Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Volume 3, Number 11: Viewing "A La Carte"

(Note: I originally posted this entry on March 4, 2008, to my Yahoo! GeoCities blog.)

On March 10, major cable operators and programmers plan to ask a federal judge in Los Angeles to throw out an antitrust suit designed to allow consumers to buy channels on an individual (or "a la carte") basis. I hope that judge doesn't do that.

"A la carte" cable TV. It has been nothing more than a concept for years, but the FCC has kicked the idea around from time to time.

Meanwhile, cable providers are hell-bent on fighting it because, well, they're greedy and they think they can profit far more without a la carte cable than they could with it. Realistically, I imagine they would make about the same amount of money--yes, some households, like mine, would dump unwanted channels, but a lot more would be more than thrilled just to be able to pick up the few channels they've been longing to have but were too poor to even consider paying $30 or $40 or more every month.

I wish cable providers would see their product the way I see food. There are a number of things that TV programming and food have in common:

  • Everybody consumes it
  • They both come in a wide variety (with food, you've got produce, meats, cereal, canned foods, junk food, frozen foods, dairy, and so on; with TV, you've got sports, news, documentaries, movies, dramas, comedies, talk shows, and more)
  • Where children are concerned, both require parental control to be enjoyed responsibly (parents can essentially "block" their children from eating too much junk food by not buying it; likewise, today's TVs can be set so parents can prevent their children from watching certain programming--the R-rated stuff on Cinemax, for example).

Since people can pick and choose what food they want at the supermarket, it is ridiculous that they cannot pick and choose what networks they want from their cable provider.

Seriously, imagine if I had to get food the same way I presently get my cable TV. Then I'd be paying $100 a month for a "basic food package," which may include stuff I don't want and have never bought in the last seven years (mushrooms, onions, ultra-spicy foods, carrots, asparagus, artichokes), and which may NOT include stuff I'd rather have (e.g. the canned soups that represent roughly 40% of my lunches, or the Betty Crocker Helpers that make up more than half of my Sunday dinners). And then I'd have to upgrade to the $150/month "enhanced food package" to get that Chunky Soup or that Chicken Helper--and I'd still be getting stuck with those goshforsaken mushrooms and onions.

With that said, you can imagine how badly I'd like to "cough up" Food Network, QVC, HSN, ShopNBC, INSP, EWTN, TBN and those "Music Choice" channels; and in return, pick up BBC America, NFL Network, and the Sundance Channel. With the package I have now, I can add all of the latter--along with some Starz! networks, Lifetime Movie Network, Fox Movie Channel, Fox Soccer Channel, History Channel International, The Biography Channel and some other networks--for $12 a month, but darnit, I'd rather save that money, even if it means getting less in the process.

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