Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 2, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

CABLE FOLLIES....This is pretty hilarious. Social conservatives are big fans of "a la carte cable," which allows you to pay only for the channels you actually want to watch. The big selling point is that you aren't forced to allow the lasciviousness of MTV into your house just because it's part of a package that includes ESPN.

But guess who thinks they'd lose most of their audience if a la carte took over the industry? TV preachers. Steve Benen has the details.

POSTSCRIPT: I should add that I've long been sort of skeptical of the benefits of a la carte cable, but not anymore. Bring it on, baby! I smell a wedge issue!

Kevin Drum 1:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (122)

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Comments

Up here in Canada we have a la carte for digital cable. It is pretty sweet.

Posted by: Sean Galbraith on March 2, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

I am a damn hard case.

I refuse to buy cable because I refuse to contribute to Faux news...

A la carte?

Bring it on baby...

And yes... I've got a sign on my property that says:

No salesmen
No solicitors
No religion

And yes... I threaten bodily harm and chew the fuck out of 18 year old Christians in suits who carry the bible past that sign.

Thank god for private property rights...

Posted by: koreyel on March 2, 2006 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

I don't have cable either, but I would be more likely to get it if I could choose which channels to get. If all I want is Comedy Central and a few others, why pay for everything?

Posted by: Doctor Gonzo on March 2, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

"Wedge issue"? It's not a wedge issue, but smart marketing that the cable companies are missing out on.

However, you're correct that intelligent folks with elevated tastes, like myself, would be dumping all the Spanish language channels (three), all the stupid fucking shopping channels (three) and all the retarded religious stations (three) from my bundle of services. Also gone would be MSNBC (I don't have time even to watch the always entertaining Olberman), FOX News (of course), CNN Headline News (a boring, uninformative loop of mostly non-news), and CNBC.

Jettisoning these stations, all of which I've blocked on my remote already, would, I hope, free up some funds for the Japanese channel or HBO, though these would be under-consumed as well as I average an hour of television a day. I'd love to be able to see the occassional movie or episode of foul-mouthed, adult television (Deadwood, The Soparanos) that I refuse to pay an extra $20.00/month for now because I don't have the time.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

I've mixed feelings. I'd like not to pay for TV religion, or MTV, or Faux News. But then you are self censoring you options in many cases for things that might be interesting or enlightening. CNN and MSNBC might be in for a surprise from how few actually value them. And if making a choice between X dollars a month and these channels, I might decide the extra latte holds more value out of irritation.

And in some cases its nice just to see what other people are seeing and thinking, even if you think its foolish.

There have been many times I've flipped through and hit something I'm glad I saw on a channel I normally don't pay attention to.

I am sick of being gouged by cable, but I don't think Ala Carte is going to change that. I'll get gouged in the same proportion for what I'm actually getting, even if the total dollar amount is smaller.

Posted by: Mysticdog on March 2, 2006 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Huh? Doesn't everyone who's not a cable company or crappy cable channel want a la carte?

I want comedy central, ESPN (during baseball season, anyway), and I'm not sure what, after that. HBO maybe? VH1, for I love the 80s?

Right now, I think I'm paying $40 a month for The Daily Show.

Posted by: AG on March 2, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

My libertarian streak loves the idea of ala carte cable. For years I've been plagued with garbage channels (jewelry shopping, for example) that I hate flipping through, and I'm too lazy to reprogram the flip sequence to skip them.

My luddite side wonders if yet again, this is a way technology serves to only confirm what we already believe, and lock us away from people with other viewpoints. We isolate ourselves with MP3 players and cell phones (in our own little worlds, not interacting with the people around us).

And this means that Fox News viewers will have no chance of seeing the truth when it peeks out on other stations.

What would this look like -- stations would have to advertise....on the web? To get viewers. Cable franchises would probably bundle up trial packets ("get these five stations for three months free!") to encourage more station purchases.

I think the shakeout would be worth it. Competition and choice is long overdue in the cable TV world.

(We actually ditched everything but basic cable. We have gotten used to watching DVDs instead of first-run stuff. I think if we could pick and choose, we might pick up a few things like the Nature and Cooking channel, that are safe for our kids.....)

Posted by: zmulls on March 2, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

I agree. I only want Comedy Central, Fox Soccer Channel and HBO, but to get that in NYC I have to pay for two premium channels on top of a basic package that costs about $50/month. All for the benefit of having to flip through 500 channels of stuff I don't want to watch. I've decided I won't order cable until they make it a la carte.

Posted by: Bucky on March 2, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Up here in Canada we have a la carte for digital cable. It is pretty sweet. Posted by: Sean Galbraith

That's it! We're moving to North Van.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Fox News is also in for a rude shock at how many of its viewers are going to be unwilling to pay for it.

It's also going to bust out the mayhem as stars like Hannity and O'Reilly are going to be BID FOR by Channels that can offer a much larger paid audience. Think the Howard Stern situation- "Sean, we can offer you three times the paid subscribers" is going to be a powerful motivator. CNN can't outbid for Fox stars because they can't offer the cash and BOTH channels are in every home. If CNN has 3 subscribers for every 1 Fox News Subscriber, it's a whole new ballgame. Roger Ailes is probably deeply frightened of a-la-carte, because then he is competing against CNN and MSNBC in a real sense. CNN in owned by a cable provider, Fox News is not. Time Warner can use price power to offer CNN deals, and since the price structure will now have more of an impact on the bottom line, expect channels not in favor to ger screwed.

If a-la-carte goes through, expect Fox to offer mandatory bundles (If you want Fox Network you must also get F/X and Fox News) or a steeply subsidized Fox News price (only 5 cents more if your order Fox Network, or a FREE Fox News paid out of Rupert's pocket, etc.)

They'll basically use Family Guy and American Idol to get people to pay the pittance for Fox News so they can brag about # of subscribers.

The real winner in a-la-carte is Disney. They own both ABC (Lost, Desperate Housewives) and ESPN.

Posted by: Alderaan on March 2, 2006 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Why does everyone assume that each channel would cost something? As I understand it now, part of your cable bill goes to each of the channels you get, since the cable company has to pay the network to run those show.

If channels are a-la-carte, some big ones like ESPN might get away with charging the consumer. Others might try not charging, and subsisting solely on ad revenue, like broadcast stations have been doing for decades.

That is, if I have to pay a fee just for ABC Family, I wouldn't get it. Old episodes of "Whose Line is it Anyway" aren't worth it. However, if it's offered a la carte for $0.00, I'd keep it. I might actually watch the channel more, since I'd have fewer alternatives without the pay channels.

Posted by: Brian G on March 2, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Why get cable at all? Is there anything worth watching on TV? I can't think of even one. Although the Book of Daniel seemed interesting... too bad it got canned.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 2, 2006 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

"why pay for everything?"


Because it's there when you need it. A la carte programming would never bring in enough money to pay for the dozens of lesser channels, like the Outdoor Channel, or the Documentary Channel.

You'd end up with less people working in the tv business, a shallower pool of talent, and, ultimately, tv that's more like the 1960s, all Gunsmoke and Gidget.

Posted by: cld on March 2, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

No tv in this household. However, if I could get Discovery, History Channel, and Comedy Central for a reasonable price, without having to pay for a bunch of shopping channels, religious nutbag stations, and worthless cable news, I might have to consider it.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Bring it on, baby. If we didn't have two high-rises (the ones I just said in another post were not all that ubiquitous in Chicago) right in front of us, making cable or satellite a must, I'd be tempted to go back to network-only, renting everything a season late. As for movies, that's what Netflix is for.

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Our provider, DirectTV, just replaced PBSU with
TCT, "Broadcasting the Gospel of Jesus Christ 24 hours a Day."

Bummer.

When I complained to the local provider, they blamed DirectTV.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on March 2, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

There are three possible benefits from a la carte pricing:
1) Not having to pay for channels you don't watch
2) Having channels you don't watch/get removed from the onscreen cable guide
3) Not having your children exposed to the lavaciousness of MTV

Personally, as a single person, I don't really give a rat's ass about #3. #2 would be awfully nice, but they currently don't even have that worked out for premium channels I don't get, so I'm not getting my hopes up.

The big one is obviously #1, but my past experience with cable companies would bet that they'll try their darnedest to keep you paying as much as possible. Logically, you should end up paying less by getting fewer channels, but I could see them working it out so that the cost of all the popular channels worked out to the same price they currently charge for a basic package. If that ends up being the case, there's just not much point to a la carte.

Posted by: Royko on March 2, 2006 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Right now, I think I'm paying $40 a month for The Daily Show.

Exactly. And you're willing to pay $40 a month for it. So when a la carte is an option, they'll charge $40/month for Comedy Central, and then maybe $10/channel for each additional channel you want on top of that.

The reason we pay $40-$50/month for 50 channels that we don't watch is that, ultimately, we're willing to pay $40-$50/month for the 1 or 2 channels that we do watch on cable. And if they're offered a la carte, we'll still pay that same $40-$50, but we'll only get the channels we want, and no others, unless we're willing to pay more.

Posted by: Constantine on March 2, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

However, if I could get Discovery, History Channel, and Comedy Central for a reasonable price...

The History Channel is no longer what you might think it is. It's all Bataan Death March, D Day and look-they-almost-blew-up-the-Ponte-Vecchio, all day, every day. PBS is doing far better (and far more varied) historical stuff, I think.

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

The real abuser, which would be hurt by a la carte, is Disney-ESPN, which has its hand in every cable-satellite user's pocket because it won't let anyone sell its services on a per-channel basis. With a la carte (or, as in Canada, theme packages of channels geared to individual tastes) there would be no more $4.5 billion NFL deals, pro-rated to everyone in the damn country. No more cable or satellite-TV rate increases justified by the argument -- and it's usually true -- that sports costs are going up. Educate Congress. Bring it on.

Posted by: Guy MacMillin on March 2, 2006 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Freedom Fighter, what about The Daily Show? But I do see your point. With ownership restrictions being stripped away every two years and the tipping seat on the FCC Board coming up for a Senate vote, soon we will have only one station. A station that will watch back.

Posted by: nutty little nut nut on March 2, 2006 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Hmm, sad to hear that, shortstop. They were already doing a lot of that back when I had cable (back when I lived in college residential housing, around '98 or so), but there were still some really interesting shows on sometimes.

In that case, just Discovery and Comedy Central. :)

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

A station that will watch back.

Jeebus!

Posted by: shortstop still has the ability to be freaked out by this administration on March 2, 2006 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

The History Channel seems to have The Glory of Christianity three times a week, and four times a year will devote an entire month to it, the narrator choking up and just overcome with awe.

Posted by: cld on March 2, 2006 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

Surely the extra administration and loss of economies of scale would lead to higher prices for the individual channels. I suspect we're getting a better deal now. The way to deal with channels you don't want is simply not to turn them on (or lean how to block them for your kids).

Posted by: wvmcl on March 2, 2006 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

"A station that will watch back."

Yeah, but it's only $2 a-la-carte. What a bargain!

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Exactly. And you're willing to pay $40 a month for it. So when a la carte is an option, they'll charge $40/month for Comedy Central, and then maybe $10/channel for each additional channel you want on top of that. Posted by: Constantine

No they won't because they know that too many people will simply not have cable and go to satellite, which gives you about three times as many channels for the same price. They don't have a monopoly on broadcast options, just on their mode of delivery.

There is no financial downside for the cable providers to go to a al carte broadcasting and no technological limitations either.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

I think that a la carte cable probably makes about as much sense as a la carte internet access based on how much bandwidth you actually use.

It's attractive to some people and those on the left will get a kick out of anything that the televangelists dislike, but it's not very practical. I also don't think that televangelists are the only ones who would be hurt by this. Any channel out there based on marketing to a niche and not to a wider mainstream (and possibly ClearChannel-ish) audience is potentially hurt. Cable networks have less incentive to create flagship original programs like FX's The Shield because they can't draw from the viewers who have to order FX first before they can watch it.

That's not to say that a la carte cable doesn't have a place. Pricing would probably get to the point where picking six individual channels would equal the price of a full package. Or at least, that's how I would price it if I were in charge. You want to draw in non-subscribers who want only a few channels, but you don't want to give up money by allowing many people to get half the channels for half the price. One idea would be to offer a basic package of the 30 or so most popular channels (all the news, sports, mainstream wide-audience channels), then offer a la carte selections from additional channels like BET, Telemundo, Food Network, Bravo, etc., possibly on a scale of X dollars for up to five or ten more channels and an additional Y dollars for every channel.

Posted by: Anthony on March 2, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

The simple reason for the resistance to a-la-cart cable is because it looses advertizing revenue. A package of 20 channels 24/hrs per day = 480 hours of advertizable air-time, whereas 4 selected channels = only 80 hours of advertizable air-time.

The most frightening thing to a media executive is if people get bored with their 4 channels and turn off the TV.

Posted by: Jon Karak on March 2, 2006 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

I tried to watch the History channel the other day and it was nothing more than pro-US propaganda. One would think the History channel could give better explanations about US involvement in disputes around the world other than, "War broke out in the area." No one to blame.

Posted by: nutty little nut nut on March 2, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Why can't we cut a few channels by combining the televangelical and jewelry-shilling shows? They're populated (and watched) by the same women with the same execrable taste.

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

I never watch ESPN, but every six months I do look at it for a few minutes. Keeping up on how the other half lives. I'd never intentionally pay for it.

Posted by: cld on March 2, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

I find it interesting that all of the responses here are ignoring what is a actually possible (doable/solid business case) from a technical perspective

Anyone have "OnDemand" ?

How about considering a system when you pay a flat rate (micropayments and/or tiered ?) & get to choose what you watch when you WANT to watch; think of a combo Crooks & Liars & Tivo situation for instance

There are Soooooo many technically possible scenarios (w/solid business cases) that are NOT being discussed it is DUMB

Dinosaur executives are sooooo brain dead; time to turn things over to the young turk hotshots

I`m all for letting the "marketplace" force some of these channels to deal with reality (bye bye religion nutcases & sales channels !)

"The future is here. It's just not evenly distributed yet." - William Gibson

Posted by: daCascadian on March 2, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

"what about The Daily Show?"

Never watched it. When I did used to watch TV, it was mostly the cable news channels, TLC, Discovery and sometimes MTV. Since I can get news and information all much more easily on the internet and MTV is now pretty much BET and not much music, I find no reason to watch TV at all, cable or broadcast.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 2, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

I certainly can sympathize with those who don't want to pay for networks they don't watch, but I can also sympathize for the cable (and satellite) providers who make money from delivering potential viewers to advertizers. I can really sympathize with the arguments of those who say that ala cart would kill a lot of lesser channels. I like the history and outdoor channels and my wife loves the Fox Soccer channel, none of which would survive the ala carte shakeout.

How about letting each user design his own cable package. Basic cable would consist of 20 channels. The user whould get to choose which 20. That way the cable providers would keep their revenue stream and you would have a chance to wander into some obscure channel if you so elected.

The stuff about not wanting MTV or some adult channels is a red herring. My wife has already blocked those from our sets. Damn I wish she would give me the password. She tells me I am not old enough.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 2, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Since I teach about the evils of the media, I must watch.

Posted by: nutty little nut nut on March 2, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

The reason we pay $40-$50/month for 50 channels that we don't watch is that, ultimately, we're willing to pay $40-$50/month for the 1 or 2 channels that we do watch on cable. And if they're offered a la carte, we'll still pay that same $40-$50, but we'll only get the channels we want, and no others, unless we're willing to pay more.

Bingo. This isn't a debate between 'consumers' and the cable networks; it's a debate between the cable networks and the most popular content producers. The owners of the popular channels want more of the already determined 'what you will pay amount'.

99 percent of my TV viewing is covered by Animal Planet, Comedy Central, the Cartoon Network, and the Food Network. Plus PBS and ABC. I pay about $40 for this; right now the Food Network probably gets about 1/400th of this. They want 1/4th of it.

It really amuses me to hear people talking about 'consumers saving money'. No one gives a shit about the consumers, especially the FCC. It's all about which megacorps are paying more to change the rules.

Posted by: tavella on March 2, 2006 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Schism!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love it.

Posted by: Hostile on March 2, 2006 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

The History Channel seems to have The Glory of Christianity three times a week, and four times a year will devote an entire month to it, the narrator choking up and just overcome with awe. - cld

I've noticed that too. If you are a night owl like me you will also notice that religious doctrine as historical fact gets a lot of air time in the wee hours (probably when peoples demons are keeping them awake babbling in tongues).

Posted by: Eric Paulsen on March 2, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

I don't have cable anymore, and I doubt that a pure a la carte system would be viable (or cheaper), but that doesn't meant that there couldn't be more flexible cable packages. For instance, offering a "basic" option plus five additional channels of your choosing, for a single price. It wouldn't exactly be a la carte, but it would be close. This is why I ultimately quit subscribing -- there was virtually nothing in basic cable, for $15 per month, and the next "package" was a lot of crappy additional stations for at least three times the price, and then "premium" stations had to be added on from there. You couldn't get basic cable plus, say, ESPN and nothing else. You had to get all the crap that I never watch or want to watch except when I'm stuck in a hotel or a hospital.

The History Channel is awful. In addition to WWII greatest generation stuff, its biographies are usually limited to old Hollywood stars. In fact, most cable channels are either reruns or incredibly self-referential (i.e., interviews of media made personalities). Just not worth it.

Posted by: Barbara on March 2, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Heh, the only thing I don't like about the alacarte idea is that I might actually get cable if there was a price point around $20 a month. :)

But I definately would not be eager to get the discovery or history channel. I sit through a lot of that when I visit my parents house. "Pap-documentaries" I call them. They go over and over and over the same few inoffensive subjects at the same shallow depth. PBS doesn't pump them out as fast but the quality is so much higher that you can watch a PBS documentary four times and learn more on the fourth viewing than watching a cable documentary for the first time.

Not that there aren't vacuous documentaries and series on PBS now and then, but they are still a minority.

If only I could get all those self help seminar programs off pbs...

Posted by: jefff on March 2, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

I do watch Fox News to see my beautiful Ann Coulter, oh man for us single loner right wing jobs, she just epitomizes all things beautiful and feminine. Boy I wish I could touch a real live woman someday. Who cares if she is pushing to menopause and has no kids and has never been married. After all she is a christian, and a babe at that! What a shape! And Adam's apples on women just drive me nuts!

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 2, 2006 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II: However, you're correct that intelligent folks with elevated tastes, like myself, would be dumping all the Spanish language channels (three),

Are you kidding? There's some great entertainment on the Spanish language channels, even if I don't speak the language. Although I would trade one for a Japanese channel...

As a household with young children, the only use we get out of cable is Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and the Disney Channel. Given a la carte I'm sure I'd dump a lot of the rest, except Food Network and a few others.

Posted by: Gregory on March 2, 2006 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Well, this changes the business model, big time! I personally am for it, and I work in the cable industry, but it's an opinion I keep to myself when I'm with my colleagues.

You know how you REALLY pay for right now? ESPN -- between $3.00 and $6.00 a month. It doesn't matter whether you want it, or watch it, or even if you (like me) don't even have it on your channel rotation. ESPN has done a deal that requires them to be carried in the basic tier of cable at that price (from the cable or satellite company, charged through to you). And because they are the 800 lb gorilla, they can get it.

You'd be amazed at the actual price of channels you might want that aren't part of the "must have" tiers -- 30 cents/mo, 10 cents/mo, or even some that pay for carriage (which is why you get all of those shopping channels "free" in any basic package). And cable would be happy to carry all those Christian channels on the same deal -- a split of the take. Pat and his boys don't want to share, but they most certainly could get carriage without shelling out up front.

Posted by: Ducktape on March 2, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

The simple reason for the resistance to a-la-cart cable is because it looses advertizing revenue. A package of 20 channels 24/hrs per day = 480 hour
Posted by: Jon Karak

You make the same mistake that "marketing" people do, assuming that all that many people actually pay attention to commercials or that it really influences their consumption. Ditto with direct mail - 99% of it goes to the bottom of the bird cage, the land fill or into the recyling bin unread.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe all those church channels should be asking god why he hates them right now, or maybe they should pray harder.

Posted by: Jeremy on March 2, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

daCascadian has the right idea, but not either OnDemand or a la carte channels. What I want is a la carte programs. That is, I don't need them on demand, but am willing to wait until they come around again on the guitar (Arlo reference). TiVo gives me a good approximation, to the point that I don't really know what (DirecTv) channels I get. I don't know if it's getting "CSI - Petaluma" from a network or a cable channel, and I don't care. "Channels" are so 20th century.

So currently I'm probably paying for a bunch of channels that I never touch and for 168 hours/week of a bunch of channels that I only use for one hour/week. I'd be quite happy if my TiVo just recorded every new episode of NOVA and sent an email to DirecTv every time I watch one, and they charged me $0.50.

Of course, such a system would cause huge changes in the TV industry. Everyone producing new programs would put each episode out on the system as soon as it was ready, probably causing an avalanche of new material on Thursday or Friday every week. Programs would be competing with all other programs, not just the ones scheduled at the same time they are.

Posted by: Bob Munck on March 2, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

"You make the same mistake that "marketing" people do, assuming that all that many people actually pay attention to commercials or that it really influences their consumption. Ditto with direct mail - 99% of it goes to the bottom of the bird cage, the land fill or into the recyling bin unread."

Jeff II,
I don't think marketing people make that mistake. Your observation, while correct, is widely understood and is calculated into the advertizing rates.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 2, 2006 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

I want the local channels, NASA, HBO, Showtime and Comedy Central. Nothing else. Apparently this can't be done for less than $60 per month.

Posted by: jerry on March 2, 2006 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a guy who broke down the potential costs of a la carte cable for the shows he watches, not sure how accurate it is, but it's interesting:

http://www.capndesign.com/archives/2006/01/the_cost_of_a_la_carte_telvevision.php

Posted by: Fred F. on March 2, 2006 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

shortstop: "Why can't we cut a few channels by combining the televangelical and jewelry-shilling shows? They're populated (and watched) by the same women with the same execrable taste."

lol, i've BEEN on those shows!! well, the jewelry-shilling ones, anyway. the home shopping network is based in my city, so a lot of the work that actors and models get down here is on there. have done some beauty products and some cookingware crap. none of which i'd buy myself. and while i'd hate to lose the work, the world would be a much better place without bad products being sold to people who can't afford to waste their money that way.

Posted by: EM on March 2, 2006 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Bob Munck is right. The idea of the channel is already obsolete. It is just a vestige of the days when simultaneous content had to be broadcast at different frequencies. In these days of DVDs, Bit Torrent and TiVO the idea of a channel or network is rapidly becoming an anachronistic anchor. It's all about individual programs. I watch the Daily Show, Veronica Mars, Battlestar Galactica and Ali G. I have no loyalty to Comedy Central or the SciFi Channel, and to be honest I can never remember whether VM is on UPN or the WB. Serial shows like Lost, Sopranos or 24 work much better on DVD than spaced out over many weeks with repeats and/or commmercial interruptions. The whole cable model is doomed.

Posted by: Vanya on March 2, 2006 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Freedom Fighter wrote: "Why get cable at all? Is there anything worth watching on TV? I can't think of even one. Although the Book of Daniel seemed interesting... too bad it got canned."

Oh, you're missing out. The Daily Show and The Office alone are worth the price of cable.

And some of the late night televangelists are nearly as funny, though they don't realize it. You should see the make-up and wigs on some of these people (and I'm not just talking about the women).

Posted by: EM on March 2, 2006 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

I agree bring them on!

Can you imagine the look on their faces when the numbers of who buys what come in. The chanels they don't want to pay for are likely to be purchased more than the ones they like. Hey another reason to go a la carte!

Posted by: ET on March 2, 2006 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

It might even lead to the demise of television altogether, which would be welcome.....

Posted by: zmulls on March 2, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, you're missing out. The Daily Show and The Office alone are worth the price of cable.

And some of the late night televangelists are nearly as funny, though they don't realize it. You should see the make-up and wigs on some of these people (and I'm not just talking about the women).
Posted by: EM

EM, I take it you are new here. As a rule, we don't comment on or respond to FF, as he's a certifiable lunatic of the right.

(Yes, I know I just broke the "Don't feed the trolls" rule. But she had to be warned!)

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II, Doh! I'd just seen someone else post to FF, so I thought it was safe territory. Still learning the rules. Thanks for deigning to fill me in. ;-)

Posted by: EM on March 2, 2006 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

And while I busy learning (and making an ass of myself in the process), can someone fill me in on what a troll is, exactly?

Posted by: EM on March 2, 2006 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

"From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"In Internet terminology, a troll is a person who posts rude or offensive messages on the Internet, such as on online discussion forums, to disrupt discussion or to upset its participants. "Troll" can also mean the message itself or be a verb meaning to post such messages. "Trolling" is also commonly used to describe the activity."

At this site, Al and the various fake Al's are trolls. The expression "please don't feed the troll" means that serious posters should avoid responding to troll posts, as this feeds the troll's narcissim and gets the thread off-topic.

And as to the topic: I don't subscribe to cable TV; I might if the price were suitably low and if I could pay just a little bit extra for the few channels I might wish to try.

The deeper issue is how the U.S. government gave the store away to the monopolists in the 1980s. I would love to have my city negotiate fair pricing structures. Under federal law, it can't. Suppose the city could have competitive bidding between Time-Warner and Cox -- we would get a better deal.

Posted by: Bob G on March 2, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

In order to offer channels a la carte, ALL channels would have to be digital and encoded. As it is now, at least where I live, there are about ~80 channels in the expanded package, all analog. If you get only the bare minimum package, about 20 channels, I think they put a filter on your line that stops the higher frequencies/channels. There is no way they would create elaborate filter devices for analog channels to do a la carte, all channels would have to move to digital and be encrypted, requiring a cable box that would know which channels you are allowed and which ones you weren't based on your selection. I used to get digital cable, the channels looked like crap due to compression, so I cancelled it. I don't want that happening to the rest of the channels. Also, with digital will soon be coming DRM (Digital Rights Management) which I strongly oppose as well.

Posted by: Kid Charles on March 2, 2006 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

??? The bastards are just going to bundle the crap on the popular channels.

Say goodbye to specialty channels.

Just boycott the whole fucking mess and go with Netflix. Or read a damn book. (anything but Mann Coulter).

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on March 2, 2006 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

EM

You asked a good question. This is a left center blog. In the context of this blog a "troll" is someone who automatically takes a right conservative often canned position. By canned I mean a position that obviously has not required much thought or provides little incite. Doctrinaire would be another and better word. Trolls often give the impression of people who have been hired by certain conservative group to poison rational discussion. They often call names. They never add to a discussion the way reasoned and reasonable conservatives add to any discussion. Around here the trolls usually have names like Al or Alice. Some of us are not sure that Kevin doesn't do some of his own trolling in an effort to shake things up a bit. His trolling posts are merely doctrinaire and not personally abusive.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 2, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Honestly, I am afraid of what will happen.

I don't watch network TV, except that it's in HDTV, so I give it a try every once in awhile. Sitcoms don't get better when they're in movie-quality.

CNN Headline was essential when I was in the 'sticks' as my grandmother called it, going to high school, and only had a little time for news - but not a scheduled time.

When they added the NorthWest News Channel, I watched that.

I miss when the weather channel had... Weather reports on it, instead of endless 'documentaries'.

The History Channel is worth watch when they play their first-run things, but really, each station seems only to be watchable for two months out of the year when they're playing their new stuff.

...And will they be there when I want them to be, if we have to choose?

Or will every channel turn into the same pablum we see on network TV?

Posted by: Crissa on March 2, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Why can't we cut a few channels by combining the televangelical and jewelry-shilling shows?

Jesus wants you to wear this hairband made of faux turtle shell with zirconium diamond inlays! Feel the power! Thank you Jesus! Only $99.95.

Posted by: craigie on March 2, 2006 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

a position that obviously has not required much thought or provides little incite

This is a beautiful typo. You're wrong, they provide plenty of incite(ment). What they don't provide is any insight.

Posted by: craigie on March 2, 2006 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

I would be shocked if a la carte cable actually reduced prices significantly for anyone. What would probably happen is that you'd get the choice of paying a little less than you're paying now for a mere handful of channels, or paying more for all the channels you can conceive yourself watching.

Posted by: Boots Day on March 2, 2006 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

A la carte ? Let's roll !

Then we would really have a reality check on what channels are worth what amount of money. They always TALK about "competition", now this would really be competition baby !

BTW, this should include satellite as well.
.

Posted by: VJ on March 2, 2006 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

History Channel got bought out by one of the Bigs.

Spoiled A&E and Bravo. Any decent smaller network has already been acquired and ruined. Used for second runs of their network crap.

I'd love to dump BET and UNI. Wouldn't have to hear any more about these so-called 'brave self-made minority billionares' whose money was acquired by having Uncle Sugar force cable operators to carry them as a condition of their franchises.

Arrgh!

Bye to Eternal Word! MTV. MTV2. E!. VH1. Disney.
Speed. Outdoor Life. Pax. Lifetime. Oxygen. CMT. FauxNews.

You may not realize this but HSN and QVC (and their clones) actually pay the cable operators to carry them rather than the other way around.

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Wonder if there is a red-state, blue-state, or international menu. Wouldn't mind subscribing to blue-state and international menu, thank you very much.

If there is one, I would be curious to find the number of people that subscribe to each segment.

Posted by: eo on March 2, 2006 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

A la carte has always been fine and dandy with this person. No Fox or or Fox wannabe cable "news" stations - no PTL "send us all your money or you'll go to Hell". Maybe wingnuts will demand to put the Fairness Doctine back into use? Hmmm?

I've got a couple hundred stations on Comcast and still end up watching Hercule Poirot reruns on A&E because NOTHING watchable is on anywhere else.

Posted by: Joshua Norton on March 2, 2006 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

The discussion is moot. If we went to a la carte it would quickly turn out that no one actually watches Fox News.

Martial law would be their only recourse.

Posted by: cld on March 2, 2006 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

The expression "please don't feed the troll" means that serious posters should avoid responding to troll posts, as this feeds the troll's narcissim and gets the thread off-topic.

Oui, vraiment. And though I lectured the masses just the other day on this topic, I've been mixing it up under the bridge a little bit since. Forgive me. I try not to be a hypocrite, but it's so haaaaaaaard sometimes.

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

What a waste of time watching a tube is. TV free for 4 years now and liking it. Try it.

Posted by: artemus on March 2, 2006 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

'Mixing it up under the bridge', eh?

Sounds intriguing and a bit risque...

Where's Billy Goat Gruff went you really need him.

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

I've got a couple hundred stations on Comcast and still end up watching Hercule Poirot reruns on A&E because NOTHING watchable is on anywhere else. Posted by: Joshua Norton

Not true! There's usually a Seinfeld rerun on a couple of our local channels. And PBS is running some Python right now. Doesn't get much better than that.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

What is more annoying?

Listening to TV addicts ramble on about the nine shows they watched the night before? Or listening to someone attempt to brag that they never ever touch the filthy box?

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

'Al a cart' will put a further lock on the cult of conservatism's minds. Information control is their most effective mind control technique. They have spent a lot of cash demonizing any source of info which does not agree with their cult's view. So even though they have been conditioned not to trust CNN, NBC, BBC etc etc etc - Now they are at least occasionaly exposed to what others say.

Right now their mind molders won't talk about anything which is negative about the cult. Like Rush, it isn't just that he lies to them, he only talks about half the subjects the cult should be exposed to.

Point is that when they are able to pick only FOX for their news service we can kiss ANY chance of this nation getting its sanity back BYE BYE.

If liberals short sightedly support this they will be putting the final nail in democracy's coffin.

Posted by: Ned Nederling on March 2, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

It would definitely be a niche market, but what about some company piping in the best channels from foreign TV? Great way to learn/polish languages.

Sign me up for NHK, something in Chinese, and something in Russian.

Posted by: tzs on March 2, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

tzs, we have something call TV5 Louisiane which is....well...in French. They occasionally show a decent film but without subtitles I get lost in space.

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Point is that when they are able to pick only FOX for their news service we can kiss ANY chance of this nation getting its sanity back BYE BYE.
Posted by: Ned Nederling on March 2, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

They're able to pick only FOX now. It's called a remote control. If they never change channels, it doesn't matter that they're actually getting PBS or CSpan.

However, if the only people who watch Fox are people who've explicitly asked for it on their monthly bills, then their ratings will plunge, and they'll disappear. (and fuck them - in both eye sockets).

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on March 2, 2006 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

"A station that will watch back."

Now THAT'S gonna be boring television.

Posted by: ckelly on March 2, 2006 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

"But guess who thinks they'd lose most of their audience if a la carte took over the industry? TV preachers.

Praise Jesus, and reach DEEP, DEEP down in yo wallets for a little bit of cash to hep this heah lady heal ho-self, brothers and Sisters. Can I get a witness? Say Amen!

Posted by: Doofus on March 2, 2006 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Since when has the cable industry given you an option to pay *less* for what you *want* to watch.

Nosiree, this is a plan to jack prices up, up, up!

(and for those who would toy with sattelite, don't think that the dish companies won't imitate).

Posted by: senrik on March 2, 2006 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Pat, at the Toronto Dominion, evidently you CAN buy one cookie!

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

"Point is that when they are able to pick only FOX for their news service we can kiss ANY chance of this nation getting its sanity back BYE BYE."

Yeah, but it would be worth it when Pew Research or somebody does a poll a year later to find out what FOX-only subscribers think of the War on Christmas, the upside of torture, Iranians on the 9/11 planes, the roundness of the earth, etc.

Posted by: MKP on March 2, 2006 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

I got rid of cable since the last presidential election. I am not going to give ANY money to these compaines until they start being responsible broadcasters. Now I an very happy watching DVD's from Neflix. Am up to 6 at a time and can get all the good TV series that are just a year or 2 old. And of course the classics - Leave it to Bever was just released on Netflix. Ha not a friggin penny to FUX, CNN, CBN ... ... ...

Posted by: skibumlee on March 2, 2006 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

I'm rather skeptical of the notion that the religious stations would lose out under a la carte cable/satellite pricing. The idea is that with the packages now sold to subscribers, people looking for something to watch will surf around and stumble across new and interesting channels. That might be true for certain channels, but religious ones? Not so likely. Not many people are going to have a passing interest in relgious programming. They're either: (1) deeply interested, and willing to pay under an a la carte pricing scheme; or (2) totally uninterested, and not about to watch even when the religious programming is available under the subscriber package.

Posted by: Peter on March 2, 2006 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with the few posters up-thread who pointed out that channels are old-think. Technology didn't exist to provide on-demand programming. Now it does. A la carte _programs_ is what makes sense. When you watch on-demand, do you select a channel or a program? A program, because you don't care what preceeds or follows it, you just want the _individual show_.

Shows could be priced according to their production costs. An episode of "Deadwood" would cost much more to produce, and thus watch, than an episode of "Dancing with the Stars". If a show sucks, no one will buy it.

This would effectively kill "the commercial" as we know it, thus requiring advertising to incorporate itself into the plotlines and on-screen antics of the programs purchased to view... which is already happening anyway.

Since commercials pay the bills for so much of the television infrastructure, I don't see this happening anytime soon.

Posted by: Pyrrho on March 2, 2006 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

Enjoyed reading the posts. Would have gotten here sooner, but I was up at the Safeway demanding that they permit me to buy one Oreo cookie instead of the whole pack and three squares of toilet paper. For some reason they refused. Now ... what were you all saying?

How refreshing to find a pro-monopolist.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on March 2, 2006 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

So, with a la carte pricing, does that mean the end of must-carry rules, so cable will no longer be required to provide every subscriber with every local broadcast station that it is required to under the current criteria?

Or is it imagined that a la carte would only to cable-only channels, essentially making everything but local broadcast channels into "premium" channels?

And would cable providers be prohibited from offering package discounts that would make actually buying a la carte a bad deal that most users wouldn't bother to choose? Because, otherwise, forced to provide an a la carte option, keeping their current offering as packages with the same prices, and offering stations one at a time outside of those packages at, say, $5/month each plus a basic equipment and service fee that makes a handful of stations just as expensive as their cheapest package seems a pretty likely response.

If you want TV really a la carte, get a DVD player, and/or iTunes, and pay for only the shows you want to watch.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 2, 2006 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK
Shows could be priced according to their production costs.

They could be, though its irrational to assume they would be; like everything else in the market, demand would realistically play as much role as supply in setting prices.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 2, 2006 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

"No Fox or or Fox wannabe cable "news" stations - no PTL "send us all your money or you'll go to Hell". Maybe wingnuts will demand to put the Fairness Doctine back into use? Hmmm?"

I doubt that, since FoxNews is eating all the other cable news channels' lunches. If anything, it's the likes of CNN who will suffer.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 2, 2006 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

"The discussion is moot. If we went to a la carte it would quickly turn out that no one actually watches Fox News."

Yeah, and maybe Air America is really the #1 rated radio program in America!

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 2, 2006 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

Only drips listen to radio.

Posted by: cld on March 2, 2006 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

Kid Charles >"In order to offer channels a la carte...There is no way they would create...requiring a cable box that would know which channels you are allowed and which ones you weren't based on your selection..."

You have NO IDEA about what you are going on about

Most home computers (running any one of the more mainstream OSs) could do most of that &, assuming I was going to actually sell this type of service, I could have a custom box manufactured far cheaper that a home computer. (can you say Tivo ?). I could probably, by hiring a couple of very savvy EEs, make the box far cheaper than a Tivo and have it do a lot more.

We are NO LONGER in the 20th Century run by Industrial Capitalists stuck in the 18th Century; THINK & be creative !

"Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist." - John Maynard Keynes

Posted by: daCascadian on March 2, 2006 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

I have to re-program my remote in order to not see Trinity Broadcasting or DayStar networks while 'spinning the dial.' These networks' programs continuously ask for money and post their toll free numbers, and when they have political proselytizers on, I feel obligated to call those toll free numbers and ask who is paying for the call while trying to keep the line busy for as long as possible. I know who pays, that is why I call Haggee and Parsley and etc., but it makes my wife mad when I ask if these hateful folks are really Christians, so I have to avoid reacting to them.

My local cable monopolist replaced the Independent Film Channel with the Discovery Health Channel. If I could receive local channels without cable, I live behind a mountain, I would switch to satellite ASAP. Instead of going a la carte, why not just have market competition instead of local monopolists? Cox Cable was just recently able to have the city council eliminate the free access channel, as was required by the original contract. They needed more all commercial channels (they already had two).

Posted by: Hostile on March 2, 2006 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

"Would have gotten here sooner, but I was up at the Safeway demanding that they permit me to buy one Oreo cookie instead of the whole pack and three squares of toilet paper. For some reason they refused. Now ... what were you all saying?"

Could be worse. If your Safeway was run by a cable exec, they would let you buy the one cookie, but only if you also bought six tins of potted meat, an artichoke, one package of hog's head cheese, one jar of pickled pig's feet, and a suitcase of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

If your Safeway was run by a cable exec, they would let you buy the one cookie, but only if you also bought six tins of potted meat, an artichoke, one package of hog's head cheese, one jar of pickled pig's feet...

MJ, I'm not trying to alarm you, but how long since your last period?

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

Several methods for building your own pvr out of an old pc at MakeZine,

http://www.google.com/custom?domains=makezine.com&sitesearch=makezine.com&q=pvr&sa.x=7&sa.y=12&cof=GALT%3A%23008000%3BGL%3A1%3BDIV%3A%23336699%3BVLC%3A663399%3BAH%3Acenter%3BBGC%3AFFFFFF%3BLBGC%3A336699%3BALC%3A0000FF%3BLC%3A0000FF%3BT%3A000000%3BGFNT%3A0000FF%3BGIMP%3A0000FF%3BFORID%3A1%3B&client=pub-1711976718738240&forid=1&ie=ISO-8859-1&oe=ISO-8859-1&hl=en

Posted by: cld on March 2, 2006 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

"only drips listen to the radio"

Define "drips"

Happening to be listening to CBC Radio Two from Toronto online at the moment - Juergen Goth is playing a Jamaican take off on "Country Roads".

Surprisingly, no one has mentioned one of my favorite networks, BBC America - Great Mystery Monday and Thriller Thursday, plus a lot of Python - Fawlty Towers marathon last week. And I enjoy their news coverage.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on March 2, 2006 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

I watch BBC America too. But I didn't want to take up valuable time praising one channel that I could have been using to disparage others.

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

Define "drips"


They know who they are.

I have been lead to understand that some radio isn't bad, but I just loathe everything about it.

Posted by: cld on March 2, 2006 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

I watch BBC America too. But I didn't want to take up valuable time praising one channel that I could have been using to disparage others.

Bwa!

Posted by: craigie on March 2, 2006 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK
We are NO LONGER in the 20th Century run by Industrial Capitalists stuck in the 18th Century;

No, we're in the 21st Century run by absolutists stuck in the 16th Century. Not that that's all that much of an improvement.

But, on the technical points about the technical feasibility of a la carte, I agree with your point.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 2, 2006 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

CSPAN and CSPAN2.

Those are the only channels I really miss not having since I stopped getting cable.

I understand there are support groups for people like me.

Posted by: winna on March 2, 2006 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

I've got no complaint either way. When I moved into my apartment I found that the cable was hooked up, but I never asked for it and never get billed.

What a country.

Posted by: sisyphus on March 2, 2006 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

When I moved into my apartment I found that the cable was hooked up, but I never asked for it and never get billed

Dude - they are so watching you through that "free" cable.

Posted by: craigie on March 2, 2006 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

Happening to be listening to CBC Radio Two from Toronto online at the moment - Juergen Goth is playing a Jamaican take off on "Country Roads".

Surprisingly, no one has mentioned one of my favorite networks, BBC America - Great Mystery Monday and Thriller Thursday, plus a lot of Python - Fawlty Towers marathon last week. And I enjoy their news coverage. Posted by: thethirdPaul

Dude, we are so in synch! Are we from the PNW or what? I usually listen to BBC6 or KEXP at work, the best one-two punch in music.

Have you been watching the Best of Python on PBS this week? BBC America is the one thing that temps me toward DirecTV

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

Chalk me up as skeptical of the benefits of a la carte cable. Frankly, I think we'll all end up paying the same or more for fewer channels.

Posted by: Timothy on March 2, 2006 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

Chalk me up as skeptical of the benefits of a la carte cable. Frankly, I think we'll all end up paying the same or more for fewer channels.

Possibly. But if that means less viewers for Faux News and less money for the theocrats like Robertson, it sounds good to me!

Posted by: Edo on March 2, 2006 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

Edo, I don't understand - You'd pay more to *not* have Fox News and Christian channels? Why not just configure your remote to skip them, and avoid the extra monthly expense for 1 minute's work?

The reality is, with a la carte, if you watch a small handful of popular channels, you'll likely save a bit of money. Everyone else will probably get screwed.

Posted by: Timothy on March 2, 2006 at 9:17 PM | PERMALINK

What you are actually paying for every month is the cable company monopoly. Of course, that is simplistic, since the alternative (DirectTV etc) cost almost to the penny the same out. (Competition is collusion).

I have read (and it makes sense) that the heavy sports diet that comes with basic cable, is the big price component. Think about it, most sports contests air once, not an unlimited number of times.

Adelphia, in Colorado Springs seems to have at least 2-3 fundy TV stations, plus one that seems like the "catholic channel" (pretty bizarre). None would be missed at my place.

Posted by: RickG on March 2, 2006 at 10:31 PM | PERMALINK

TV's a scourge, either way. Just turn it off.

Posted by: fjolset on March 2, 2006 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

ESPN can get away with charging high fees because it is by far the best cable network for advertisers trying to target men. Women tend to be heavier television watchers than men. If you're trying to sell male-oriented products like cars, beer, life insurance or power tools, and don't want to advertise on networks where most of the viewers will be women, there aren't too many alternatives to ESPN. Spike TV is a joke, and while news networks attract a largely male audience their viewer numbers aren't remotely comparable to ESPN's.

Amusing story: around 1980 I briefly rented a house in Connecticut with three other men. One of them was a cameraman for ESPN, and I recall him saying that while he really liked working there, he was worried that the network would go out of business and leave him jobless. Who would've known?

Posted by: Peter on March 2, 2006 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

Edo, I don't understand - You'd pay more to *not* have Fox News and Christian channels? Why not just configure your remote to skip them, and avoid the extra monthly expense for 1 minute's work?

Because Comcast doesn't allow you to skip over stations you have locked, blocked, or don't buy?

Posted by: Crissa on March 3, 2006 at 1:08 AM | PERMALINK

The History Channel seems to have The Glory of Christianity three times a week, and four times a year will devote an entire month to it, the narrator choking up and just overcome with awe.

I'm watching the glory of the Koran on the History Channel right now.

All I want is a choice where I get HDTV versions of the networks I want, darnit. And balanced volumes.

Posted by: Crissa on March 3, 2006 at 1:12 AM | PERMALINK

In all the drama about potential costs and politics, what is getting lost is the real reason people of all political persuasions want a la carte channel selection: we, as consumers, want to be able to vote with our wallets. End of story. I don't care if my bill changes not one dollar. Being able to "vote channels off my island" is worth it. Let us vote with our wallets for what we want to see.

Posted by: ArtGal on March 3, 2006 at 2:13 AM | PERMALINK

ArtGal: Being able to "vote channels off my island" is worth it.

A sentiment I can get behind and push.

It's not just what I pay the cable company, it's who gets to pocket the $$$ on the other end.

The way it operates now, I'm forced to pay those GOP phony 'free market' contributors who own Uni and BET the equivalent of 'taxation without representation".

I resent the hell outta that, folks.

Posted by: CFShep on March 3, 2006 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

"Enjoyed reading the posts. Would have gotten here sooner, but I was up at the Safeway demanding that they permit me to buy one Oreo cookie instead of the whole pack and three squares of toilet paper. For some reason they refused. Now ... what were you all saying?"

Clever. But what the U.S. cable-satellite-programmers force you to do is buy a dozen 10-penny nails and two pairs of size 5-1/2 sneakers with each pound of hamburger you buy. Don't need the nails and the sneakers? Tough. No hamburger. This is called the American free-enterprise system. And look before you leap into this. In Canada, despite what you may read in some of the above posts, the hamburger (a la carte channels divided into theme packages) is NOT more expensive. That's just U.S. industry propaganda some people have apparently picked up in unsanitary rest rooms. You can check the cable (Rogers cable) and satellite (Bell ExpressVu) prices online, in Canadian dollars. It's just that in Canada you get to buy all the channels you want to watch, and none or few that you don't want to watch. You've got to admit, it's an interesting concept.

Posted by: Guy MacMillin on March 3, 2006 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Don't get too excited about the a la carte choices in Canada. Yes, some "cookies" can be purchased one at a time, but other cookies can only be gotten in a package. For example, I cannot subscribe to BBC News without also subscribing to the Canadian affiliate of MSNBC (and the affiliate of Court TV and a bunch of other worthless junk). However, I can subscribe to BBC Canada (which carries the drama, comedy and gardening programs and is the #1 channel in our house) by itself. The difference? BBC Canada has a Canadian partner, BBC News does not.

Posted by: Stan on March 3, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

The obvious point is this: Apple has broken the dam by providing downloads. Bittorrent is not going to go away.

There'll come a point at which people will pay $20 extra to get extra cable internet bandwidth, in order to download the shows they actually want to watch, and cancel their $50-60 cable TV package.

Count me among those who pay for a digital package and a digital sports tier (i.e 120 channels or so) in order to get Fox Soccer Channel. And that still doesn't include the ridiculous $20 PPV on some live games. Which I now longer pay, thanks to a number of industrious Chinese programmers streaming video from their satellite stations.

Posted by: ahem on March 4, 2006 at 1:24 AM | PERMALINK

Screw all this folderol. I want choice.

Posted by: Kevin on March 6, 2006 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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