anyone looking for what you have today, your rate would shoot so far through the roof as to be prohibitive.

    For a good example, there’s been a lot of complaining about the shopping channels. The shopping channels typically don’t charge a rate to be carried, but are instead paying to be carried. Choosing to drop these channels from your lineup would actually increase your bill, rather than decrease it. Having those shopping channels means a lower bill for you, and it does NOT mean that you’re paying for them, but rather that they are paying for you to have either cheaper rates or more channels available, in the hope that you might watch and buy something from them.

    Niche channels like Sci-Fi don’t charge much of a fee, but their small fee is precisely because it’s bundled with other, more popular networks, like USA, who are owned by the same company. The fees for those channels would skyrocket under an a-la carte system, and the high fees would likely mean that so few people are willing to pay that much for the channel that the channel eventually goes under.

    Sure, if you don’t like arts and crafts, you’re subsidizing the arts and crafts channels you don’t like. But somewhere out there, there’s someone on your cable system who’s a fan of the arts and crafts channels, but isn’t a fan of the history channels that you like, and they’re subsidizing those channels for you. By keeping a wide base subscribed to a wide variety of channels, everyone gets the best rates. Once you lose that, rates will go up on everyone across the board.

    A-la carte pricing would be a disaster if you value the wide range of programming available on cable. If you just want safe, sterile programming for the masses, stick to the networks or the most basic of basic cable lineups, and leave the pricing scheme for the rest alone for those of us who enjoy having a range of programming available.

  118. Pithlit says:

    @youbastid: I think the difference is we just look at it differently. I see the channels I want, and I look at what they want to charge me for it. If the price is one I’m willing to pay, I pay it. The existence of those other channels don’t diminish the value of the channels I like. I can just block them and pretend they don’t exist. It’s possible that if the cable company bundled them with fewer channels I might pay less, but that’s no guarantee. If cable companies go a la cart, they’ll just charge higher prices for the channels to make up for the lost revenue. I’ll probably end up paying just as much as before but get fewer channels, and the channels I like go belly up because they weren’t popular. I think it’s well worth it to just watch the channels I like and ignore the rest.

  119. Leiterfluid says:

    Is the air that much thinner up there on your high horse?

  120. UpsetPanda says:

    A la Carte programming is only great in the idea that everyone gets to watch what they want, but it won’t work that way. Networks need people to watch other channels they own because they need to promote a brand, not just a particular channel. I hate univision and the other spanish channels…I’d love to get rid of them, but I have a feeling that they’d just charge more in the long run to offer fewer channels.

  121. zimzombie says:

    Disney Toon HD? Huh?

  122. insomniac8400 says:

    If you want: USA
    You get: MSNBC, CNBC, Sci Fi, Comedy Central, Bravo, Olympics surcharge

    If you want: Discovery Channel
    You get: FitTV, Animal Planet, TLC, Travel, BBC America, Discovery Kids, Science Channel, Discovery Channel, Discovery Health, Discovery Home

    Looks good from here, how do I drop the others?

  123. ironchef says:

    The idiots at the old Adelphia once told me they were happy to announce an “upgrade”…

    They canceled my HBO2 and HBO3 and gave me the Home Shopping Network and the Disney Channel instead.

    Those bastards.

  124. bglickstein says:

    I was a cable TV addict, and after years of planning to, I finally quit cold turkey as I urge you to do.

    There were a few short weeks of withdrawal symptoms, but apart from having to go to a friend’s house to see the occasional live sporting event, and not seeing episodes of Lost or Prison Break until a few months after they’ve aired (when I can get them from Netflix), I now never look back. And I’ve got $100+ more in my checking account each month.

    In fact when I do see ordinary commercial TV these days, it’s kinda hard to take, what with the commercials, the breathless news teasers, the ticker at the bottom of the screen and the logos and icons in the corners. Even if you’re a savvy media consumer you can’t completely tune that stuff out, and after you’e been out of the constant barrage for a while you realize how accustomed you’d let yourself get to its noxious presence, like an ex-smoker finally realizing how much his clothes have been stinking all along.

    Add to that the various ways in which the big media companies are screwing with our democracy and I wouldn’t give them my money even if I wanted to.

    You couldn’t pay me to go back! Try it for a month yourself. If you really can’t live without cable, don’t worry: your provider will be clamoring to get your business back, sending you better and better discount offers. But my guess is you’ll throw ’em right in the trash like I do and wonder what ever took you so long.

  125. youbastid says:

    @Pithlit: Well let me put it this way. I pay $90 a month for basic cable with HBO and the HD tier. HBO costs $12 a month. The 2 boxes cost $16 a month total. HD tier costs $5. That means I’m paying $57 for basic cable.

    Back in the day, basic cable meant basic cable. You didn’t pay much, and you didn’t get much. Now you have to pay more, and you end up with a lot more, most of it garbage. Instead, what if I could pay $20 for basic cable that included maybe 30 channels and take it from there?

    Again, I don’t mind paying $5 for a bundle of channels – that’s closer to a la carte pricing than anything else – it’s the absence of choice when it comes to buying a basic cable package.

  126. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    I think the cable industry is telling a bunch of lies and half truths. It’s not hard to offer an a-la-carte system with tiered pricing, especially with digital cable. The forced bundling from the content providers is just an excuse. What’s really going on here is that the cable companies set a profit margin they would like to hit. So they do the math and do a little reverse accounting to see how much to charge you in monthly fees. “Sure you’re paying $100+ a month for cable, but look at all the great channels you’re getting! Over 250 digital channels, and 50 music channels. That’s like paying $3 per channel! It’s a better bargain than a-la-carte because you get more for your money!” Umm.. sure.

    I’ve been cable-free for over a year. I miss certain shows and channels. But most networks are providing their shows on their website for free. And most shows are released on DVD after the season is over. And then there’s bit torrent. Thank goodness for the internet! :-)

  127. HOP says:

    i’ll add my two cents…..i would like to be able to choose my channels……if we could choose, the broadcasters would probably have to up the quality of their offerings cause of the competetion for our buck….

  128. feckineejit says:

    I would like to opt out of paying for CMT, FAUX NEWS, QVC, GOD CHANNELS 1-25, LOS ESTACIONES ESPANOL, BET, ETC, ETC. there are 8 or 9 cable channels I actually watch, and would love ala carte cable to get rid of the 130 I DON’T WATCH, EVER.

  129. HOP says:


  130. primechuck says:

    The reason for it is you’re not really paying for the number of channels, you’re paying for the network as a whole. Disney channel is an ABC network, so you get the other channels owned by ABC. If that wasn’t they case be prepared for the Disney channel and ESPN to jump up in price.

    Frankly, requiring Ala Carte programming is stupid, but they should offer it. However, don’t be surprised if getting just the Disney channel is 90% the cost of getting the Disney channel package. And also be prepaired for no new networks to appear without major hassle and some networks with niche viewership but high subscribership disappear. Poor Sci-Fi Channel.

    If you really want to learn about Cable TV pricing, read into the NFL Network vs. Time Warner battle and read up on Time Warner being a utility and Content provider.

  131. JJ910 says:

    Pretty simple . . . . having dealt with these dinosours before. Because we allow them to. Because the CEO’s of these companies are major contributors to presidential campaigns.

    I know . . . . Its all Bush’s fault! That’s it. It’s all because of Bush.

  132. Geekybiker says:

    The thing with niche channels is that with bundling there is enough money spread around to support a number of niche channels. You may only be interested in a couple of them, but others watch the other niche channels. You figure that having that small group of channels is worth it or you wouldn’t be upgrading. So what happens when you go ala carte? You have the same pool of people interested in the same number of niche channels, but now instead of paying $15 a month for 20 more channels, you’re paying that same $15 for 3 more channels. After all we dont honestly expect ala carte to reduce the cost of channels. So what is the reaction to this? quite a few of the people who were happy paying $15 for 20 channels think “hmmm $15 for 3 channels isn’t worth it” Never mind the fact that they only watch those 3 anyways. Overall subscriber base drops more to to precieved value than actual value to any single person. So cost has to go up making the problem even worse, or the channels just drop entirely.

    Just saying that more than likely if you like things other than the most popular channels there is a good chance that ala carte will be bad for you. Even if you only like the most popular channels I’m betting your overal rate wont change much as they will be priced to be revenue neutral.

  133. @bladefist: I would pay for that. I would even pay for a package where I get 10 channels for $15 but I only get to pick, say, 8 of them, and the cable co. gets to decide what the other two are. So if I’ve got half the Discovery suite, they could either plonk in a couple more Discovery suite channels to try to get me hooked on them to buy them, or competitors who want to accurately target my watching habits and get me to buy competing Discovery-type channels.

  134. Jamie Beckland says:

    @UnnamedUser: This is a realistic option with Netflix and iTunes TV store…far from never happening, it has already happened.

  135. BlackHailFire says:

    One dollar per channel would suit me. Hell even channel packages in smaller tiers would suit me as long as it was reasonable. I’ve been thinking about this for a few months now. I currently get 70 some odd channels with Charter extended basic mainly to get the ones listed in the Discovery channel tier in the post.

  136. TimHare says:

    I assume the channels required also differ depending upon your cable carrier (since some of the examples don’t work for Comcast in my neighborhood).

    Here’re some related questions: would you pay for each individual show (or channel) to have it donwloaded to your local device (PC, Tivo, whatever)? How much per month? What about accepting advertising within that download? Even if it’s theoretically non-skippable?

    If so, then perhaps the producers of content can be enticed to offer more shows that way.

  137. Tracy Ham and Eggs says:

    Whats everyones problem with Fox News? They seem about as biased as every other news network.

    Is it just they arent biased the same way you whiners are?

    As for the Shopping and Religious channels, I actually think they pay the cable networks to be on the basic tier, so if the companies let you cut them you would probably wind up paying more.

  138. feckineejit says:

    These are the cable channels I watch

    Lifetime (for Will & Grace and Frasier)
    Weather Channel
    History Channel
    Cartoon Network
    Discovery Channel
    Comedy Central
    G4 TV
    BBC America

    ok, so 15 not 8 or 9, but still If I pay 5 bucks a month for each channel I’m ahead.

  139. lemur says:

    I’m not convinced by the arguments against going à la carte. The movie industry’s model is à la carte. I’ve never heard anyone wish that they’d be sold bundles of movies instead of tickets only for the movies they want to see. Ditto for books: you get the book you want rather than have to buy a bundle that contains the book you want. And in fact, the music industry is moving from a bundle model to an à la carte model because people don’t want to pay for a whole album if they like only one song on there. Hmm… if I really just want one song should I pay $15 for the whole album or $1 for the song I want? How is it different for channels?

  140. freqhz says:

    i wouldn’t believe what either of them said
    (force of habit with cable company)

  141. Pithlit says:

    @youbastid: I agree with you there. I’d have no problem with a cable company offering true basic cable again. Some places still have it. I know we could get a very basic, bare bones cable for very cheap if we wanted to. My point is just that those niche channels are premium because there is a limited appeal individually for each channel. Even HBO is a bit more premium and niche than, say, NBC. The point of anything beyond basic is to have those special, premium niche channels, and to have more variety beyond basic television. If we want to have a choice among a lot of very different channels, we have to pay extra for that. People seem to want to just pick one or two in order to save money, ignoring the fact that premium cable tv really is a sort of collective. You buy in, and watch the channels you want and ignore the rest. It was always like that. No one has ever watched every single channel available, even when there was only one group that everyone watched. They’ve been able to grow and add channels that are even narrower, which is what led to tier programming. But cable has always been an appealing alternative because it offers a broader range of quality programming you can’t get on network TV. It’s always been a place to go for people who have tastes that don’t run to the mainstream.

    I’m not a shill for cable companies by any means. They pretty much suck, and if it weren’t for two or three niche channels I like, I’d dump them. But, I do like the ability to buy those channels for the quality programming they offer, and I’d hate to see them ditched because the whole system went the way of network TV. I’m willing to buy into a collective group of channels in order to get it.

  142. UpsetPanda says:

    Quit cold turkey? TV? Horror!

  143. youbastid says:

    @Tracy Ham and Eggs: The difference between Fox News and every other news channel is that Fox News tries to pass its opinionated rants off as news, and oftentimes blatantly fudges facts and makes up sources.

    Keith Olbermann is considered an editorial program, and everyone knows it. People watch Bill O’Reilly like it was news.

  144. com132 says:

    I know that the cable companies actually detest when the larger media companies (i.e. Discovery Networks) pull the “You have to offer the Discovery XXX Channel in order to get the actual Discovery Channel at a rate that won’t be outrageous” bit. I have been in many a meeting where the blow ups were quite huge. The only saving grace is that some companies will allow them to put them on higher digital tiers so that all consumers will not have to pay for it – only the ones that want it. Cable companies have been fighting the fight for years about this, and there have been many public disputes over this (Big 10, Disney).

    I believe that the a la carte option would not be channel by channel, but groups of channels that are offered by the same company as outlined in the article. This would be the only way that the media companies would not loose their less popular channels.

    PS – when I left the cable company, I actually ditched cable all together and now have a set of rabbit ears! My life is so much simpler.

  145. tulanejosh says:

    I dont want the change. While I might only watch 20 – 30 channels regularly, i like the freedom to find new programming on channels as well. I dont want to be locked into watching the same channels forever.. That’s like saying, Im only going to eat pizza for the rest of my life. My fees aren’t that exhorbitant in the first place, so its really not a big deal.

  146. borednowtoo says:

    Good grief. It’s hard enough to get my cable company to give me the correct services and bill me for what I ordered now. They would never get me subscribed to the individual channels I selected and change the correct amount for them if there were that many options. The idea is fine, but the endless hours on the phone trying to get them to turn on BBC America and stop charging me for Animal Planet would never be worth it.

  147. Pithlit says:

    @lemur: The problem with comparing other forms of entertainment that aren’t traditionally bundled together to begin with is that it’s an entirely different system. Those media have never been bundled together so that there was only one way you could access them. The movie industry, and books, and music have all tradionally been offered individually. They also suffer somewhat from the mainstream effect, where product that appeals to a narrower audience tends to get shortchanged, but not nearly to the extent that network TV has. Before cable, there was only one way you could watch TV shows. You couldn’t go to a different television that offered different channels. All TVs showed the same few channels, and if you didn’t like anything on it you were out of luck. That wasn’t really ever the case with movies, music or books. Cable allowed for a much broader variety of television, and still does. Network TV is still stuck in the same ratings based mode it always has been from the beginning, and its offerings are still mostly mainstream with broad appeal.

    Cable can offer a wider variety than network TV because they don’t have to rely entirely on ratings for any one of its individual channels. They can keep carrying the niche channels that they wouldn’t otherwise because the small viewership is made up for in revenues that are spread out. A la cart basically lets customers vote with their dollars and becomes another ratings system, and cable companies will indeed dump the channels with smaller viewership. There’s no incentive for them not to. They’ll just hike the prices on the remaining popular channels. So, we’ll all pay pretty much the same, but have far less choice. That is why a la cart is a bad idea to anyone that values a broader range of choices outside the mainstream. And I could be wrong, but I think a major reason why people get cable is because they want something that network TV doesn’t offer. Why dump a system that allows for a broad range of choices for one that offers fewer, for little or no financial gain?

  148. wcbjr says:

    I’ll stick with my Pansat to test all the channels I want, when I want, how I want.

  149. maristcf1 says:

    Just a couple of comments. First, I worked for a large cable channel for 4 years dealing with the contracts that they made with the cable carriers so I am well aware of the issues above. For the most part they are true, many channels try to bundle, but the media company doesn’t have to accept those terms and can still carry the channel. As an example I have Comcast expanded basic cable. I receive ESPN and ESPN2, and no other ESPN channels. According to the article above in order to get ESPN, I have to get all of them, NOT TRUE! Check your own tv, its probably similar. As far as going a la carte or something like that the only thing I have to offer that debate is this example. Fox News Channel charges 0.01 or 0.02 cents a subscriber (public information and may be slightly higher now). Lets say it goes a la carte, and you want that channel, now for Fox to make ends meet instead of charging pennies they charge you $5.00 (bc far fewer people want the channel than actually get it now). And for arguments sake, lets say all channels cost $5.00 (a la carte), now you want the 13 most “desirable” channels, your now spending $65 a month, which is a little more than an average expanded basic cable package. So for a little more money you’ll only get 13 channles instead of 60-70. This all before you figure in HD, DVR’s, On Demand… Just some food for thought.

  150. tje4fun says:

    We will eventually get to completely ala carte programming. Get away from ‘channels’ all together. A lot of people watch shows on dvd or pay per watch on the internet anyway. If you do this, you don’t even need cable or the networks. Much the way youtube works except with more defined pathways to make navigation easier.
    Watching shows on the internet (with much improved speed, quality and reliability) is the future of television.

  151. kawika says:

    Channels? Entertainment conglomerates must hate people like those in my house. We have favorite shows, to be sure, but my wife couldn’t tell you what channels played them. TiVo, iTunes and Netflix take care of shows and movies we want, when we want, without the hassle of worrying about the channel. In the future, sponsors might save some shows as channels become increasingly irrelevant. You can see it happening today with Top Chef (Glad), American Idol (Coke, Ford), 30 Rock (Verizon), The Office (Staples) and others. Products placements are just the start. In a few years I expect the sponsors will take over, just like college bowls. Great ready for The Texaco Star Theater or The Colgate Comedy Hour.

  152. The Cynical Librarian says:

    My wife and I lived for a few years never worrying about paying for cable until we purchased the “Basic” lineup for 12 bucks a month (this was for many reasons, most notably, it gave us a $10 discount on our internet, and where our house was situated, no channels would come in over the broadcast airwaves).
    When we did this; the rogue cable operative, hooked up the standard cable channels (this was through Comcast, and I have my theories as to why he may have done this). We didn’t ask him to, he just did it, commented on my Kevin Smith movie collection and left. We enjoyed about 9 channels of the cable package, and then one day it went off and we only had the basic channels.
    You really don’t miss it after about 2 days. Plus; I really enjoy watching “Corner Gas” on WGN
    For 12 bucks a month we get all local channels (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CW) plus TBS, WGN, ABC Family, the Discovery Channel, CSPAN, and random crap stations that no one watches (EWTN anyone?).
    That’s a pretty decent little lineup and more than you’ll ever really need.

  153. jussathought says:

    My question for the media/distribution companies is: How many commercial-free channels do I get ? The answer is NONE. That mean I’m paying for something that’s already paid for unless the ‘content’ distributors are really stupid. So the basic bundle is mainly the pre-paid channels, maybe with more commercial interruption, that play repeats of previously aired content. I think it also means that ‘content’ creation and distribution is just a circular process for getting subscriber money… the sure sign of non-competitive monopoly.

  154. mandarin says:

    Can I get rid of all that MTV, VH1 crap? Also any channel with reality shows…

  155. Brian Gee says:

    That long list of Discovery tack-ons is insane. It particularly bugs me because while I actually like some of Discovery’s shows, I don’t like how they dilute the content to fill 10 channels.

    For example, on Mythbusters (or really any Discover show), each segment goes something like this:

    – The narrator recaps everything that has happened so far
    – The hosts discuss what they’ve done
    – They do the next step
    – Narrator gives a “coming up next” teaser
    – Go to commercials (most of which are for other shows on one of the bundled networks. To me that suggests that they aren’t able to sell their existing adspace, so why make 4x as much? But I digress).

    After the commercial, the cycle repeats. In the end, the show has maybe 15 minutes of interesting content, but they pad, recap, tease, and repeat it until they fill an hour (OK, 45 minutes not counting commercials). What should be a half hour show is stretched to an hour. They double their amount of programming for free.

    Then spill it over to create a new channel, and force the cable cos to bundle it. Ad infinitem.

    Meanwhile shows become watered down versions of themselves, barely worth watching without a DVR to skip over the filler.

    iTunes TV downloads are looking more and more appealing every day.

  156. artki says:

    Ala Carte, baby. I bet there are dozens of channels that would wind up only charging 25 cents a month. Competition WORKS.

  157. Libertariot says:

    Off the topic just a bit, but calling Fox News “Faux News” makes you about as clever and hip as the other thousands of people who say it as well.

  158. Pithlit says:

    @artki: Why would they bother offering a channel for 25 cents a month? They wouldn’t. They would just cancel it and charge more for the rest of the channels. Competition is exactly why it’s 99% crap on network TV and drives us to get cable in the first place. TV shows on network tv are in huge competition with each other, and have to appeal to the broadest audience. Anything remotely innovative or interesting gets beat in the competition because it narrows the appeal. Why would we introduce that same competition to cable TV? We end up with fewer channels and higher cable bills after all that compeition. No thanks.

    Sorry for the repeat posts, but I’m really having a hard time understanding why this idea appeals to people. Do you really think they’ll just let you have whatever channels you want and pay less? These are cable companies we’re talking about. In fact, I bet they love this idea, and it’s the content providers that are keeping them from doing it. This would be a huge boon for them. Offer fewer channels and charge everyone more for them. When people start crying that their favorite channel got shitcanned because not enough people wanted it, they won’t even care.

  159. biggeek says:

    Personally, I would be happy enough if the cable box let me remove the 100 or so shopping, religious, spanish and infomercial channels from the on-line guide so I wouldn’t have to scroll through all of that bullshit in the first place.

  160. Techdirt.com has a lot about this. Everyone should check it out.

  161. JustAGuy2 says:

    You must have been out of the inudstry for a while. Fox News is $0.60-0.70/sub/month in most markets, and they’re getting about $1/sub/month in renewal contracts.

    Also, ESPN2 isn’t carried in analog on most systems, but there are very few out there that carry ESPN that don’t carry 2 on digital.

  162. Sean Robertson says:

    Ironically, the channels bundled with the Discovery Channel are actually better than the Discovery Channel itself.

  163. Joafu says:

    This is exactly what I do; no cable, just the box seasons. I really wish the ACA would consider this problem with a more serious attitude, though.

  164. quail says:

    Surprised that no one’s mentioned that the number one subsidized group of channels are the sports channels. I once read somewhere that if you could opt out of the ESPN lineup your bill would easily drop 1/4. Apparently the basic and standard cable tiers help to offset the costs from the people who get the sports packages. If those people were forced to pay for the true cost of their sports they’d never be able to afford it.

  165. majortom1981 says:

    Why is everybody bashing just the cablecompanies, dish network, direct tv,att,and verizon fios tv does the same thing.

  166. BStu says:

    I have no idea why people don’t think the cable companies won’t STILL find a way to screw customers. Heck, they have the perfect example in how to in what they deal with from the media companies.

    You want a la carte? Fine. But they won’t be priced the same. You want ESPN? Well, that’ll cost you some more. But, since you’re already paying so much for ESPN, why not get the ESPN package of channels for a little bit more.

    Getting just the core channels will end up costing about the same as Basic cable does now. But you’ll get NO interesting or niche channels around it. So, you’ll pay the same for less product. All so you could have “choice”. As soon as they realize what a racket this is, they’ll eliminate full packages like they have now and force everyone to buy a la carte because it’ll be designed to further maximize revenue.

    No thanks. I think the current system is fine and anyone who thinks it *would* be improved through a la carte are unrealisticly optimistic. And probably dirty hippies.

  167. FilthyHarry says:

    I torrent any programs I want to see, and with no commercials! TV industry gets nothing from me.

    And it feels good.

  168. Tracy Ham and Eggs says:

    @FilthyHarry: Great. You are being subsidized by the rest of us. If everyone was like you we would get no original programming ever.

    Everyone else who is yelling “TORRENTS” as if they are the best solution, you are stealing. You are getting your TV for free, but the programs still cost the same amount to produce and distribute. If more people were like you you could kiss those shows you download goodbye, since there would be no profit in it for the networks.

  169. clyde55 says:

    @CurbRunner: I blocked Fox out on my Satellite Dish just so I wouldn’t even have to go past it when channel browsing. It would be the first channel I would drop.

  170. angelcake88 says:

    Cablevision keeps taking away stations for people without the box. But I refuse to pay extra just for Soapnet which I had previously gotten included. Bring on ala carte and I can get rid of all these blocks of Spanish stations that I don’t watch nor understand.

  171. soke2001 says:

    Hm, how about all those GOD channels with preachers and ppl fainting… am I paying for that?

  172. HRHKingFriday says:

    @WillScarlett: Because then there’s more of a chance you’ll enjoy all those channels you’re paying for. I used to hate bravo, but since they diversified their lineup, I’ve found great shows like Top Chef and Real Housewives (ok, really great trashy shows… but whatever). Wouldn’t it be great if FX had more than a couple really good shows? Or at least re-ran a variety of shows during the off-peak times?

  173. HeartBurnKid says:

    I’d kill to be able to drop TBN and all the other religious channels.

    However, I have a sneaking feeling that Food Network would die if a la carte pricing went into effect, and I need my Alton Brown fix.

  174. sketec says:

    I can think of a likely reason. Greed.

  175. inkhead says:

    Very simple, just make the DVR interface have a delete channel button… Then the cable company can pass the buck, saying they aren’t in control of the OS…

  176. screwthat says:

    Wanna tick ’em off? Call them and cancel. When they ask why just speak those three little letters: FTA. They hate that.

  177. inkhead says:

    Wait I could get rid of any fox television? Please dear God let me be able to delete every channel owned by Fox :-)

  178. Corydon says:

    @eury: lol…I wish I could help you out.

    Everything I posted is freely available on the internet if you look in the right place. I’ve just taken an interest in educating myself about how the system works. But I’m kind of screwy like that…my idea of a fun way to pass the time is learning about things like SS7 and HFC networks just because I like knowing how the technology works, at least at some level :)

  179. dissolution says:

    I live in Quebec. I have à la carte cable. If this exists in the heavily regulated Canadian broadcast industry I don’t get why it would be impossible in the US.

  180. MercuryPDX says:

    @Pithlit: While I can definitely see your side, I really don’t think cable providers would be quick too dump any niche channels offered Ala Carte. They offer even the most panned movies through On Demand, and people still get them. Even porn stations fare better as “24 hours for $12.95” than as tiered offerings.

    Every niche channel would always have SOME following that I’m sure a revised pricing structure could accommodate. An extra $5 to $10 a month per channel is $60 to $120 a year more in their pockets, than $0. Even a station with as little as 1000 viewers in a given city/system is sustainable.

    As to people being locked in with no reason for expanding: I remember way back when the cable company used to offer “Free HBO Weekends” in an effort to get people to upgrade. If cable companies would reserve 10-15 stations for new and current offerings to be shown in a similar fashion, people will buy and add them.

  181. drjayphd says:

    @braindesign: (crosses off box on Consumerist Meme Bingo card)

    Sweet, I’m just one “CREDIT UNIONS!” away from bingo.

    Also, what if you actually do watch some of the bundled-in channels? I mean, I probably watch the Discovery-bundled channels more than Discovery Channel proper. And these bundles can’t be that binding, as I get Fox Sports, but no Fox Reality, Big Ten Channel, etc. (although we do get Fuel and Fox Soccer channel, we don’t get ANYTHING else in that bundle). Does Cox just have incriminating pictures of the Ailes clan?

  182. awa64 says:

    They could always just offer ala carte pricing and force the bundled ones together. Set up some kind of online order form to automatically calculate the dependancies, and just let us pick and choose what we want as long as the dependancies are met.

    Let the cable companies make the media companies’ annoying bundling transparent. If enough people decide they’re willing to forego, say, the Disney channel to not have to pay for ESPN, Disney might just get rid of the bundle.

  183. MercuryPDX says:

    @angelcake88: Comcast by me is doing this too. I hate the digital set-top boxes because they don’t work with TV features (like PIP) or VCRs and Tivos (non-cable card series Tivos aside).

    Eventually when they move everything I like to the realm of “Above channel 71”, I’m sure I’ll have to make the switch.

  184. drjayphd says:

    @soke2001: No, but they’re paying for you to get everything else. Same with the home shopping channels.

    @Libertariot: Yeah, all the cool kids are calling it “Fixed News” or “Fox Noise”. ;)

  185. lindyman77 says:

    The irony of this whole discussion is that each one of you paying for cable television are paying these bums a second imcome for their content. This is the huge scam of this whole enterprise! They are getting paid by the advertisers that slip ads into your “paid” content, then paid by you to watch it. Then they cry because they really want to open up their channel offerings to a a-la carte selection but BIG media won’t let them? Puleez. That’s the last thing they want because the more channels they force you to channel surf through the more ads you’re watching, and the more money they’re making from the advertisers.

    Free-to-air T.V., sure I can agree to watch ads because I’m getting the content for free but paying someone that is already being paid to distribute it is insane.

  186. majortom1981 says:

    Wow , SO i say something thats true and everybody ignores it?

    Stop with this cable bashing. The telecom tv, and satellite companies do it also.

    Most of you dont seem to know the truth. ITs the content providers that are preventing a-la- carte.

    Companies like discovery and NFL Give the providers demands (ex you must carry a certain channel on a certain package or we wont allow you to have our channels)

    Dont blame the cable companies. Blame the content providers.

    Just look at the nfl network fiasco .that should be proof enough.

  187. mathew says:

    I actually wrote to the FCC about this.

    What they would need to do, as well as mandating that channels be available individually, would be to set a maximum discount permitted for channel bundles.

    That way, companies couldn’t charge outrageous prices for individual channels, unless they wanted to price all their customers away, including the ones who actually want the 200 channel package.

  188. Corydon says:

    @dissolution: I’ve seen the cable TV available in Canada (my folks live in Winnipeg). While I would love to be able to subscribe to some of the Canadian stations down in the US in order to keep up with current events (CBC Newsworld would be great), I’m MUCH happier with the cable TV service I get in the US compared with what’s available to my folks.

    @Com132: I believe that the a la carte option would not be channel by channel, but groups of channels that are offered by the same company as outlined in the article. This would be the only way that the media companies would not loose their less popular channels.

    Yes, I’d love to have this kind of setup—I’d probably subscribe to a news tier (CNN, MSNBC, Fox, CBC Newsworld and other foreign sources if I’ve lucky), some kind of Science/Nature/History/Educational tier (Discovery, History, that sort of thing).

    I almost never watch sports on TV, and when I do it’s almost always on a broadcast network, so ESPN and the like would go. I don’t have kids, so Nickelodeon and the like would go too (although I do enjoy Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network).

    The tough one to figure out would be the one-offs…TMC (probably the best thing on cable), Sci Fi, Comedy Central, USA, TV land (I like the classics), BBC America…

    TBH, I think we’re moving away from a model where content is delivered in TV channels and is moving towards an “on demand” setup, ultimately with any show you want available any time you want to watch it (this is obviously where Comcast is heading with the new services announced at CES).

    I think we’ll see a similar setup in TV to the VoIP market today. Cheaper providers will operate over the public internet delivering content that way (like Vonage does with phone service). But there may be issues with how long it takes a show to download, the quality of that show, etc.

    Meanwhile cablecos and telcos will continue to beef up offerings of on demand content, which will provide guaranteed quality with little or no delay while content downloads, just as they offer VoIP with better QoS over their own networks at slightly higher prices.

    Charges will probably range from plans that charge by the show to “all you can eat” plans that offer unlimited service. Local stations may continue broadcasting for a while, but eventually they’ll move to streaming over the net as well. Tivo and similar devices will be a thing of the past, as will DVDs—you’ll just find that classic Doctor Who episode you want to watch and it will stream right then and there.

    Just my guess for where things are heading…

  189. gas says:

    A La Carte would result in most cable customers paying more for less. Only people who only want to get 4 or 5 channels or channels that are already premium channels would pay less (HBO and Showtime would benefit the most from a la carte, since customers could subscribe to them without paying for other channels) Customers who would subscribe to 10_ channels anyway don’t actually pay for the extra channels they currently get but barely watch; they actually have a lower bill because they “accept” those channels which they would not pay for if they had a choice. It’s a balancing act for all involved. If a la carte was forced onto cable companies, prices probably would go up overall, some channels would go out of business because they no longer had enough of a reach to attract advertisers, and people would – really – watch less tv overall.

    What the ACA is talking about has more to do with which channels get to go into the most subscribed to tiers. Bug media companies with a lot of channels use their most popular channels to force cable operators to push the media companies’ new and/or less popular channels on populars. Companies which own only a single cable channel or two, though, face enormous obstacles on getting cable system owners to place those channels on any tier.

  190. Corydon says:

    @angelcake88 & mercurypdx: As I mentioned above, this is nothing to do with cable having tiers and everything to do with the fact that your analog channels take up a lot more frequency spectrum on the coax cable than digital channels do.

    While people like you are screaming whenever you lose another analog channel to digital, the cable companies have plenty more customers who are screaming at them to add more HD or increase internet connection speeds. Unfortunately the pipe can only hold so much (this is Verizon’s big advantage with FiOS).

    It comes down to a question of economics: who would you risk losing? The customer buying just the basic analog tier at $40 or $50 a month? Or the customer who’s got HD everything, is paying you $150-$200 a month and is ready to jump to DirectTV to get more HD channels?

    Incidentally, you are aware that your analog TVs won’t be able to even receive over-the-air signals from broadcasters without a digital converter after February 2009, aren’t you?

    Unfortunately, analog TV, for better or for worse (and I personally think that it’s considerably for the better, although I understand where you’re coming from) is going away.

  191. thefncrow says:

    @Corydon: You won’t see tiers by news/spots/kids/etc, what you’ll get is the Turner tier, with CNN/TNT/TBS/etc, the Viacom tier with Comedy Central/MTV/Nickelodeon, the Universal tier with USA/Sci-Fi/MSNBC/CNBC, the Fox tier with Fox News/FX/Fox Sports, the Disney tier with ESPN/Disney/etc, and so on. The reason is because the only reason to offer these in bundles is to provide a discount, and you won’t see a discount for bundling CNN/Fox News/MSNBC since they’re all owned by different corporations, and none of those corporations are going to offer a discount on the premise that you’re also subscribing to their competitor’s content.

    If you’re looking to drop specific sorts of content, what will happen is that you’ll have to buy channels by the channel, and you won’t see any discounts going that route. In fact, you’ll end up paying considerably more per channel doing it that way.

  192. Pockie says:

    It sounds like everyone commenting lives in the city and has plenty of money to spare. For those of us not quite as fortunate as you, “rabbit ears” and local companies pretty much don’t exist. I vaguely remember having antennae on my tv, and it was spectacular shades of snow and Antique Roadshow. I don’t know where everyone else lives, but there’s hardly “local” anything around here.

    The cable company offers us a billion channels I don’t want, too, sure. I don’t care for golf, ESPN, Weather Channel, or QVC but I like the option of finding new shows that I enjoy. I -need- every channel that shows Law and Order (at least 3 at any given moment), and a wide array of other random shows I like to watch. The cable company that I use is really a pushover about it. If you just tell them you’re gonna switch providers they’ll take 20 bucks off your bill. I called and told them my mom got cable internet and extended basic tv for 45 dollars, and they said no problem! Of course, she doesn’t, but don’t tell them.

  193. MercuryPDX says:

    @Corydon: Not screaming, just commiserating. I understand that’s why it’s happening. Like I said, when the day comes I will make the switch to digital, clunky set-top box and all.

    And since I have cable, and I’m participating in a cable related discussion, I think I’m fine with over-the-air signals going away…. the cable will still work. :)

  194. erstwhile says:

    My family actually owns a small cable company, and I’ll have to say that this is true. Also the sport channels are adding $15+ to you cable bill each month (~$5 to ~$7 a month is charged to us per customer to carry them, a cost we have to pass on to you).

    We ran into issues with Viacom in trying to do a limited deal when MTV first came out to make it a channel that you could chose not to get and thus not have to pay for (We’re in the south, people think it’s the Devil), but they would have none of it. They even tryed to pull Nick (the only real kids channel at the time) for not carrying MTV, but we called there bluf on that one.

    We also had a demonstration of how some of these channels will die if it’s a pay for only what you want. When Disney said they wanted to be a basic cable only deal and we could no longer offer it as a premium channel, it was good by to them because there was not enough intrest in the channel to justify making everyone’s rates go up to git it if they liked it or not.

    With the current analog channels, this isnt going to happen. The filters to notch out individual channels are just too expensive to implimente. Blocks are easy, but if the customer wants ones that are scattered aroun it might cost $5000 in filters just to give them what they want. When the cable systems are allowed to go all digital, this may happen. You’d probably have to pay a $20 access fee to cover basic operational expenses associated with having you as a customer (billing, plant upkeep, ect) that will get you the local channels and ones that the cable company gets for free, can then be able to pick and choose ones past that at a rate reflecting what it’s costing the cable company per-customer to server that channel. So, your ESPN will be in the $7 range, while your channel that just runs reruns might be $.10.

  195. skellener says:

    I’d love ala-carte channels. I would have switched over to AppleTV but they don’t have and HD television content.

    But even more than ala carte channels, I want to see competition for cable. One cable company per area is a monopoly. I want to see as many cable companies in an area as the market demands. If cable companies had to really compete for your subscription, watch how fast things like lower prices and ala carte programming come about.

    Break up cable!

  196. sodiumchloride says:

    I have not had television (not even farmervision) for over 4 years now. I have 2 small children (ages 4 and 6) that are not bombarded with crap from advertising and the networks. It feels good people, you should try it. We rent movies now and then, sit in front of the TV and watch as a family unit. Free your minds, unplug.

  197. grumpymo says:

    Ala-carte always sounds good with as few channels as we watch, but I’d just be satisfied to get all the channels that are listed in the bundles above. We get Discovery channel, but if you want Science channel you better bend over and give them the big bucks for digital.

  198. Joessandwich says:

    See, I’d want all the ones that come with USA network, but without the USA channel. Seems backwards to me.

    I’ll just stick to Hulu. I’ve come to like that site a bit.

  199. Tracy Ham and Eggs says:

    @majortom1981: Hey. Guess what. YOU ARE WRONG. The whole NFL fiasco was they wanted to put in on basic cable and the cable networks wanted to bundle it with other sports channels in a special tier.

    Try again.

  200. schlottj says:

    digital tv lets CableCo push more channels through the net then analog did, shouldnt that bring down the price per channel?

    channels should be a thing of the past anyway, we have the technology to do it all on demand.

    of course if its all on demand, the pricing much like an a la carte option would only end up costing us more money, like itunes probably 2-5$ a show( if you watch 5 sitcoms at any given time of the year, 1 episode of each a week, 4 episodes of each a month is 20 episodes , thats $2-5 x 20 = $40-100 a month just to watch your favorite 5 shows, now thats 30mins-1hr of shows a day 5days a week, anyone with a tv watches more then 5hrs a week

    a la carte: they arent gonna let a channel go for less then 5$ a month, currently i pay 50$ a month for basic cable, that would get me 10 channels at the most

    i dont watch much tv, but the shows i do like are spread across every network, jus to help myself count: 14, 15, 21, 23, 31, 34, 37, 38, 39, 42, 43, 53, 55, 56, 62, 66

    16 channels id be paying a min. of 80$ @ 5$/channel

    its a sad world we live in when people care only about themselves, instead of bettering ourselves as a whole

  201. 8026mn says:

    Video on Demand for all shows besides Live Shows.

  202. schlottj says:

    @erstwhile: When the cable systems are allowed to go all digital, this may happen. You’d probably have to pay a $20 access fee to cover basic operational expenses associated with having you as a customer (billing, plant upkeep, ect) that will get you the local channels and ones that the cable company gets for free, can then be able to pick and choose ones past that at a rate reflecting what it’s costing the cable company per-customer to server that channel. So, your ESPN will be in the $7 range, while your channel that just runs reruns might be $.10″

    the problem with that is, the cable co, is never going to allow the pricing system to go down. its only going to go up. they dont want to lose money

  203. Kichigai Mentat says:

    I’m sorry, but screw cable! Channels are dead. Themes are the new channel. IPTV is the new cable. Why make a bunch of totally shitty channels? Just put the shows into a giant library that we can access at any time! Charge us something like 25¢-99¢ per episode, and offer season passes for $5.99 through $9.99. For 24 hour news channels (I mean REAL news, like CNN Headline, not commentary like Fox or MSNBC) do a nominal $2/week fee, only for weeks viewed. Of course, my numbers are probably a little off, in that casual/average viewing will be more expensive, but you get the idea.

    Rig things so you can buy shows as a household, and don’t charge us twice if we watch the show twice. If you want to cut down on bandwidth, put a hard disk in the machine (40 GB minimum) and have it download episodes we choose to watch, and allow them to auto-delete like a PVR, with an option to prevent that for convenience sake. Throw in an auto-download feature for nabbing new episodes, and give people one free episode of every show (so they can experience new programming), free access to Local Programming (you know, local access channels), free access to local news shows (like your 6 ABC Action News), some free national news (like your Weekly World News with Charels Gibson, just the shows you already get free over the air, plus probably stuff like debates), and allow shows to sponsor episodes (like the Boscov’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, sponsored much in the same way shows are sponsored on iTunes) and rigging up a method for doing live broadcasts.

  204. paullyjunge says:

    the problem is that you want per channel. you should do per show. I highly recommend disconnecting the cable and just get DVDs when they come out. You save time by not channel surfing, no commercials, and then finding better things to do when you have nothing to watch.

    Or just go with iTunes for your TV needs.

    If you are particularly nefarious, you can just download them off of the torrents… which apparently is the most convenient and “cost effective.”

  205. nman says:

    I wouldn’t really like a la carte for the “basic” and “Advanced Basic” channels. They often have movies or shows that are entertaining. It would end up costing more for me to remove lifetime, travel, CNN and all that other suff than it would to just buy the first 72 channels. The “Premium” and “Extended” channels are different though, I really don’t feel like getting three types of Disney, the 2 versions of nikcalodeon, and G4 when I only want one thing.

  206. razorx says:

    I’ve wondered about this myself! I only watch a handful of channels. These would include History, Discovery, Animal Planet, and Adult Swim on Cartoon Network…. That’s it, really. Of course through a snafu my cable is free so I can’t complain to much…

  207. Keat says:

    With all of the advertising on cable TV these days, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the channels that are required to be bundled are given away for free to the cable companies.

  208. RocketDigital says:

    This is what I do. I don’t pay for TV. I use my Digital TV receiver to watch HD broadcast TV. I then use Hulu, AOL TV, Revision 3, Joost and Bit Torrent to watch anything else I want. Granted there are some shows that I miss, but I don’t REALLY miss them. I sincerely would pay for HD only Cable but since that is not possible, I don’t. I honestly only miss the News Channel’s and the Daily show (and pretty soon I can watch that online as well). Cable simply doesn’t have anything worth (at least) $35 a month, at least to me.

  209. Pithlit says:

    @mercurypdx: I’ve had far too many things I like canceled on network TV and too many wonderful niche radio stations switched to mainstream formats to think that they’ll keep the channels that don’t bring a lot of subscribers. It would only be a matter of time before channels like Sci Fi Channel went kaput. While the viewers are loyal, there just aren’t enough of them. If the channel isn’t bringing in a whole lot of a la cart subscribers, there isn’t any incentive to keep it, just as there is no incentive for the networks to keep a show with low ratings, or a radio station to keep broadcasting a format with few listeners. Any time you go to a system that depends on the number of ears or eyeballs, they’re going to put their money on the mainstream because that’s what brings the most revenue in.

    I really hate to beat a dead horse, and I feel I’ve already posted way more than enough on this topic, but the reason we have those channels like Sci Fi, and The History Channel, and and GAC is because we pay collectively for the broad range of choices. We pitch enough of a fit that they let us pick and choose individually, we lose that collective bargaining power that says “Screw ratings, we want more variety than network TVs give us!” We lose that and it becomes just another ratings based system. And ratings based systems like network tv and traditional radio have consistently cut quality and variety for more listeners and viewers, resulting in less choice and more mainstream fare. I thought the whole reason to buy cable was to get stuff you can’t get on network TV because network TV is much more limited in what they can do due to ratings.

    I’ll stop posting in this thread because I’m just repeating myself. I can understand the initial appeal of a la cart, but it’s short sighted. It doesn’t take into account that cable companies won’t simply let us pay a lot less for fewer channels because they’ll have to make up the revenue some. We may get only the channels we want, but the channels will have to cost more to make up for the fact that not everyone gets them, and we risk losing the channels that drew us to cable in the first place.

  210. goodkitty says:

    @timstep: Yeah. It’s also like imagining that there is only one grocery store chain allowed in your area (e.g. Safeway) that offers milk (short of ordering for delivery e.g. DirectV), and because of that they charge “whatever the market will bear” which is about $7.96 a gallon. If you don’t like it, don’t buy milk. There certainly won’t be any other stores allowed in the “franchise area.”

    I still have a moment of shock whenever I see someone’s cable bill. How people can be just fine with paying $100+ a month… for television… is beyond me. I can get Netflix, Internet, phone service, library services, and magazines for less than that.

  211. swalve says:

    @Geekybiker: Bingo. Do you really think every channel is going to cost the same? The Bat-Guano network subsidizes ESPN.

  212. daheath says:

    It all totally backwards. Almost all basic cable channels carry massive amounts of advertising – more than free broadcast TV even. Problem is these channels have no over-the-air transmitters and NEED the cable and satellite companies to deliver the commmercial bearing programs to the viewers. The media companies should be paying the cable companies to carry their signals, NOT the viewers. Cable companies should be sending bills to the programmers, not the TV viewers. How it got the way is is I have no idea. Ask yourself how NBC/ABC/CBS and all the TV stations survive without charging the viewers.

  213. lovelygirl says:

    I like the idea of consumers having a choice, especially if you’re opposed to certain types of programming for example, let’s go backwards: you want TVLand, and so you have to get MTV. Maybe you feel MTV is inappropriate and you do not want to pay for it. Well, if you want TVLand, you must have MTV. That’s a good reason. But then the small channels really wouldn’t have a chance to survive, because their niche is so targeted. I don’t really know which side I pick, but I’m leaning towards the a la carte programming.

  214. dguralnick says:

    Two points here:

    The cable companies have figured out how much you’re willing to pay each month. Regardless of how you line up the channels, they’re going to get their $50-$100 out of you.

    Secondly, the same way people (used to) browse a newspaper and would occasionally stumble across an interesting article on a topic they might not normally care about, having a wide selection of channels will mean that occasionally you’ll watch a show you might not have normally wanted to see.

    A wide choice is not a bad thing.

    That being said, who the hell watches QVC?

  215. BeFrugalNotCheap says:

    Any option that allows me to avoid MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann’s stupid smirk is fine with me.

  216. majortom1981 says:

    @Tracy Ham and Eggs:

    read what you wrote how am I wrong? The nfl network wants everybody to get it wether you want it or not. The other weay you would get it only if you like sports and order the sports package. So how am I wrong?

    IT shows that the content providers are the reason why we cant get alacarte.

  217. asimovrobot says:

    One point. Every channel out there has at least a few people that watch it. You may even enjoy watching a channel that most people aren’t interested in or have not discovered yet. If there was a completely a la carte system in place the channels getting low viewership would quickly wither away because not enough people are choosing them to add to their package. With a bundle approach you keep some control over which channels you have while possibly keeping the more obscure(not necessarily less valuable) around for yourself or others to enjoy.

  218. taiter says:

    There are definitely two sides to this issue. I would hate to see my fav. classic movie channel give way to channels that show WWE, Idol, Survivor and other worthless fodder. Remember, 80% of the population is no smarter than the grass on my front lawn – I would hate to have that majority dictate what channels live through funding shortage.

  219. riverstyxxx says:

    …Nor would I want to pay for censored shows.

  220. trollkiller says:

    @harshmellow: I read somewhere that the reason why the govt won’t force cable companies to offer a la carte plans is because of the religious channels. The owners of the religious channels know that many, if not MOST, people would dump these in a heartbeat. Fools like Pat Robertson and the like have such sway with legislators that they don’t “go there” and introduce a bill that allows us to choose the channels we want to pay for.

    Sorry but that is a load. The Jump for Jesus channels PAY to be broadcast. If the cable companies wanted they could offer a la carte packages. Truth is it would cut into the profits of the cable companies.

  221. richcreamerybutter says:

    Another reader describes “ghetto” cable but mine is even ghettoer…I just plug it into the wall, and lo and behold I get free network channels, TBS, TNT, PBS, and then depending on how the signal is adjusted, several others (TLC, Food TV, Bravo, Cartoon Network, etc.). Every several months they seem to reboot the signal to mess with the bootleggers. So, if you live alone like I do and can’t fathom paying cable companies for all the crap they bundle, then try just plugging the cable into what may not be a dead line.

  222. clinky says:

    Do people really think that they will end up paying less with an a la carte system? The cable companies would not want to do it if they didn’t think it would make them more money. And if they’re making more money, we, the consumers, are paying more money. And all the cool shows that are starting to appear on the more obscure cable networks these days? Gone. So let’s hope they don’t go to a la carte too soon. Do you want a la cart? It’s called DVD. Compare the price of a season of The Sopranos on DVD to a year’s worth of HBO. A la carte will suck big time if they ever do it.

  223. CasperBass says:

    Perhaps this was already mentioned and I just missed it, but what about scarce bandwidth on behalf of the cable companies (I know, I know, they just want to screw everyone and they’re nasty and mean and evil and just generally icky)? One of the original arguments in favor of bundling was that there’s only so much bandwidth to go around, Comcast couldn’t afford to lay a pipe – particularly the last mile of pipe to every individual home – big enough to support ala carte pricing on the 2.3 gazillion channels.

    Unlike, say iTunes, where the differential cost in hosting another thousand MP3 files is negligible, the differential cost in broadcasting a few more terabytes of programming (per day, give a take a bit) for a channel that maybe .01% of the customer base wants and is willing to pay. My understanding of the prior broadcast model was that the cable was essentially streaming every channel at once to every box, with the box functionally dropping both whatever channel(s) were not authorized and all the other channel s that are not being watched at the time. If that model still holds, then the long tail approach is not particularly attractive to either the Cable companies or the consumer.

  224. LikeVid says:

    lol free market..it’s more like a de-regulated free market. They lobby so strongly against everything and they’re growing too large – buying radio, tv, news stations and publications and now even buildings in local cities.

    You still have choice though, you could use one of these to watch some internet channels granted its not as fast as normal tv-
    [www.hulu.com] *i got invites*

  225. gingerCE says:

    I don’t pay anything for my tv–$0–I use rabbit ears and have done so for several years. I subscribe to netflix so I watch tv shows as series, I get my news online–and when there is a show I have to see, I can watch them from a friend or family member’s house for free. That is rare though, I’m happy with the basic channels.
    Compared to some of the posters, let’s say ten years at $50 a month, I’ve saved over $5000 and I can honestly say I haven’t missed a thing.

  226. Raignn says:

    I would kill to be able to choose the channels I want. We only watch about 6 really random channels. We should be able to get basic cable + 6 a la carte channels + a sports package and have that be it! If I really only want 15-20 channels why should I have to have 200+ just to get access to all them?

  227. Something that doesn’t get said enough is that the Christian Right is responsible for some of the heaviest lobbying to keep channels bundled. (How many people do you think would subscribe to the Jesus Freak Channel if they had to pay individually for it?)

    For my part, I’d like to see both options — maybe bundles could be a little cheaper than buying channels individually, and (hold onto your hats now) the consumers could pick which option(s) worked for them.

  228. dirk1965 says:

    The main reason they do this is because they would loose money if they allowed their customers to select only the channels they want to pay for. I for one would love to see this model, because most of the channels provided are crap.

  229. vladthepaler says:

    I get USA but Comcast took away Sci Fi. What gives? Are you saying they’re actually paying *more* to not give me Sci Fi? That would explain the rate increases..

  230. atkruz789 says:

    What if it was not a set price for every channel say 1.99. What if in order to keep the niche channels alive they got to charge a higher rate based on the number of subscribers. So say ESPN is the most watched channel then it is only 2.99/month and Lifetime is 6.99/month. If you like the channel that much then pay more for it if they are fewer people that watch it. So needless to say the channel I want Fox Soccer Channel will end up being like 10.99/month. I will pay it though because I WANT it.

    On a side note would this allow for more content to come through in HD or allow a larger selection of channels if the bandwidth is not all being used up to send all the channels all the time? I am all about it if I could extend my options or open up a larger pipe for my internet connection!

    Should we focus all of the hate on the providers for agreeing to the package or the networks for forcing it on the provider or both?

  231. russurquhart1 says:

    I was hoping to be the first one to mention this, but i DO have ala carte pricing. I have a C-band dish, one of the big dishes. I have had it for over ten years now! I can not only pay for the channels i want (it bugged me too that i had to not only get channels i didn’t want, but my provider didn’t offer what i wanted!) i can also pay for a channel for a month, 3 months, 6 months or a year!
    I get the handfull of channels i want. If i need a channel, i can call my provider and get a new channel right then. The prices vary, but, for example, i wanted the Sci Fi channel and USA. I paid $12.00 for the YEAR for those!
    The catch is that you have to be able to have the ability to install a C-band dish and get someone to do it!
    The C-band providers are kind of struggling because all you guys are buying the small dishes, paying for the channels you DONT want!! So why don’t you stop that and find youself a C-band dish! :)


  232. MasterDave says:

    I used to work for one of the networks that bundles channels alongside their top network.

    Here’s the hidden thing that they’re not telling you:

    Advertising revenues are partially based (and it’s a significant part) on POTENTIAL viewers for cable networks since it’s assumed that plenty of people watch something and aren’t metered/diaried.

    So, lets assume a good network would get 4 million subscribers. (this is probably a high estimate for almost all of the smaller cable channels). A “reasonable” a-la-carte price would be $3/mo right? Can any cable network produce programming on 12 million a month? Probably not. Will advertising revenues be anywhere near their current levels with only 4 million potential viewers? Probably not.

    In the end, we’d see less original programming on cable networks, if they’d even stick around at all. That, or we’d have to pay an unreasonable amount of money for cable channels like say $10/mo+ for the ones we like. (and even then, they’d be even bigger “Top5” recyclers and rerun factories than they already are)

    Your bills will not shrink. Your choices will become less, and it definitely won’t be a good thing. Yes, you’re paying too much for cable, but this is not the way to go.

    What we NEED are more cable system operators, more competition and more incentive for cable operators to insist on smaller prices from cable networks and let the market shift prices that way. Unfortunately, we get cable monopolies and inferior competition from satellite providers. I lived in a city that had actual compeition on cable TV. The electric company started running coax along with their electical lines and sold TV/Internet/VOIP at $20/mo less than the cable people. Almost instantly there was real competition, the rates went way down and the services offered increased in quality.

    The real evil is government sponsored monopolies on cable TV lines. Prices NEVER go down when you split up a single product into multiple smaller products! Prices go down when there are multiple suppliers of the same product. It’s economics people, think about it!

  233. CoolTri says:

    Almost everyone here is saying that they will pay a-la-cart. But the way they set it up its easer and cost less to stay with a bundle. I tried. the channels i watch cost me $10 more to get than to get it with a bundle, Nice choice. They don’t deduct for channels you don’t watch just add cost for the one you want and not give you the one’s you don’t watch. just the way of getting around the law and saying “we told you so” to the government


    Am i the only one who thinks we should not be paying for cable at all. Seriously. Look at how much money goes into advertising and that money goes to the networks to “offset” cost. My butt. Advertisers are paying for us to watch Tv and were giving our money to them as a nice thank you for screwing us each month.

    there will be some that says ” oh the cost of infrastructure blah blah blah. Hmm, dish systems, i pay for box, Ok i can under stand. but i don’t see cable running from the sky. And why am i pay for them to chose where they want to install cable lines. how many time have they denied people because the live to far away.


    Tell me why are we people sheeping themselves for HD. cable says pay for it and you do. HD should be part of you service no extra charge especially since there taking out the analog signals. but its only 5 dollars, Its just another excuse to raise you bills there not paying extra for it. they receive the signal in HD already and then down grade it for those who don’t pay for HD causing it to look crappy so you want to buy HD.

    the whole cable system is screwed up and screwing people left and right and we just keep letting them and they will keep screwing harder. i have so much more to say but i probably hurt some peoples head trying to follow what i already have said.

  234. evensteven says:

    what if we just got charged for what we watched? make all the channels available, and just charge us for the time we use the service. even if programs on the ‘upper tier’ channels cost more. on demand services ftw!

  235. yesthisisapc says:

    For all you people complaining about losing niche channels, just a thought, but the channels could always have their own pricing. So niche channels like “Pro Glass Stacker Championship Review” would be $9, while a popular channel like ESPN or whatever could be $3.

  236. Comms says:

    À la carte please.

  237. Buran says:

    @Buckler: Or stupid decisions like “replace Heroes with American Gladiator” that means I stopped watching NBC. Nice going NBC.

  238. enascar88 says:

    Face it everyone. Cable companies will never allow you to pick your own channels. This is the american industry. This is the way it is and the way it will be forever unless the goverment gets off there a@@ and does something about it. Direct TV and Dish network same way. THERE WILL NEVER BE A CHANGE!! WRITE TO YOUR CONGRESSMAN AND LET HIM/HER KNOW YOU WANT CHANGE!

  239. Brian Gee says:

    @BStu: I think you entirely missed the point of ala carte. I won’t rebuild my basic cable lineup with ala carte. And your ESPN example is exactly how it works right now, except we have no choice in the matter. You do pay just a little extra for the ESPN package; its included in the “basic” (or whichever) package cost. When ESPN adds a new channel to your lineup, your rates go up whether you watch it or not.

    I don’t want ESPN. I don’t want any of the package. I get my “networks” in HD over the air just fine. I want cable for Comedy Central and… uh… and… Yeah, here’s my quarter. Give me ala carte channels.

  240. Brian Gee says:

    @Buran: That has WAY more to do with the writers strike than anything else. They ran out of Heroes episodes, so they cut the season short. As bad as American Gladiators is, it would be a much stupider decision to replace Heroes with dead air.

    @vermontwriter: I would guess the Home Shopping Networks actually keep your rates lower. People spend boatloads of money on that crap, and the cable company surely get a cut of it. That extra revenue stream offsets some of their costs and keeps my bill down. As long as I’m not paying extra for HSN, I don’t care. In fact, if they want to add another HSN instead of raising my rates, I’m totally cool with that.

    What I’m not cool with is when they raise my rates to add another ESPN (or Fox news, or NFL Network, or whatever) that I don’t have any interest in watching.

  241. shmokes says:

    I watch very little TV. In theory this would be great for me, because I’d probably only subscribe to the Independent Film Channel, HBO, Comedy Central and ESPN 2 (for tennis). Everything else I watch is on network TV.

    But part of me wonders if a la carte Cable would simply mean that less popular channels that are currently being subsidized though bundling would simply cease to exist if the media conglomerates couldn’t force people to subscribe to them.

  242. leMel says:

    Well, part of the reason channels are sold in groups is to support the media sell packages that the channels’ owners can offer to advertisers.

    Remember, if they can’t sell ad space, your channel dies, no matter how many people watch it.

    For example, if you *really* like Comedy Central, having MSNBC piped to you as well (for the combined ad sell package) is subsidizing keeping CC alive.

    A lot of my favorite channels are in that ‘long tail’: they wouldn’t survive on their own ability to sell ad space So yeah, give me the other stuff too, as long as it keeps BSG on the air.

    And did you know a lot of cable systems let you hide the channels you don’t want to see from your menu? I only display the 10 or 12 I’m interested on Dish!

  243. AD8BC says:

    One important thing to remember…. The cable companies could only sell “a la carte” to digital subscribers. Selling individual channels on the analog cable is virtually impossible….. the analog coax line carries all of the analog channels and groups are filtered out by bandpass filters, high-pass filters, and low-pass filters. Filtering out individual analog channels (or allowing individual channels through the filters) is technically impossible. So analog cable will continue to be sold in two or three groups.

    With digital cable, since the cable companies have control over the digital boxes, they could turn on and turn off individual channels…. but remember, even with digital cable, the channels below 100 are actually analog channels that are still available at all the other jacks at your home, so technically the cable company wouldn’t be able to turn on and off channels below 100.

  244. tenaciousblender says:

    I don’t subscibe to cable. I don’t pay for tv. Anything i watch to watch I can stream over the Internet or download.

    I’d be more inclined to get a tv package if I could choose which channels and shows I wanted. Pick my shows, pick my channels.

  245. LVP says:

    I would like a a-la-Carte programming package. First thing to go are the Spanish Channels. If I can’t understand Spanish, why would I want those channels? Next channel to go is Lifetime!

  246. MrPeach says:

    And none of these bundled channels are the big offenders – the damned religious channels and the super annoying shopping channels.

    I call BS on this “it’s not our fault” whining.

    How about if these clowns just give us the ability to black hole certain channels, so they will never be seen again on that STB? Then we can take all the channels we don’t want to know about and “disappear” them. I can see this option would be great for parents – far better than even locking them. The kids won’t even know they exist.