Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Cable TV a la Carte

The new head honcho at the FCC seems to be a friend of free market communications. He actually has the audacity to suggest that allowing consumers to put together cable packages by the individual channel might not be too much more expensive for cable providers, and would help families keep content out of their homes that they find objectionable.

Imagine if you went to the grocery store, and could only buy three assortments of groceries. The basic assortment included eggs, bread, milk, cereal, some fruit, veggies, anchovies and okra. Now suppose you didn't like anchovies, and their inclusion in the package were wasteful for you. Tough luck. If you want groceries, you've got to take the anchovies.

If you tried to change the law to allow yourself to buy only the foods you needed or wanted, the anchovy canners would get in a snit, saying their industry wouldn't survive if people were allowed to choose whether they got anchovies with their basic groceries.

Well, as silly as that argument would be, it somehow has been the prevailing model in cable television. When I lived in places that had cable television, I never understood why the subscriber couldn't get SciFi and take a pass on ESPN. (Actually, I understood that the cable monopolies were spreading channels that certain people might want across different tiers of service to maximize revenue; I just didn't understand why cable television was allowed to be a monopoly in the first place.)

I suspect that, in a few short years, cable television packages will be antiquated. Already, folks like me wait a year to see series TV on DVD. We are on the verge of on-demand programming for most "broadcasts" (and that term may have to be retired, in favor of "downloads").



Categories: ,

Technorati tags: ,