This WSJ article takes a look at a la carte cable TV pricing and how it might change the industry. Media companies say it would raise prices for consumers, and there's a suggestion that bundling subsidizes some of the less popular shows.
This Forbes article says it could also drive up the cost of cable broadband internet, suggesting that it, too, is subsidized by bundled content.
There's also an ongoing debate about whether bundling is even legal.
What irks me (and a lot of other people) is paying for content I never watch. For example, the WSJ article says ESPN is the most expensive cable subscription, costing the cable companies more than $5 per month per subscriber. I don't like having to pay $5 per month plus whatever their markup is for something I rarely watch. Same thing with Fox News, which costs the cable company nearly $1 per month. And they should have to pay ME to watch Jewelry TV or Home Shopping Network.
To me, the answer is hybrid a la carte plus on demand. The Forbes article gives an example of Food Network, saying that if it were a la carte it might cost $6 per month, which would attract only the hardcore Food Network viewers and shut out people who only watch it occasionally.
But why are those the only choices? Why couldn't I watch an occasional Food Network program for 25 cents or whatever the demand-based pricing is for it? Or pay $1 to watch a football game on ESPN? Other people who watch every football game might be willing to pay $8 or $10 per month for all programming to get a better deal.
And if I watched a fifth football game, it could prompt me and say "hey, you've watch five ESPN programs this month for $5. For only $5 more you can subscribe to all ESPN programming for unlimited viewing."
Further, it should all be digital on demand. You could watch what you want, when you want, no DVR required. Live events could be streamed and recorded once in the cloud and watched any time. Billing could be automatic.
If you think about it, the conflict between cable companies and entertainment/media companies who hold them hostage is backwards. Cable companies hold the cards. The media companies couldn't deliver their content without the cable companies. And in at least one case, the cable company (Comcast) owns the media company (NBC).
The consumer would pay the cable company for broadband and the content provider for the content. And maybe the cable company could also charge the content provider a commission for sales and delivery (and maybe even billing and collection), making it a win-win for them.
With an on-demand approach for everything (which is what we will have someday but probably not in my lifetime), the cable companies become the content delivery provider independent of the content producer, who would then have to produce content people are willing to pay for. There's already a lot of that going on with Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Video on Demand. Just make it official, and free up the cable TV bandwidth for more internet streaming.
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