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Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Wired on the future of cable a la carte:

Several lawmakers, including Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), already support mandated "a la carte" carriage. Under such a system, people could pick only the few channels they want rather than have to buy large "tiers" of cable programming that include 70 or 80 channels.

The cable industry argues that an a la carte system would destroy the economics of the business.


"Even if consumers were to choose just 17 channels, their bills would go up considerably," said Brian Dietz, spokesman for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. "Bundles of programming provide the best value for consumers."

Consumer advocates, however, charge that the cable industry just wants to preserve its power to squash any independent networks in which it doesn't have an ownership stake.

"I think that's a lot of it," said Kenneth DeGraff, a policy analyst at the Consumers Union. "If you ask the smaller cable guys, they're in favor of (a la carte). It's the big media companies that are opposing it."

Indeed, the American Cable Association, which represents small rural cable operators, said it would voluntarily offer a la carte programming if the big program networks would let it.

How much influence do the big conglomerates have? No one seems to be sure, but consider the number of similarly affiliated channels that come on your cable package (i.e. Fox Family, Fox News, FX, Fox Sports Net, etc.)

From the looks of things, the media companies actually dear the very market in which they operate - niche channels would indeed have trouble in a marketplace where purchasing them as part of a package was not mandatory. Even so, I don't know if I will ever approve of a mandate from Big Brother directing the companies to provide options that allow the consumer to choose just a handful of channels.

However, I do agree with allowing those options into the marketplace. That is why I buy content on the internet, such as MLB.TV, where I can see exactly the programming that I want to see, and nothing else. Furthermore, I will continue to do so as long as the market does not allow me to have the a la carte option - $40 for a bundle of useless channels is just too much to pay.


.: posted by Dave 1:42 PM

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