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Ala carte has nothing to do with the cable companies. It has to do with the providers. IE: if you wanna carry FX, you are also going to be carrying Fox Business News. Same with ESPN. If you want ESPN, then they will also bundle in other unwatched channels that are corporate owned. That's why ala carte isn't currently offered. The cable companies themselves are unable to pick and choose exactly what they want, but are instead sort of forced into carrying the lesser channels in order to obtain the good owns.


I really hate defending cable companies, but I believe a la carte would not save money for most people. I used to think like most people: "Why am I paying for all of these channels when I only watch a handful? Why can't I just pay a small fee just for each channel that I want?" The problem is that if cable companies did that, they would have to charge more for each channel than you would think. They are in business to make money. They set things up to cover expenses and make the profit they want. Per channel pricing would have to bring in the same revenue and most people would end up paying the same as they do now, but then they would lose access to those channels they rarely watch.

Sock Puppet

I've been advocating Ala Carte cable for years, and to address yeswor00... Sure it might cost the same, at first, and that would be fine with me.

Once all the dead weight gets removed from the lineup the providers will have no choice but to get rid of under performing useless channels. That's going to save them A LOT of money.

If their revenue starts dropping for other channels, maybe... just maybe they will start to hire folks and get more innovative and create programming that will keep viewers.

Perhaps I cannot speak for everyone, but I'd rather have 10 outstanding channels in rich full 1080 HD with 7.1 surround... Then 100 mediocre or useless channels that survive only by 70% commercials-30% overly edited dreck!

Sock Puppet

Of course I should have looked at the price list first... The only ones that are truly obscene are ESPN and Fox Sports, and sports fans are already willing to pay a premium for sports packages.

Ala Carte is simple and can certainly be profitable.

Crunching the numbers a Base Fee of $19.95 (this covers all sub fees, equipment and infrastructure costs) then $1 for each channel you want on your list (not the overpriced ESPN or Fox Sports) and offer the expensive channels in (**) for $9.95 each.

When you look at a wholesale price of .17¢ (cartoon network) that's a profit of .83¢ per month, per subscriber.

Add an extra .25¢ (to $1.25 per channel) and they would be profiting over a $1 for just about every channel!

So trust me, it could be done, it would be profitable, and it would bring the cost of cable down.

Using my formula for my own choices my cable bill Ala Carte would be $34.95 to $38.70 (adding an extra .25¢). Instead of almost $80 (would be cut in half).

My aunt who pays the same $80 I do would have a bill of $25.95, she have an extra $55 a month for groceries or over priced prescriptions!


Do you know what the ¢ sign means? I don't think you do.


As George said...

The content providers don't want to sell their channels à la carte. If you only bought the Syfy channel and CNBC, then who would watch the Prairie Dog channel?

Obviously, of course this suggests the fact that maybe the business is insanely tilted towards subsidizing channels that are not hugely popular...

However one can argue that the system does provide a healthy ecosystem of channels and choices. There are fervent followers of certain niche channels and an absolute à la carte system will kill them overnight.

That's not good either. A lot of people don't realize that even some big name channels sometimes have viewership in the thousands. That's not a typo! Sometimes MSNBC has only 7,000 viewers in the whole country! This is a product of having hundreds of channels available. The viewership is extremely segmented.

And this is why they sell channels based on packages. It's kind of like how Starbucks has areas where there are multiple locations within blocks of each other. They don't consider those to be "separate" stores. They consider them to be one store.


I love the idea of a la carte and would probably actually pay more to pick and choose my channels. Because I personally would love to "vote with my wallet" and stop funding crap channels. It's one thing to block a channel -- it's another to remove yourself from their demographic completely and let them know it.


well they could charge you 50 cents to $1 for channels a la cart and profit. maybe less if you bundle certain channels, or a large number of channels. or just get the standard package. prob charge $6-8 for the entire espn channel line up. and they can still profit.

say a basefee of $20 a month that covers infrastructure costs per sub but includes 5-10 channels of your choice

Rob Molecule

I think my problem is seeing the price of ESPN and Fox Sports, 2 channels I would never watch.

Sock Puppet

@ Tino

Ummm yeah I do know what it means, but I suspect you do not.

¢ means "Cent" or "Cents"... Of course if you were trying to be sarcastic or funny???

Don't quit your day job...

Rob Molecule

@Sock Puppet: I think he was trying to point out that by writing it as .25¢, you are actually saying it is a quarter of a penny. The decimal is not necessary if you are not using a dollar sign. I'm only pointing it out because it was brought up in a roundabout way.

Sock Puppet

@Rob Molecule: Ahhh well I have 22 years in retail (including a time when we used price guns to put the price on merchandise) and we always used the decimal point.

Even for items under $1 ;-)

Though I guess I can see where one could be confused by what I wrote above if the lived somewhere that had half pennies for currency.


>Ummm yeah I do know what it means, but I suspect you do not.

Nice try.

If you don't know the difference between 25 cents and 0.25 cents, I can't help you.

By your bizarre nomenclature, how would you state something that was a fraction of a penny? You don't need to quit your day job, because it probably doesn't include numbers, dollars or counting.


"Ahhh well I have 22 years in retail (including a time when we used price guns to put the price on merchandise) and we always used the decimal point.

Even for items under $1 ;-)"

Yes, but the price would say "$0.25", meaning 25 cents. Not "0.25¢," which means 1/4 of one cent. It's either 25¢ or $0.25. Not both.


I never understood is why DBS Cos. (DTV, Dish) package their channel line-ups (Tiers) the same as Cable Cos.? If anything I would think their fancy Sat/Rcvr box could perform the "à la carte" channel access function. But, then again, I would think the Cable Cos. digital box could to the same as well.

Or better yet, why don't they both just make literally all available channel or program a pay-per-view option. Sure, they wouldn't get the steady-Freddy $80 per month per member subscription money but then the customer would only pay for what they want to watch. Let's say I want to watch a "Gillian's Island" episode on TVLand. I punch it in my DBS/Cable Box remote and for, say, 2¢ I get to watch it. Is this the way we want to go? Think about it.



Like I mentioned above: DBS companies don't package it that way, because they aren't ALLOWED to. If you wanna carry ESPN, a Disney/ABC owned channel, then guess what? You are also forced to carry Toon Disney and a plethora of other company owned channels. This is actually how they managed to get Toon Disney onto many cable lineups.

The same goes for every other channel and provider. Ala-Carte is a consumers dream, and cable companies and other providers would love to give it to you. However, unless "bundling" (for lack of a better term) becomes illegal, it will simply never happen.

Hunter McDaniel

The real leverage comes from the broadcast networks themselves. Even though you can get ABC with an antenna almost anywhere, the cable companies have to negotiate for the rights to deliver that same signal to their subscribers. In many major markets the local ABC station is owned by the parent corporation (Disney). And Disney then says, sure, you can carry our ABC affiliate - as part of a package deal that includes expensive extras like ESPN. What's worse, revenues from the "ESPN tax" lets them bid sports programming away from the regular broadcast channels - which means that I can't see Monday Night Football without subscribing to cable or DBS.

With a-la-carte, this whole structure would quickly fall apart.


It's a complicated issue. Previously, cable companies negotiated transmission rights for the four networks but saying we won't pay you for carriage rights (since they are 'flying through' the air for free) BUT we will agree to pay and carry cable networks so that's how we end up with ESPN Ocho... but that gentleman's agreement is nearing an end as the networks look at their cable net cash flow and wonder why they are not getting $1 billion off the bat like ESPN does for Disney ... so now things might start splintering BUT the cable networks have a vested interest because they sell ads based on home watching potential ... so if it's less than 60-million homes passed (available in), they consider it a mini network so EVERY network scrambles to get to that number because eventually people might start watching you but you don't know until you get your foot in the door (in the package) ... hence they will do anything not to fall from "BasiC' or "EXpanded Tiers" including extra payments ... that's a sidebar also, big networks can launch from a current cabler because they can say to a cable company, we'll pay you $10+ dollars per subscriber ... hence Fox News is on in 60+ million home, surprise! While other cable cahnnel launchesgoes nowhere ... NOW, if ala carte were available, I doubt things would chnge much, why? Bundling. Disney would say, you can buy ABC for $22 a month or ESPN or the Disney Channel for $20 a month each or for $25 a month, we will give you ALL 20 Disney-ESPN Channels ... what deal will you take? And channels like QVC, they will pay the cable company so it's "free" to you ... so if anything, like deregulation, we will almost certainly pay more for EXACTLY the same channels or if you really, really really only want 4 extra' channels, you will be paying $15 for each channels. cable company wins.


Sad thing is, when our cable company was a locally owned company they offered ala-cart service.

I had the basic packaged and paid $5.00 extra per month for the five channels that I wanted to watch beyond the basic package. It worked great and I had no problems with it at all.

Charter then bought our local cable company and within a few months canceled the service saying that their software didn't support ala-cart services. In order to get the five channels I previously was paying five dollars a month for, I now had to pay an extra FIFTY dollars because two of the channels were in the high-end tier.

Needless to say we didn't pay for the higher tier.


I would LOVE to get a-la-carte pricing. Let's say everyone pays an average of $75/month for TV, due to these dumb packages. If we went to a-la-carte, my TV bill would fall to (say) $50/month, because I hardly watch any TV. A person who sits and watches TV 8 hours a day all through the month, will see their bill go up to $100/$150 per month... sure, that's a big jump, and they might have trouble paying the bill. But right now those people's habits are being subsidised by folks like me. We're all paying the same and it doesn't make any sense.

Consider internet access. Everyone pays the same for "unlimited" usage (even though the providers are squirming to work their way around that wording, with bandwidth caps, etc.). There is a great deal of speculation that these providers will start to charge for usage - that way, people who hardly ever use the internet (in terms of data transferred) will pay less, and data hogs – those up/downloading HD movie files etc. – will have to pay more. I think most people believe this to be fair. It’s a little like phone or cellphone minutes (though over the last 10-15 years they went away from the “per minute” rate and went to packages of minutes). You pay more if you use it more.

I totally agree with Sock Puppet’s assertion that a load of crappy stations will go away once not enough money is coming in. There will be a lot more competition for ad space, too, with less stations. That’ll mean a lot less Billy Mays hawking (from the grave) some useless gadget.

I would like to see different rates for different stations. They would all be available. No more need for packages, premium packages, pay-per-view… it’s all pay-per-view.

I would like to see the SD versions of stations offered at 25% of the cost of the HD version, since it probably occupies 25% of the data space. (for some reason I cannot understand, my wife prefers the SD versions of stations… drives me nuts)

I would like to see low-data-rate, lossy-compressed HD broadcasts offered at a lower rate than a less-compressed broadcast. The former have so much noise, blocky graphics, and visual smearing/distortion, it’d hardly worth calling it “high definition.” (probably a dog kicked to death elsewhere, this)

I have AT&T UVerse. They know exactly what station my TV is receiving, and they also know if it is showing commercials or not. If I switch channels when a commercial break comes on, they know it. Even if I’m watching playback on the DVR, they know (or ought to know) when my TV is showing a commercial.

Therefore, I would like to receive a “break” on the bill when I watch a commercial. If I deliberately avoid a commercial, they should charge me. If the set-top box is switched off, then no dice, but if I am deliberately trying to not see the commercials that their clients pay them to feed to my eyeballs, then that is costing them money (since that data ought to be visible to clients, eventually)

Proposed business model:
If I watch 5hrs of TV a day, every day of the month, that’s 150hrs/month, for which I’m paying (say) $75/month. Conveniently, that is $0.50 per hour of TV viewed. Could they bill by the hour?

However, it ought to be able to be broken down more finely. (remember 6-second billing from the cellphone providers? They got rid of that!!!) A reasonable model in 2010 is for it to be broken down to “seconds displayed.” 150hrs of TV is 9,000 minutes, or 540,000 seconds. My $75 is broken down, on average, to $0.00014 per second. (1.4% of a cent for each second of TV) Every 7 seconds of TV is 1 cent on the bill. What’s wrong with that?

Then they offer their stations this way –

CNN - $0.00020/s
CNBC - $0.00021/s
Fox Business - $0.00022/s
Home & Garden - $0.00017/s
Spike TV - $0.00019/s
ABC - $00001/s (since they are simply relaying what you can already receive over the air)

If I interrupt a commercial before the TV has displayed the whole thing, add $0.001 to my bill. If I watch an entire commercial end-to-end, remove $0.0001 to my bill.

Why is this type of stuff so hard to grasp? Can’t they run the numbers and see what can be done? It's a lot fairer for single persons who don't watch a lot of TV, versus families of six who watch TONS of TV.

As Hacking Netflix suggests, Netflix and other providers like Apple or whoever will eventually chip away at the monopoly on the “broadcast of premium framed storytelling” that packaged TV has right now, by offering us content via other mechanisms; and after enough time goes by, no-one will care if they suddenly start offering a-la-carte, because people will be cancelling their cable/IPTV, just like they're cancelling their POTS landlines. Cable and IPTV providers need to get on the stick now and lead the way, while they can still control the business models.


Wow! The WHOLESALE price for ESPN is
$4.08 per month. The retail price must be at least $10 a month. That is $120 a year I am paying for something I do not consume.

Cable companies say that A La Carte is going to cost more since they refuse to give up their current profits. No one will pay $15-$20 a channel. What will happen is prices for each channel will have to fall to reasonable levels and cable companies will have to settle for less profit. Right now cable companies can justify high monthly bills by saying you are getting hundreds of channels. The cable companies are not entitled to billions of dollar in profit.

Irate fios user

outrageous pricing and draconian media 'restrictions' via HDCP successfully tempt more to piracy monthly.

People are willing to pay for what THEY want, but not for useless crap, and not to be able to store- and watch on their respective terms

Irate fios user

outrageous pricing and draconian media 'restrictions' via HDCP successfully tempt more to piracy monthly.

People are willing to pay for what THEY want, but not for useless crap, and be unable to to store- and watch paid-for media on their respective terms (their time, their hardware, their way)

TV channels

Today internet users are provided with the facility of watching online videos and TV channels but searching for this was very time consuming. I love to watch online TV channels and its a great news that some of the sites are also providing the selection or list of best video channels for people.


outrageous pricing and draconian media 'restrictions' via HDCP successfully tempt more to piracy monthly.

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