But where are the "reasonable" a la carte prices?
Depends on what you consider "reasonable", how willing you are to think outside the box, and how willing you are to be patient. After listening to my family complain constantly about the $220.00 per month, $2,640.00 annually, we were spending on Cable and Internet we took at look at what was available and what we were willing to give up.
With our Cable cancellation, which was a $120.00 per month and at a different provider from our Internet, we now had $1,440.00 freed up to spend on our video entertainment.
Our iPads have apps for all the major TV Networks, I'm Canadian by the way - just for context, and an Apple TV. The Network apps have nearly every show the day after they air, basically as long as you're willing to wait a day you more or less get them for free. Sometimes they'll have ads which are usually less than 30 seconds, by the time you're reaching for the remote to mute the sound the show is often back on. For the ones that won't play on the Apple TV because of "restrictions" from the rights holder we just all shuffle down to the big screen in the basement where I've got the iMac hooked up, we open a browser window on the big screen and watch it from the Network website.
This a-la carte method of TV, where we only watch the shows we want, costs us all of $0.00 total.
We also like movies and and a bit of variety. For a decent selection of older movies and TV, much of which we haven't seen so its all new to us, we got Netflix for 8.99 per month.
I love Anime, so I picked up Crunchyroll for 11.99 per month.
We also picked up the Crackle, Viki, Vimeo, and Youtube Apps to round things out and give us some more variety - all free by the way.
At this point the entertainment services we do buy work out to just 251.76 annually, an amazing savings of approximately 1,188.24 annually. That money saved can be used for other things. For example the shows we can't get through the "free" channels, or that we just want to see in higher quality, we simply buy them. Some, when they're not too expensive at iTunes, we'll get a Season Pass for - even though they're available through the Network websites I still get Arrow, S.H.I.E.L.D., and Doctor Who via Season Passes because I like the higher quality. I think its reasonable to pay $35.00 - $40.00 for 22 45 minute episodes (1.60 to 1.80 each) as experience has shown the Blu-Ray will likely cost $60.00. I just think of it like a rental or magazine subscription that works out to the equivalent of a doughnut and a drink at the Timmies once a month.
For some shows the online options are simply too expensive and unreasonable to buy, I personally refuse to pay more than physical price for an HD season of TV on Blu-Ray, so we just wait and buy them when it comes out on Blu-Ray / DVD - or, if we're being patient, will wait until it hits Netflix.
Since much of what we used to watch we could still get via the Network websites and Apps, we spent just over, I think, $300.00 on TV & Movie DVDs / Blu-Rays last year - though I'd have to pull out the receipts and add them up. About the only thing we were missing out on was the first run movies and sports, if you're big on either you might have to make a bit of a sacrifice there. It wasn't a problem for us since we don't much like sports and we've found that first run movies we want to see bad enough to rent are often ones we want to buy anyway.
Even the prices you stated in your post aren't really all that unreasonable when you think it through, $2.99 / $3.99 for a for 45 minute show is about the same price as people spend for a "Specialty" Coffee at the Starbucks, a magazine / newspaper they'll read once and then throw away, a beer at the pub, etc... I personally wouldn't buy it at that price either, its getting too close to physical purchase cost and I'd much rather wait and have the physical item in hand. Still, if it was a show I desperately wanted to see it could certainly be justified - especially since I could afford it since I'd just freed up that $1,440.00 I was wasting on Cable.