September 8, 1971
Cable’s method of delivering programming networks via packages – with channels grouped into a wide variety of basic and premium tiers – is what makes the programming we all want possible. Beyond providing the ability to create popular niche content, revenue created by cable’s tiered ecosystem is what allows networks to invest in ground-breaking, production-rich programming.
A number of organizations have examined the idea of implementing an “a la carte” system with channels priced and ordered individually rather than from a tailored bundle. At first blush, a channel-by-channel pricing system seems logical.
However, a la carte would destroy a model that produces the best TV available anywhere in the world, forcing viewers to lock in their programming choices in advance, and depriving them of the ability to easily explore new shows and networks.
By undermining the economic viability of new networks, niche programming and existing networks that appeal to minority audiences, a la carte would reduce programming diversity. The benefit of the bundle is to provide consumers with a broad array of viewing options in a readily accessible fashion. These options accommodate a variety of tastes by different members of a household and offer the best overall value when compared to purchasing channels or shows individually.
Cable’s diverse programming provides rich content experiences to viewers nationwide. While an a la carte system might sound attractive to some, most viewers would pay more for fewer channels.
The number of national program networks created between 1980 through 2006.
The Weather Channel
CMT: Country Music Television
Fox Movie Channel
Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
CMT Pure Country
BET Hip Hop
VH1 Mega Hits
CBS College Sports Network
The Africa Channel
Hallmark Movie Channel
Military History Channel
BBC World News
Shopping a la carte for content is a pricey alternative. Let’s take a closer look at what audiences would pay for “individualized programming.”