A La Carte Cable

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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windowrattler

I work for the cable company and right now ala carte would not work. We use analog filters to remove channels. These filters are 1" to 3" long. Lets say you choose 20 channels out of 80 that leaves 60 filters. 60 X 2" = 120" = 10 ft. So on the pole you could have 10 feet of filters. Also I'm willing to bet that the filters would degrade the channels near them. If you have ever looked for a notch filter to add CCTV they can run $30-$60. I know the cable company would get them cheaper but still even $2 x 60 filters would be a cost of $120. Just remember that all cost go to the customer.

When cable companies go to an all digital platform then ala carte would be possible. It seems that this lawsuit is jumping the gun a bit.

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L_M_Damiani

Windowrattler:
"When cable companies go to an all digital platform then ala carte would be possible. It seems that this lawsuit is jumping the gun a bit."

It is my feeling that cable has been around long enough to visit these issues. Perhap, it may be do to a lack of competition.
Interesting, ATT&T has resently requested permission to enter the "cable market" in SW Florida - previous, the exclusive domain of Comcast Cable.

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soggybomb

go plaintiffs!

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L_M_Damiani

Although I was under the assumption that this issue had been resolved, apparently, it has not.
Hotels get a special deal - basic cable + HBO. In order for the average consumer to obtain a "premium" movie chanel,e.g., HBO, one MUST upgrade from "basic" cable to "digital" service & opt for the "premium" channel(s) package(s).
Discrimination you say!
Yes, I agree.

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NINothing

I think this would be a great Idea as long as they don't rape us for the few channels we want..
I would even be happy if there was a minimum fee and number of channels, as long as we got to choose which ones are available.... I only watch about 3 channels, and not very often.. I actually tried to get Dish to cancel my programming as long as I could still order UFC on Pay Per View. alas, I'm stuck with $35 basic just so I can order the fights....

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Talcum X

If "we" (the little guy) win, the cable and sat. companies will make it probably more attractive to buy the bundle rather than pick and choose. The price per channel will go up compared to a divided breakdown of what you're paying now for your 100+ channels. Plus, who is going to sit on the phone with the rep for hookup to tell them which channels you want? Sure if you already know which ones they are and you only have,let's say, 10, it wouldn't take long. But they have this long list to choose from, sat. companies even more so. Yes, I have a short list myself and I would like to be able to choose too, but if they are going to charge (hypothetically speaking) $1, $2 or so per channel for the convenience to choose, it better be a short list as it can reach what your paying now real quick.
Then they may charge you, if you want, to any of the music and PPV channels, which comes with your standard package. We will see. It could get hairy fast, so keep your razors close by.

**********
Every morning is the dawn of a new error.

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horzo

There's too much money being made by too many different organizations for this suit to get anywhere. The cable companies themselves are just the tip of the iceberg. Being able to say they're included in X-million number of cable and satellite packages is worth bunches of advertising dollars to the various content providers.

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Macknzie

I suspect they know that they will probably lose. Of course, one never knows what will come out in discovery, but it would be an awful tough case to win. Telecommunications are traditionally highly regulated, but it's still a rather large step from that to a court imposing a different business model. Congress could pull it off (because of its regulatory powers), but I tend to doubt that the courts will go in that direction without some pretty stunning facts.

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Saiyan Monkey

Of the over 120 channels my wife and I currently get there are exactly 4 that I watch (5 if I'm in the mood to watch "Pimp my Ride" on MTV):

Cartoon Network
HBO
Comedy Central
and Fox (for the Simpsons and nothing else...well, House is pretty damn good, so for that too, on the extremely rare occasion I get to).

Considering we pay about $60/month for 120 channels, that means my bill could effectively drop to $2/month...which means more money to blow on modding my rig, yay!

(of course, I'm certain they'd find an excuse to charge more than that)

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