John McCain is Right About Something ‘A La Carte’ Cable TV
Agreeing with a Republican is something that happens to me about once every 10 years but Arizona Senator John McCain is absolutely right about ‘A La Carte’ Cable TV. ‘A La Carte’ in this case means that you get to choose the channels you want individually and pay only for those channels.
Since the dawn of Napster entertainment companies have bent over backward, launched thousands of lawsuits and lobbied for absurd laws to make sure people are paying for the content they consume. All that time though cable companies have been forcing people to pay for content they don’t want.
When you get a cable or satellite channel you are in essence buying a monthly subscription to all of the channels on your dial. This is a silly and outdated way of doing things. Would you subscribe to 100 magazines when you really only wanted 10-15 of them? That is how cable currently works though, they bundle channels together and make you subscribe to all of them or none. Each of the channels in the bundle then gets paid regardless of how many or how few people are watching. That is, in large part, why you can have 200 channels on the dial but can’t find anything you want to watch. Bundling reduces the incentive for cable channels to produce or acquire quality programming.
A new bill introduced by Senator McCain would allow cable and satellite customers to subscribe to only the channels they wanted to watch:
Content providers would be forbidden from bundling their network and broadcast offerings—so Disney, for example, couldn’t force cable companies to take ABC and ESPN in a packaged deal.
The bill would ban sports blackouts, like the ones the NFL imposes on games that aren’t sold-out at the stadium level.
It would help out Aereo, a service that lets consumers stream broadcast TV—and which has come under fire from networks that say it violates their copyright.
Any company that took “high-value programming” off of broadcast TV to put it on cable would lose its broadcast license.
This would likely make individual channels more expensive, but the overall bill would likely go down. For example, instead of paying $100 per month for 100 channels you might pay $50 per month for 20 channels, but you would get to pick the 20. The higher bill though would provide the channels you like more money to create better programming.
Even this is, obviously, a stop gap. Services like Netflix and Amazon are the long term future of television. Individual programs will be presented in a menu, whenever you want to watch and “channels” will go away but maybe if people are no longer forced to pay for content they don’t want it may be easier to get them to pay for what they do want.