The A La Carte TV Debate

It seems like a reasonable idea -- television viewers should pay for only the TV channels (or, better yet, only the TV shows) that they watch. Unfortunately, that's not the current business model for program carriers.  Cable and satellite companies, and the networks that they carry, offer only packaged content -- if you want a specific channel, you'll have to pay to receive it as part of a bundle of other channels as well.  Who cares if you have no interest in the PingPong Channel, who cares if you never ever tune in to the Peanut-Butter-and-Jelly Network, if you want your MTV or CNN or BBC, you're required to sign up for and give your cash to the entire set of lumped shows.  They pretend to offer some choice, but providing different levels -- there's the Basic Package, the Family Package, the Sports Package, the Movie Package, the Premium Package, the Ultra Premium Package, the Super-Duper-with-Cherry-on-Top Premium Package, and so on.  What it all boils down to is a lack of cheap, more practical options that more fairly reflect the viewing habits of customers.  We're overpaying for other crap in order to view the select programs that meet our needs and interests.

After all the blackouts resulting from the negotiating disputes between content carriers and content creators (Cablevision vs. Tribune, DirecTV vs. Viacom, TimeWarner Cable vs. CBS, etc.), the public is growing increasingly frustrated at being used as pawns in the the big conglomerate battles.  Now, there are other options, such as Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other online streaming services, so that it's finally a viable possibility to detach from the cable/satellite teat and still view some of the programming we want, without spending a fortune.

Senator John McCain and other legislators are trying to force TV carriers to offer a la carte pricing -- pay for what you use.  The cable and satellite companies argue that they have to pay high fees to the Hollywood content kings, and those regal content creators argue that they need the high fees to finance the quality shows that viewers have come to expect. 

Would we really lose niche channels if a la carte pricing became the norm? I say, do away with networks and channels altogether and just offer individual shows.  Would people who watch a lot of television end up actually having to pay more than before? I suggest offering discounts for high volume viewers -- the more you watch, the larger the discount.

A la carte pricing is an idea that's long overdue. Let viewers pick and choose exactly what they want to watch, and allow them to pay as they go. The time has come.

Comments