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Television Media The Almighty Buck

FCC Report Supports a la Carte TV Pricing 567

An anonymous reader writes "The FCC may soon allow cable/sat companies to sell individually customized TV channel packages. From the article: ' FCC chairman Kevin Martin spoke to a forum, sponsored by the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee in Washington, which has been examining indecency on radio and television. Martin told the forum that the FCC will soon release a report that concludes that offering TV programming a la carte is economically feasible and in the best interest of consumers.'"
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FCC Report Supports a la Carte TV Pricing

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  • About time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by artitumis ( 934987 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @07:32AM (#14145980) Homepage

    I've been wishing for this for as long as I can remember. Now that I am paying my own cable bill I want it even more. Why should I pay for channels like Lifetime if I never watch it?

    The cable industry really has a choke hold on consumers. I'm glad the FCC is finally doing something right.

    • Re:About time (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jmp_nyc ( 895404 ) *
      It would be useless for the FCC to simply allow a la carte pricing. They have to modify their existing rules on tiers and bundling.

      Right now, unlike the FTC which ruled that Microsoft was out of line when they bundled software, the FCC rules specifically allow channel owners to sell bundles of channels to cable carriers, specifying in the contract which channels need to be in which tiers. On my local cable system, [twcnyc.com] this results in having lots of channels in the broader digital tiers that no one ever watch
    • Re:About time (Score:4, Interesting)

      by skyshock21 ( 764958 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @10:00AM (#14146906)
      Why should I pay for channels like Lifetime if I never watch it?
      As I understand it, the more widely watched cable TV channels sort of subsidize the less-widely watched channels in the current packaged offerings. So someone like me who watches things that aren't so popular such as Animal Planet, National Geographic Channel, Food Network, DIY Network, etc... might not have those choices anymore and will only be able to pick from the crappy programming that appeals to the masses like MTV, Fox News, etc... since the cable companies wouldn't be able to justify carrying those "off-channels" for only a handful of subscribers.

      You can damn well bet they'll be charging a premium for each channel as well, and you'll probably be paying roughly the same amount, just with less channels to look at.
      • Re:About time (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MDMurphy ( 208495 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @12:13PM (#14148183)
        If that happens, it's exactly as it should be. If MTV, Fox News, etc are subsidising your watching of DYI then someone's getting screwed. If you, and the other viewers, aren't willing to foot the bill for your channels don't expect someone else to.
      • Re:About time (Score:3, Informative)

        by Photon Ghoul ( 14932 )
        So someone like me who watches things that aren't so popular such as Animal Planet, National Geographic Channel, Food Network, DIY Network, etc

        Actually, you're probably not as alone as you think. Everyone I talk to that still watches TV typically watches those channels or similar ones.
  • Indecency? (Score:5, Funny)

    by GoatMonkey2112 ( 875417 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @07:33AM (#14145982)
    What does indecency have to do with this? Am I going to be able to get just the indecent channels now?
    • Re:Indecency? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by JavaSavant ( 579820 )
      The right and many conservatives have pushed for this because it essentially makes all channels pay channels. Theoretically, this should mean that the FCC is handed a reduced role as decency-tzar and instead we have a economically controlled broadcast system where accountability is pushed to the consumer rather than to the producer.

      Again, this is all in theory. In reality, we'll probably eventually see some sort of price scheduling by the FCC based on the content rating system as to deter people from purc

    • What does indecency have to do with this?

      The idea is that, in the FCC's collective mind, people should be able to sign up for cable programming without receiving, say, Comedy Central which they might find "offensive." Granted, the tools certainly already exist for irresponsi^Wconcerned parents to block these channels out; if you watch TV any, you've also seen that broadcast and cable networks are showing commercials for ControlYourTV.org and promoting parental responsibility.

      I believe the issue now is that

      • The idea is that, in the FCC's collective mind, people should be able to sign up for cable programming without receiving, say, Comedy Central which they might find "offensive." Granted, the tools certainly already exist for irresponsi^Wconcerned parents to block these channels out; if you watch TV any, you've also seen that broadcast and cable networks are showing commercials for ControlYourTV.org and promoting parental responsibility.
        Very true but here in America the idea seems to be that parents shoul
        • Re:Indecency? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by caino59 ( 313096 )
          Very true but here in America the idea seems to be that parents shouldn't have to actually parent nowadays.


          So true.

          After all, it takes a village to raise an idiot...
    • Re:Indecency? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by graymocker ( 753063 )
      Because now parents wont have to pay for more adult-targetted channels like FX and Spike when they just want to give little Timmy access to Discovery and Animal Planet. The current cable paradigm is a pretty good example of market failure - of market forces failing to produce optimal consumer outcomes or even providing coherent and significant choices for the consumer. Somehow I doubt the conservatives will be framing it that way when they announce government intervention.
      • Re:Indecency? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by RedHat Rocky ( 94208 )
        Actually the market is working just fine.

        The problem is We (the people who watch) aren't in the market any more. Rather, the cable companies are now "the demand". And evidently they are getting what they want. The Watchers have no recourse other than to not participate (or complain, which does nothing).

        Personally I think any market where a middle man exists eventually favors the middle man, the examples keep building up. Such as the pork market several years ago, the gasoline hike this summer, even the PC i
  • by shbazjinkens ( 776313 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @07:34AM (#14145984)
    They believe that a la carte pricing would make it too expensive to offer less-popular channels that presently are bundled with popular channels.

    Of course, nevermind that the channels that are "less-popular" are probably useless beef anyway.
    • by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @07:47AM (#14146036)
      Of course, nevermind that the channels that are "less-popular" are probably useless beef anyway.

      Or they simply cater to a much less mainstream taste, such as literary or arts programs. Just because something isn't to your taste (or mine) doesn't make it "useless beef".
    • All those less-popular channels sure do suck all right. They're only watched by fringe groups like nerds [slashdot.org].
  • Concerned? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bhiestand ( 157373 ) * on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @07:34AM (#14145986) Journal
    Am I the only one concerned that this appears to be coming about from the efforts to protect Joe Righteous from "harmful" television instead of a desire to protect the consumer from price gouging package deals?
    • Re:Concerned? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ReverendHoss ( 677044 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @07:47AM (#14146035)
      Letting people who are offended by certain programming turn off the channel, instead of petitioning the government to censor the programming on a channel they can't help but get because of the bundling would be a good thing for both concerned parents, and those of us who like our programming smutty.

      "Give me smut and nothing but!"
      -Tom Lehrer
    • by Analogy Man ( 601298 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @07:49AM (#14146046)
      I actually tried to file a complaint with the FCC. The only thing they allow you to report is nudity and off color language.

      A person stepping out of the shower is natural, legal and a very real part of millions of people's lives and yet it is "indecent" to show on television. On the other hand, an action sequence with some demon from the pits of hell tearing a person apart in front of their children is fine for a Sunday afternoon movie promotion. I like to watch an occasional sporting event with my kids (11,6,2,2 years old) and have to have a hand on the remote. It would be one thing at 9:00pm, but quite another at 2:00 on Sunday. I would like to let my oldest watch a football game (he is more into it than I am), but you can actually see a response to the flashing explosive movie trailers in my younger kids.

      I am frustrated as a parent that the human body and sexuality that is natural, legal, etc...is considered too dirty for television, but antisocial violent behavior that is both illegal and unnatural is "fine for family viewing". It's a strange world we live in!

      • PVR + DelayedStart + FastForward
        = NoCommercials + InHouseReply
        = BetterSportsEnjoyment
        • Well, yeah. That's good and I do that too.

          But it does not solve the problem. With that, you still have to sit there with your finger on the button and do the fast forwarding. He was saying that he can't walk away and let his kids watch alone. PVR does not solve that unless you can program it to auto-skip commercials, and that isn't going to happen.

        • by Maestro4k ( 707634 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @08:37AM (#14146265) Journal
          PVR + DelayedStart + FastForward = NoCommercials + InHouseReply = BetterSportsEnjoyment
          That doesn't address the issue at all, it's merely a patch applied to it. The grandparent's point was that the commercials shown during family friendly programming hours can be anything but family friendly because of the massive violence they show. To top it off the FCC doesn't even allow complaints about violent programming so you can't report those commercials to them as innapporpriate. But let someone's naked rear end be seen getting out of the shower and you can complain all you want.

          That's a fundamental issue there, the FCC by their own complaint acceptance policies has decreed that violence is a-ok and not indecent.

      • It sure would be nice if they rated commercials, too. I remember, years ago, a commercial for the new Ripley's Believe It Or Not came on at dinner time (during the Simpsons, I believe). Without warning, the commercial came on, and a guy started hammering a nail up his nose. Then somebody had worms crawling all over them. Suddenly my spaghetti didn't look so appealing, and I barely managed to keep down what I had already eaten!
      • by KJE ( 640748 ) <ken@kje.ca> on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @08:34AM (#14146248) Homepage
        s/world/country/
      • by nikanj ( 799034 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @09:15AM (#14146553)
        No, it's a strange country you live in! Most of the world doesn't think seeing naked people scars the young mind. Or that murder is a-ok to show to children.
        But on the other hand, it's only a matter of time before americans will ban both childbirth and nursing, as they expose children to breasts and female genitalia.
        • NO, no. (Score:3, Insightful)

          by solomonrex ( 848655 )
          You have a strange notion of 'Most of the world'. Catholic South America and Islamic countries are more conservative than we are with flesh, and just as liberal with violence (if only we'd read the ratings label on Iraq!). Since Islam is growing faster than the world population, and most parents restrict what their children watch worldwide, there's a good reason to doubt that 'most of the world doesn't think seeing naked people scars the young mind'. In the last few years, we've had Bush's 'surprise' re-
      • by Hamhock ( 73572 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @09:27AM (#14146646)
        I am frustrated as a parent that the human body and sexuality that is natural, legal, etc...is considered too dirty for television, but antisocial violent behavior that is both illegal and unnatural is "fine for family viewing". It's a strange world we live in!

        This used to puzzle me as well, but the more I thought about it, I came to realize that people don't seem to mind their kids seeing violence as much as sex because they don't actually think their kids will do any of the violent things they see, but they might actually do the sexual things. Certainly there are those who think kids do mimic the violent things they see, and for a very small subset of society, that's true. But, the vast majority of people exposed to violence rarely re-enact it. But, if kids see "natural and legal" sexual behavior, their going to think, "Hey, why can't I do that?" And therin lies the concern about sex in the media.

        • Finally, someone posted a logical reply to all the "Why do we tolerate violence but not sex?" rhetoric.

          The main part of the problem isn't so much merely with sex and/or nudity being shown; the problem is with the portrayal of casual sex as acceptable behavior. Pretty much every portrayal of sexuality you see is between people who aren't married and don't give any thought to the consequences of their actions. No one ever gets AIDS in the movies, unless it's a movie about AIDS. No one ever experiences th

    • Am I the only one concerned that this appears to be coming about from the efforts to protect Joe Righteous from "harmful" television instead of a desire to protect the consumer from price gouging package deals?

      Ultimately, it helps both groups of activists... But you're right to be concerned. Be prepared to resist a big push to enforce the same "Decency" standards on satellite television, cable, and the internet, as you see on regular broadcast television and radio in the near future--because the "harmful

    • That was my first reaction to this. A la carte seems to be what I want, but I would absolutely hate for the FCC to cave one more time to a fringe minority group. My cable box offers passwords, blocks by rating, blocks by channel, and blocks by time. My television's V-chip will also block out adult-rated programs. I do not want the FCC instituting what would be a bold consumer victory only in the face of placating the ridiculous righteous.
    • by Kunta Kinte ( 323399 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @09:14AM (#14146548) Journal
      Am I the only one concerned that this appears to be coming about from the efforts to protect Joe Righteous from "harmful" television instead of a desire to protect the consumer from price gouging package deals?

      Why on earth does that concern you?

      This proposal allows the viewer to decide what is indecent and what is ok.

      Everyone, including Joe Righteous, should have a right to do this.

      Remember, You do not have a right to impose your values on 'Joe Righeous' any more than he has a right to impose his on you.

  • by danaris ( 525051 ) <danaris&mac,com> on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @07:34AM (#14145987) Homepage

    A la carte pricing could be really great (I haven't studied the economics of it, but it sounds good). But it irks me no end that this conclusion is drawn in the context of fighting "indecency" on the air.

    Now, I certainly don't want television to become nothing but porn and violence--but the way indecency restrictions work these days is quite ridiculous. Moreover, its only purpose is to push strongly religious-based values as if they were the "one, true way", when our Constitution explicitly forbids the government from so much as suggesting that there might be a "one, true way".

    Why not let us make our own decisions about what to watch--and let the networks make their own decisions about what to air?

    Dan Aris

  • by LanMan04 ( 790429 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @07:35AM (#14145991)
    I don't like this idea. If we give people the power to buy channels on an a la carte basis, that means the ones that don't get purchased as frequently will probably go out of business (as TFA says).

    If I watched MTV, CNN, and the Country Music Network, I wouldn't care. But since I watch the History Channel, the Science Channel, Discovery, etc, I do care. These channels will probably fall by the wayside as their revenue is reduced by a huge margin. =(
    • Exactly. There is a negative to this side as well. However I doubt that the cable companies will make "a la carte" pricing attractive at all. Bundles will still be the best route. Hell I get every channel available in my area and the HD channels are free (I don't have an hdtv so it's pointless but nice nevertheless). I get all the movie channels for my wife who loves movies and I get the Fox Soccer Channel for me (bundled with ESPN News, Classic and all that). I almost never watch TV but the PVR has actuall
    • by myspys ( 204685 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @07:54AM (#14146074) Homepage
      Or the history channel and similar channels will be charged at a higher rate, to be able to survive with fewer viewers?

      I'd be more than happy to pay $5 each for the good channels (discovery channels for example, mtv is not an example) instead of paying $30 (or whatever) to have 3 good and 400 shitty channels.
    • People should not have to pay for channels they have no desire to watch. What gives you the right to have other people subsidize your enjoyment? The problem is too many people they are "entitled" to what they want even at the expense of others. Terms like fairness are often used and if that doesn't work discrimination and disenfranchisement are then employed.

      I don't want to pay for certain channels let alone fund them. Currently I don't have a choice, if I want certain channels I have to pay for those I
      • What gives you the right to have other people subsidize your enjoyment? The problem is too many people they are "entitled" to what they want even at the expense of others. Terms like fairness are often used and if that doesn't work discrimination and disenfranchisement are then employed.

        Okay then, but when you're old and break a hip, don't expect any taxpayers to pick up the tab.
      • Sadly, I'm afraid that when a-la-carte channel choices becomes the norm, you will be very dissapointed in the results.
        You will (maybe) still have the option to buy all (say 100) channels for (say $50). But don't think that this means you will be buying channels for $0.50 each ... probably more like $5-$10+ per channel. So this means that your total choice for the buck gets reduced -- as soon as you buy more than a handful of channels you might as well buy the bundle 'cause you're spending the same amount.
    • This is one of the arguments frequently lobbed at the licence-fee funding of the BBC by commercial broadcasters in the UK (and in particular Murdoch's Sky and its press affiliates). "Why should the public be forced to pay for channels they don't want to watch?", the argument goes. The US is then cited as an example of where a wealth of different interests are served by cable channels for which people choose to pay. Strangely, no-one ever mentions the must-carry provisions which appear to support this divers
      • Hopefully the BBC will move away from a license-fee model soon. I haven't turned on a TV since Doctor Who ended, and I probably won't for the next season since it will be streamed over the 'net at the same time. I do, however, subscribe to the BBC national and regional RSS feeds, and consider that they are worth the price of a license fee by themselves. I might get rid of my television at some point in the next few years - it's bulky and takes up a lot of space in my living room - but I wouldn't want the
  • by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @07:44AM (#14146026)
    Questions for the FCC Overlords of Programming:
    Who determines how much a channel is worth? The FCC? A parental group who hates Howard Stern and anything deemed indecent by their 'decency' standards?
    Will you have the choice of either or plan? To opt out?
    Can you choose from something other than one monopolistic cable company that only serves your area?

    If you do not have the choice of leaving your plan the way it is, I see this only increasing the price of your overall bill if you want to keep the same amount of channels you already had. Then again, maybe this will inspire people to stop watching TV altogether...but probably not.
  • Oh Great... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Cytlid ( 95255 ) *
    ...I can see it now. The most popular channels will be the porn and violent ones.

    "But Mr Cheney, you are already subscribed to all the porn channels we offer."
  • by FictionPimp ( 712802 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @07:46AM (#14146031) Homepage
    Forget Channels Alacarte. Why arn't we just doing TV shows on demand. On demand is by far the best feature ever invented with TV. Its the only reason I even pay for cable.
    • People that make the show are not necessarily the same ones as the ones broadcasting nor the cable channel that is showing it. So if you can watch shows on demand, they are less likely to sell that Season 2 DVD set of Mythbusters for 100 bucks.
  • You mean you had cable TV? Back in my day, we had to settle for whatever we could get by playing around with the antenna, and no remote controls 'cause they weren't invented yet, and we LIKED it!
  • GREAT idea (Score:2, Informative)

    by Mr2001 ( 90979 )
    I've been waiting for this a long time. I'm paying $45 a month for analog cable, and the way it is now, I can't get HBO without subscribing to an additional digital cable package (which includes a bunch of channels I'll never watch) and an HBO "plex" (including about 5 HBO channels). That's an extra $40-50 a month to get the one channel I want. If I could just pay for the channel I want, I could actually subscribe to HBO instead of downloading the shows I watch from BT.
  • Not a good idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by onwardknave ( 533210 )
    Why do so many people think this is a good idea? What channels won't be included that would otherwise provide quality viewing? Who would pay for their provider to include PBS, the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, or CSPAN (besides me)? What incentive would stations have to put out quality programming any other time than prime-time? Won't this narrow the market down to a few stations able to provide the most flash and sex? A free market approach doesn't benefit the consumer if the consumer loses
    • by foolish_to_be_here ( 802344 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @08:23AM (#14146182)
      I've heard in this thread lots of complaints that (little viewed) channels like, Discovery, History and PBS would be dropped using this approach. Wrong! These channels have huge followings as they get referred to, time and again in diverse public forums other than Slashdot. Think about it, both SciFi and Food channel were once part of the basic Direct TV satellite package years ago until the little phone cord attached to the back of every box tattled to the marketing guru's that they were getting lots of viewer time, so they got bumped up into premium packages.
  • by Ilex ( 261136 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @07:52AM (#14146061)
    With PVR's now common and soon Video on Demand over broadband it seems to be the next logical step.

    You only have to look at how popular recorded TV episodes have become on bittorent sites to see that people these days don't want to sit in front of the TV at prescribed times.

    If they want to stop piracy they'll have to provide programming around other people schedules. People have a lot more things to do and are not prepared to fit their lives around their schedule.
  • Good for HD fans (Score:3, Informative)

    by techstar25 ( 556988 ) <techstar25@nOSpaM.gmail.com> on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @07:52AM (#14146064) Journal
    This will give people like me the option of only paying for the channels that are in HD. Right now, with Brighthouse in Florida, in order to get the 10 channel "HD Pack" I have to subscribe to 200 crappy-looking "digital" channels that I never, ever watch. Technically, I should be able to subscribe to only the major networks HD channels (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC) but they repeatedly say I can't do it without purchasing the entire digital tier.
    If people only subscribed to HD channels it would give the other networks some incentive to switch to HD.
  • I hope this comes to the UK. There are only a few programmes I watch, maybe 10 a month, so this would be ideal for me.

    I would probably end up watching more TV

    I can't see it being a great deal for couch potatoes though :o)
  • You think by now that we would have learned by now that Big Government only has our best interests at heart. Like HDTV. You know any action will ultimately cause some kind of damage, they will realize it, and change policy to cause damage in a completely new direction.

    Indecency has nothing to do with this subject. If only people (parents) would exercize their parental rights and use the already present Goverment mandated control systems built into TVs and cable boxes....

    But I would like to see the God chann
  • Why would it be disallowed? I remember DISH or some other sat provider fighting to offer a la carte, but the content producers wouldn't allow it. Why does the FCC have a role in this?
    • by Life2Short ( 593815 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @08:23AM (#14146183)
      We gave up our big analog dish when we moved in 1999. When we left "a la carte" programming had been available and was still available, dating back to when we originally bought it (1985, I'm sure it was available before then as well). Not only could you pick and choose channels, you could decide to have them for only a month at a time if you liked. So I could call in, give my account number and satellite receiver number (VideoCipher descrambler), and they could activate Cinemax for me for one month because I had read the monthly dish guide and I saw a lot of programming in the upcoming month I wanted to watch. Funny how that was all possible then...
      • I do that now, with our TVoverBroadband system (SaskTel, Canada). I just phoned this morning to cut off the sports package, since we wanted to watch the Sixers game last night. I had ordered it up when I got off work and saw from the listings that the Sixers were on; it costs 30 cents to have the whole package for 24 hours or less. (Although we only really wanted the game on NBA TV, 30 cents is the minimum; it costs the same to have one channel or one package).

        Same thing with NFL football: we add the US Net
  • by Andrew Lenahan ( 912846 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @07:59AM (#14146086) Homepage
    This is an absolutely fantastic idea. The whole "to get the channels you want, you have to take these other ones too" concept is ludicrous. Just imagine if other industries did that...

    What if every time you bought a ticket to an NBA game, you were forced to buy one for a WNBA game too? Not fair? Don't like it? Tough.

    What if every time you bought an X-Box 360 or Nintendo DS, you were forced to buy an N-Gage, Gizmondo, or Virtual Boy too? Not fair? Don't like it? Tough.

    What if every time you went to see a popular movie, say Revenge of the Sith or Harry Potter, you were forced to buy a ticket to something like Gigli or Ashlee Simpson's Undiscovered or the latest Uwe Boll masterpiece? Not fair? Don't like it? Tough.

    Consumers generally appreciate having a choice, and hate the feeling of forced decisions, especially ones that don't seem particularly logical ("What? You like to watch CNN and The Sopranos? Well you're sure to love the Competitive Quilting Channel too!")

    It's sad that this is being rolled out in the name of "decency", but it's still a good idea.
  • by cblguy ( 697834 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @07:59AM (#14146087)
    I used to work in the analog head end department at Scientific-Atlanta. We could configure channel groups, as many as we wanted (or at least, I saw no limit). I could see this extending all the way to the customer. However, the 'gotcha' is that it requires a cable box (or some other intelligent device) to do it. Customers that rely simply on cable ready TV's/VCRs would not be able to do it.

    With the digital set top boxes, it'd be a piece of cake.

    I don't see it being offered with the possibility to save you money on your cable bill, though. It requires individualized effort (unless they tie a web interface to the head end, and allow you to select your channels online, which would be cool). Even then, there would have to be added cost to do it. But I'd love to get rid of shopping channels, crazy religious channels, and other channels that I will never watch (spanish, BET, etc).

  • by StringBlade ( 557322 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @08:00AM (#14146099) Journal
    Aside from doing it for the "wrong reasons" as already mentioned, this could be a Good Thing(TM).

    Right now there's a TON of crap on TV, and I don't mean 'offensive' I just mean crap (every reality show ever created comes to mind). And if a la carte means that some of the crap will go away for lack of interest, that's fine by me.

    But just because there's a minority of interest doesn't mean that a channel will necessarily disappear. It just means that the viewers of that channel will be called upon to donate to the content providers to help keep the channel alive (much like PBS' tele-thons). That's where the real interest will be shown by the viewers of the content.

    I mean consider for a moment that not everything on TV should remain on TV. When a business starts up, it needs to be able to maintain some market share and operate within its revenue streams. When the revenue stream disappears for lack of customer interest or access, the business dies. In our current situation these "other channels", like the struggling businesses, would be dead or dying if it weren't for subsidization by the giant channel packages. I think that's not necessarily good because anytime someone wants to throw in a niche channel that will have 5 viewers, the cost of support for the whole thing necessarily increases to take on that additional burden. It's TV socialism.

    I'm also not saying we shouldn't have any packages at all, just not 600 channels in one bundle (though that could certainly still be an option - as long as it's not the only option). For example, with most cable/sat providers, HBO and others come in packages of 3 to 5 or more channels of that type of content. You get all or nothing, but that's ok because you're paying for movie channels, not for some eclectic mix of different content much of which you're not interested in.

    Only time will tell if the FCC tries to take this too far or just leaves well-enough alone by opening the door for a la carte.

  • Isn't this the sort of thing that the v-chip was designed for? And hasn't it been included in every TV made for the past 5-10 years or so? If parents can't be bothered to use the filtering controls they already have, then why would we expect them to sit down and take the time to figure out which channels are okay for little Sally to watch? Not to mention that were this ever to actually happen, the cable companies would price individual channels at something like $3.99 a month each. Or you can get 120+ chann
  • Most of us agree a la carte pricing for channels would be great. Many cable channels, and cable/satellite providors, however, want to group in packages. Why can't there be a meeting in the middle?

    Why can't There be a sports package. Tier one is ESPN, and Comcast Sports Net. Tier two gets you ESPN2, ESPNews, OLN, Speed, and the Golf Channel. Tier three gets you Fox Sports Net, ESPN Classic, ESPNU, and whatever other sports channels I'm forgetting.

    Then, theres your "Pop Culture" package. Tier one is MTV, VH

  • Somehow cable companies are going to make it work for them. I would like to believe I can get a handful of channels (the ones I actually watch) for less than I am paying now. However, somehow I see them jacking prices up to compensate and I'll be paying at least as much as I am now.

    However I'd love to see this work assuming the consumer doesn't get screwed.
  • economically feasible and in the best interest of consumers

    Yeah, but not for the cable companies. Many companies pack channels the way they do in order to get people to sign up for larger packages so they can get the 2 or 3 channels they want. Besides, I doubt the big cable companies will make the rates of a la carte TV reasonable.

    If they do, you can bet I will only have like 30-40 channels and 12 of those will be my HD channels I get now (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, WB, PBS, ESPN, Comcast Sports HD, Discove
  • Uh Oh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thebdj ( 768618 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @08:26AM (#14146197) Journal
    FTFA:
    Martin said he doesn't plan to push the industry to adopt a new business model, but he suggested that more restrictions on basic cable programming be added if the industry doesn't offer consumers more choice.

    Does anyone else read this to say the FCC will begin overstepping their bounds and begin to regulate cable television?
  • Sadly, this is the "solution" to there being too much "seamy" stuff on television.

    http://www.tv.com/story/story.html&story_id=2524 [tv.com]

    Isn't this precisely why the V-Chip hullabaloo was created? I guess that didn't work cause people don't know how to set the stupid parental lock password?

    So instead of people actually parenting, the government wants people to pick and choose their cable options? This is a horrid idea (i'd be all for it so I could actually limit the number of extranneous channels I have to s
  • Martin told the forum that the FCC will soon release a report that concludes that offering TV programming a la carte is economically feasible and in the best interest of consumers.

    This comes from a part the same government that feels it's ok to rack up a $8 trillion debt [brillig.com] with a spend now, pay never mentality. Please excuse me from not beleiving financial advice from you guys.

    A la carte pricing will reduce bills for that only watch a couple of stations. If you watch a diverse number of stations, expect y

  • by WebGangsta ( 717475 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @08:38AM (#14146279)
    how about making the entire channel structure Pay Per View?

    Open up all the channels to be viewable by anyone, and you only pay for the channels that you watch on a given day, perhaps for the amount of time that you watch them if you watch for more than 30 minutes total over the course of the day (allows for free channel flipping, to a certain point). Sure, folks with TiVos would get screwed on this for those times that TiVo isn't actively recording something and is just sitting there... although when TiVo is just sitting there, it's usually just sitting on a channel that has already been recorded, so maybe that's not an issue. (TiVo Suggestions automatically recording notwithstanding)

    The point is why should someone pay for SPEEDCHANNEL (for example) if they never watch it? But if there's something that happens to be on that channel on a particular day, then let me watch it and pay a nominal fee (pro-rated monthly amount, comes to what - $0.25 a day?) for the time spent watching without having to buy that particular package for the month.

    With this model, then you don't pay the cable company for the usage while you're not home, just like the water/gas/electric bills work. It turns the cable industry into a true utility instead of a continual money drain for resources you may or may not be utilizing 100% of the time during the course of the day.

  • Allow? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Conspiracy_Of_Doves ( 236787 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @08:42AM (#14146301)
    Allow? Are they not allowed to sell thier service that way now? I don't want the FCC to 'allow' cable companies to do this, I want the FCC to force cable companies to do this.
  • by lugar ( 561993 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @08:44AM (#14146316)
    I'm shocked to see how many people are blindly in approval of this. Think "big picture" and think "long term"... There are plenty of channels that I watch on occassion or very unpredictably (like TNT when they have a sporting event I want to watch). Do I want to pay what they'll charge (noone's even said what an individual channel would even cost yet) to watch one or two shows a month? Sure, there are a handful of channels that are "must haves", but out of the rest in the package, there are a TON of them that are "on occassion" viewing. How pissed will you be when owners of channels shuffle popular shows between their channels just to raise funds on the less popular channels? If sales of Discovery Kids is low, who is to stop Discovery Channel from moving Mythbusters over there to increase sales? In the long run, ala-carte will probably end up costing most of us MORE (due to increased fees), and we're going to be upset when we can't watch half the shows we used to because they get shuffled to less popular channels. Throw in the death of many of the "fringe" interest shows and you end up with satelite/cable being just another Network TV paradise of reality shows all vying for more mass viewership instead of quality programming.
  • by Cyphertube ( 62291 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @08:56AM (#14146410) Homepage Journal

    I highly doubt that moving to this á la carte scenario will result in them dropping packages. Chances are that they will price point it to where if you get say two channels in a suite (like Discovery), buying the whole package will cost about the same, pennies more, or possibly less.

    What would be nice about this is that I wouldn't have to pay for stuff I never watch at all. There are stations I watch on rare occasion that are worthwhile, like TNT and Spike, but others, particularly MTV and MTV2, that I never watch. I'm not interested in having Disney on my TV (I have no kids).

    Depending on how they price it all out, I could end up saving money. Or perhaps buying the whole big package will save me money. For me, buying a whole bundle of services through Comcast makes no sense right now, but for my mom, who always has kids in her house, it makes a lot of sense, with her 5+ TVs, and her four computers online.

    If I could drop myself down to basically the networks, CNN, History, History International, TNT, Spike, Sci-Fi, BBC America, Comedy Central, Discovery, TLC, Cartoon Network, TBS, and a premium lineup like HBO, I'd be pretty well set. I'd have around 30 channels, and I'd have about as much to watch as I do with 150+.

  • by Saint37 ( 932002 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @09:06AM (#14146491)
    Tired of the cable companies forcing standardized channel lineups. Wait till the phone companies start coming in with Fiber to the premises. This is when the consumer might actually start to get some leverage here. When we have cable, telephone and satellite companies all competing for your dollars, then we might get a more customizable channel lineup.

    http://www.stockmarketgarden.com/ [stockmarketgarden.com]
  • by WillRobinson ( 159226 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @09:35AM (#14146703) Journal
    When we had analog tv via the air, and the big thing about having cable and paying for it, was to be no or fewer commercials. Well today, we pay for cable, the show, and have more commercials than ever before. I dont believe it will save any money, but instead cost us at least 25% more than we pay now for the same thing.
  • Awesome (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Graham1982 ( 933841 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @11:51AM (#14147970)
    Now I can pay for only the channels I watch, and get rid of all those other annoying channels that I just flip through. I don't need ESPN, C-SPAN, Lifetime, Oxygen, TLC, Food Network, CMT, or any of that junk.

    On the television in my bedroom, I already have a channel add/delete option on my remote. I delete the majority of the channels, and then I just flip through the ones I like until I find something I want to watch.

    As far as indencent content on television goes, I am opposed to censorship. It should be up to the viewer to decide what he or she wants to watch, not some regulatory commission financed by my tax dollars. Also, parents that do not want their children to be exposed to such content should just use the parental controls. If you are extra paranoid, put your children in plastic bubbles and throw away your television sets. Remember that the television is not a babysitter, it is up to the parents to monitor their children's viewing habits if they want to be sure that the shows they are watching are beneficial to their learning. My niece loves to watch Dora the Explorer, and she learns many different things like Spanish, problem solving, and positive social values. I make sure that what she is watching reinforces her understanding of the world, I do not let her watch television without parental supervision.

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