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Article: Television a la Carte

by on July 17, 2012

After following the Viacom/DirecTV and AMC/Dish squabbles for quite some time, I came across some words from DirecTV CEO Mike White, suggesting that a la carte pricing for channels may be an option in the future without actually saying it.

White continues:

“Unfortunately, Viacom has decided to take their channels away from our customers. It’s a temporary and regrettable tactic to try to force you to pay substantially more for all their networks — even the ones you don’t watch or care about. We think that’s unreasonable. At the very least, we think Viacom should give you the choice to pay for only those channels you watch, but so far they’ve refused. Viacom continues to insist on an all-or-nothing approach.”

I thought about this, flipped through my own cable lineup, and started thinking about what I really need, even though the most basic lineup that has these channels still has five times that amount:

  • Local Channels (6)
  • USA
  • TBS
  • TNT
  • WGN America
  • SyFy (could remove when Warehouse 13, Eureka, and Alphas are off)
  • Comedy Central
  • A&E
  • Discovery
  • Travel
  • CNBC
  • ESPN
  • ESPN2
  • Comcast SportsNet Chicago (some providers in my area carry it—Cubs games are blacked out on MLB.TV)

Give or take a few bonus channels, I could live with this lineup—there’s about 14 cable-only channels and the other six for the networks, which I could pick up with a decent antenna. Obviously, if premium channels were options, this could change a bit. Still, with these channels combined with Netflix streaming and Redbox, I feel like my entertainment and information needs would be met.

The problem with a setup like this is that so many companies aren’t offering it, nor do they want to since they can offer you so many options. It’s become an arms race. Besides that, some of the new offerings where customers can buy channels in limited groups still give you way more than a simple list like mine. Using Comcast’s new model, which is not available in my area, I’d still be paying for a tier with channels similar to my lineup now, just to get those 14.

This is where I’d love for there to be an Internet-based solution. How great would it be to simply buy each channel you’d want and stream it on a box like the Apple TV? They could even build an option in to watch shows currently running on that particular network for the week, eliminating the need for DVRs for most people. I’m not saying Apple has to be the one to do it—the Apple TV is a great device as it is—we’d just need someone with clout to bring the Internet and media companies into the living room.

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