The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I'll Take My TBS With a Side of History Channel Please 

The FCC will be releasing a report soon recommending a la carte pricing for cable TV:

On Tuesday FCC chairman Kevin Martin spoke to a forum, sponsored by the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee in Washington, which has been examining indecency on radio and television. Martin told the forum that the FCC will soon release a report that concludes that offering TV programming a la carte is economically feasible and in the best interest of consumers.

Today, instead of subscribing to the channels they want to watch, cable and satellite TV consumers must buy packages that include a standard set of channels.

The new report, not yet released, contradicts an FCC report published in November 2004, under then Chairman Michael Powell. The earlier report concluded that a la carte and tiered pricing models, such as a family tier, would result in higher cable prices.
Several parent and consumer advocacy groups, including the Parents Television Council and the Consumers Union, have urged Congress to consider legislation that would require a la carte options for television. These groups believe that allowing consumers to subscribe to individual channels instead of purchasing entire packages would lower costs and provide parents with more control over what programs their children watch.

But cable TV companies have argued that pricing individual channels would result in fewer choices for all consumers. They believe that a la carte pricing would make it too expensive to offer less-popular channels that presently are bundled with popular channels.

Alright... let's cut through all the double speak here. First of all... I don't watch half the channels that I subscribe to on cable. I doubt I watch one third of them. In fact, I subscribe to one package just because I want one channel in that package, which sucks. But this report is just confusing.

First of all, the FCC had an earlier report last year recommending packaged pricing. Does that mean that cable companies right now have to have package pricing by law? If so, then that's stupid. Cable companies ought to be able to choose. While we're at it... why not have both? Why not have certain packages that have a bunch of different channels, and also have a la carte. If you were going to buy enough channels, a package may save you money, but if you only want a couple stations here or there, an a la carte bill would be the best for you. If this means that some less popular channels lose out, then so be it. There is a reason they are less popular. Of course, this leads to another important question. How much money does a cable company get from a channel when it adds it to its offering? What is the incentive for the cable company to have all these less popular, low quality channels?

I also want to go on the record saying that we shouldn't legislate any pricing model (even a la carte) on cable companies. At least we shouldn't at the FCC level. If a community wants to make that part of its bidding process when it brings cable TV into town, then that is acceptable, seeing as how one company has a monopoly over a community, but keep the Federal Government out of it.


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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.

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