How much would you pay for your favorite TV channels?
Anyone who’s ever paid a cable-TV bill would like to see their cable costs drop. But would your cable be cheaper if it came a la carte, if you were able to order only the channels you wanted instead of having to buy channels in bundles?
A report issued by the FCC last week says yes, giving support to those legislators in Congress who’ve been pushing for years to force cable operators to sell their channels a la carte. Expressing skepticism are TV Barn columnist Aaron Barnhart and Fortune magazine’s Marc Gunther, who find the new report less persuasive than another FCC report issued just 15 months ago that concluded that unbundling the channels would make cable bills even more costly. The skeptics say that the real goal of a la carte supporters is to stop cable systems from automatically carrying channels like MTV or FX that air risqué programming.
Certainly, it seems clear that some cable channels would be starved out of existence if they had to depend on subscribers opting in; on the other hand, why should you have to buy channels you don’t want and have to use your remote control or your V-chip to block them?
Still, it’s not clear how a la carte pricing would actually work. Would you pay a set fee — say, $1 a month — for each basic cable channel you wanted? Would you find it worth, say, $2 a month for premium channels like HBO or Showtime? Would you pay just 50 cents for Sleuth or Current? Would you pay a one-time fee, like the $1.99 on iTunes, as a pay-per-view fee for specific programs (sporting events, or a particular episode of Nip/Tuck) on channels you didn’t subscribe to?
Or would you just be a total TV junkie, like your PopWatch scribes, and subscribe to everything, damn the expense?