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Cable TV and a la carte channels

Gadabout

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I wish we could have a la carte channels. And choice of commercial ratings as well, at least during the day. For example, I think Star Trek: TNG is suitable for young teens (if they're already into Science Fiction anyway) but there shouldn't be any commercials for Girls Gone Wild during it (at least during daylight hours).

And this from the article is just bizarre, because you can set up your favorites list to exclude what you're not interested in watching, so it seems like some of those stations and advertisers are paying for a big fat nothing because they aren't reaching their audience anyway.

Cable networks prefer the "bundled" system because they can charge more for advertising if they're distributed to as many homes as possible. Plus, cable companies pay them a monthly fee for each home they're in.

Here's the article as to why the cable industry doesn't want a la carte:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060224/ap_on_bi_ge/tv_a_la_carte_getting_there

One other complaint I have is considering some useless channel like HSN programming. None of those shopping channels are anything more than commercials. Yup, they get deleted too.

Not to mention that there is no true 24/7 programming to speak of, which is a bummer if you work different hours and watch TV later.

If the Cable companies can provide pay-per-view events and manage to somehow deal with the volumes of people who pay, they can provide a la carte channel selection.

We can hope, anyway.
 

JeffW

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I don't think you'd see any reduction in your bill if the shopping channels were removed. They might actually pay the cable companies for their access, so they're actually helping to reduce your bill.

The biggest reduction you'd likely see is with sports channels. On my analog service in Philly, we have 3 ESPN channels and one local sports channel (Comcast Sportsnet). With the big increase in sports programming over the last (probably 10) years now, those channels likely run several dollars per subscriber. One community (or cable system) tried a year or so ago to create a separate sports tier that only people who wanted them would need to pay for. They likely knew that they could make a decent dent in a customers base bill if they weren't included. I believe ESPN sued them, on the basis that their contract required them to be on basic cable.

There's definitely a conflict here. On the one hand, A&E as part of basic cable could run $0.25 a customer, in my opinion not a bad deal. If it was a la carte, the price could be a couple of dollars, the higher cost offsetting the fewer subscribers. Who knows who would subscribe to it then. On the other hand, you have channels like ESPN, which can pay almost whatever to obtain broadcast rights to sports, knowing that they can collect $4-$5-$6 from every subscriber on a cable system (none of which likely would drop it from it's lineup).

Jeff
 

RichM

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Howard Stern was discussing this on his show the other day and his theory, which makes sense, is that if a la carte becomes available, you'll see a lot of cable channels disappear. Right now, they bundle up unpopular channels with the popular ones. If you got to pick which ones you wanted to pay for, you might not pick A&E, E!, Oxygen, Lifetime, AMC, TCM, Spike, FoodTV, CourtTV, HGTV, DIY, SOAP, Animal Planet, etc. while you might choose the big ones like CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, ESPN/ESPN2, USA, TNT, FX, Discovery, TLC and perhaps SciFi, TBS, WGN, Comedy Central.

He had some statistics which I don't recall exactly, but it was something like the top 20 cable stations get 93% of cable ratings (i.e. viewers) and the rest get 7%.

The small channels certainly can't want the "a la carte" to become a reality or there'd be a lot of them out of business.

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Gadabout

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My point about the shopping channels (as well as any other channel you choose to permanently block out with your favorites list) is that when you don't watch them, their advertising does not get seen. And if the advertising isn't getting seen, they can't make more money.

I'm sure some people don't go to the trouble of deleting channels, because they can't figure out how to do it. But are there stats for those who do? How many households block out channels, and which channels do they block out? Wouldn't those channels like to know so they can shape up by changing their programming?

I don't see the channels listed by RichM as popular or unpopular by themselves, but maybe they need to tweak the demographics better for grouping. Or maybe the channels themselves need to "get real" and charge reasonable rates to be bundled. I'd be happy to pay for more channels if I got to choose only those I wanted, and you were charged a flat rate per number of channels, not by which channel you got. You don't go to the grocery store, buy your stuff and then throw half or more of it away because you didn't really want it.
 

RichM

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Gadabout said:
You don't go to the grocery store, buy your stuff and then throw half or more of it away because you didn't really want it.
This is very true, but that's exactly what happens if you want to get one or two cable channels - you end up paying for more that you don't want.

I remember one time my provider added the Golf channel "for no additional they had to charge an additional 50 cents a cost". In the same mailing, they said that due to increased provider costs, month. Seemed rather fishy to me.

Personally, I DO go through and delete the channels I never watch, like the shopping channels, religious channels, foreign language channels, out-of-region regional sports channels, etc.

My big concern is whether or not I could get the channels I actually watch for LESS than what I pay now if a la carte were available. If so, then I'd be all for it. I could care less if TBN and QVC went out of business because of it. Stores that can't draw in customers close up - cable channels just work out bundling deals so they can claim a potential number of viewers to advertisers when, in fact, their ratings are near non-existent.

USA and TNT, in my opinion, have stepped it up with great original programming like Monk, The 4400, The Closer, etc. along with NBA on TNT and USA's golf and tennis contracts. SciFi also has great original series as well like Battlestar Galactica, and Stargate. Discovery/Travel/TLC have great cross-offerings like the Monster series (House/Garage), The American series (Chopper/Casino/Hot Rod) plus Southern Steel, Overhaulin', Trading Spaces and the World Poker Tour.

I remember watching TBS a lot when I was growing up, but I can't even recall the last time there was anything compelling on that channel - WGN falls into this category as well. Yet TBS and WGN are still staples of many basic/extended packages. (I wonder if WGN will become one of the new "CW" networks when all the WB/UPN stations go away this fall.)

Anyway, if I had a la carte, I'd exclude TBS and WGN along with TBN, QVC, HSN, BYUTV, OXY, WE, TCM, AMC, CourtTV, LIFE, LMN, ABCFAM, HALMRK, GAC, WHT, FUSE, G4 (since they ruined TechTV), TWN and probably a few others. If enough people actually watched them, they'd continue to be successful. Otherwise, they would go away and that would mean not many people would care.

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Fern Modena

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I think Ala Carte Cable would actually cost more, since many of the cable stations now currently "support" the broadcast of other stations. Its a nice dream to think about paying only for what you use, but I don't think the reality would work out to our benefit.

Of course, I could be wrong. I was once, ya know.;)
 
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