Canada Gets À La Carte Cable–Sort Of

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The dream of many a TV watcher is the ability to choose our own cable package. We feel we shouldn’t have to drop $80 a month for the 10 channels we actually watch, while subsidising channels we may find morally objectionable or just plain boring.

For example, ESPN represents over $5 of your monthly cable bill alone, and you are typically paying $0.25-$2 per channel for the rest of it as part of your monthly package. A new ruling in Canada will create far smaller, likely themed bundles of channels that have a higher cost of entry, but much lower overall expenditure:

Observers say the decisions clear the way for more so-called specialty theme packs, where consumers can subscribe to a small group of related channels from a cable or satellite carrier.

That’s a major change from the traditional model that has required consumers to pay for hundreds of channels to access the handful they really want.

But Bell Media Inc. president Kevin Crull said customers who opt for more specific offerings from distributors rather than multiple channel bundles will likely pay more for each channel, even though their overall bill would fall.

He said customers who now pay, for example, 25 cents per channel for 200 channels could opt for a 20 channel subscription – but the cost per channel would rise to 75 cents

The upshot of this is that the channels themselves will get a lot more money, and you’re still paying for some channels you don’t want, but that hurts a lot less when you have a $20 cable bill instead of $80.

True à la carte channel cherry picking is probably a pipe dream, and it’s very unhealthy for diversity in the first place. Most now-successful channels took many years to take off. Comedy Central wasn’t on my local cable system until South Park (thus forcing me to miss almost the entire run of MST3K). Sci-Fi took years to show up (back when it was good, and actually about sci-fi). If people can’t run across the channels because their packages don’t contain it, it’s going to be very hard for the next new or innovative network to break out.

Currently the US cable industry is in panic mode over cord cutting, they know that people are sick and tired of dropping a thousand dollars a year on cable, but they don’t want to give it up. I expect that they’ll petri dish this in Canada, and some variation of it will come to America in the next five years, and maybe then I’ll actually think about picking up cable again.

Via: [Toronto Star]



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