A La Carte Cable


Consumers are suing cable companies in a bid to force the television providers to offer à la carte cable programming. The suit alleges that the companies' practice of bundling TV channels is an “unlawful restraint of trade” and a violation of federal antitrust law the Sherman Act . Plaintiffs are seeking damages and an injunction that would compel cable companies to allow customers to buy channel-by-channel rather than in cable packages.

The plaintiffs filed suit against all the major cable providers , including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and DirecTV, along with major television studios, such as Viacom, NBC, and Fox. Before the class action suit can proceed, however, the named plaintiffs will have to convince a judge that they're fairly representative of the broad class of cable and satellite television subscribers on whose behalf they're suing.

To prove unlawful collusion among industry competitors, the plaintiffs will have to show that the companies all agreed to bundle services rather than offering single channels, leaving consumers with no other choice. As for evidence of market power and harmful impact on consumers, the plaintiffs offer a number of statistics. On average, cable subscribers pay for 85 channels they don't watch and only 16 they do. And the FCC estimates that cable companies charge consumers $100 million a year for channels the consumers wouldn't buy if they didn't come bundled in standard packages.

I for one would like to be able to subscribe to Comedy Central without paying for the Hallmark channel, but plaintiffs here have a long road to hoe (and an anticompetitive conspiracy to prove) before they get there.

Thumbnail image courtesy of absolutewade .

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