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(Wired)   This week, Congress tackles one of the most perplexing questions of our time: Why can't we buy only the cable channels we want to watch?   ( divider line
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17421 clicks; posted to Main » on 14 Jul 2004 at 11:44 PM (13 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

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2004-07-15 01:31:17 AM  
There is one good home shopping channel that I'd pay extra to get.

2004-07-15 01:32:29 AM  
You cannot have multiple providers, they will eat up the overall bandwith and then you are left with 15 companies of 20 channels each.

sounds good to me!
2004-07-15 01:34:13 AM  
This really isn't something Congress should be dealing with.
2004-07-15 01:38:06 AM  
Caught in all of this confusion are TV viewers everywhere, some of whom still wonder why buying access to A&E and Court TV requires that they also support Comedy Central and those raunchy kids on South Park.

Actually these selections would fit perfectly in my choices...
2004-07-15 01:39:48 AM  
Al la carte is a bad idea. I'm sure some of these points have been made already, but it's late, and I don't want to read every response so far.

1) The little guys & startups (full disclosure: I work for a startup cable channel trying to make carriage deals with the major cable ops, so I'm biased about this one). People would only have MTV, ESPN, and Comedy Central, maybe CNN or FoxNews, plus the broadcast networks. Noone would bother to pull down us little guys, so no new networks would stand a chance at starting up, and niche programming would cease to exist. Less choice for everyone. This is the big one for me.

2) There is a cost issue involved. Most of your bill is simply getting the cable signal to you, so even if person A only want 2 cable channels, and person B wants 20, it costs pretty much the same to the cable company to get each of these people their cable. So the money you would save by doing al la carte is miniscule to nonexistant, since the cable company spends the same amount of money to get you a few or a lot of channels.

3) oldebayer mentioned this just above me, but here it is again: You never know when you're going to find something you like on a network you don't frequently watch. I pretty much never watch the Outdoor Life network, but we have it on constantly at work right now for tour de france coverage.
2004-07-15 01:45:14 AM  
Indeed you would need the state's permission, but as MrBeetle pointed out, leasing the use of cable wires isn't a reasonable option.

Still, there is no flat-out law stating that a company couldn't do it. It wouldn't be easy and it would be unlikely, but it's not illegal.

Those are pretty good examples of something. But they're not good examples of situations wherein an established law prevented a company from setting up their own infrastructure of cable wiring.

All of this is besides the point, though. Even if it was effortless for a company to setup and provide an alternative cable service, they still wouldn't be able to provide a cheaper service with an a la carte system. Because of jimb213's point #2.
2004-07-15 01:46:00 AM  
now, i can't reasonably say i know what i'm talking about, and i hope i'm not repeating something someone else has said...

but isn't the main cost issue here not with expensive "equipment upgrades" on the part of the carrier, but with the simple fact that they'd likely be serving fewer channels on the whole? bear with me, i'm tired.

ignoring completely the revenue the cable companies get from running ads, etc., the cost difference between sending 20 channels to a customer versus sending 40 is negligible; i.e. it doesn't cost the cable company more resources to unlock more channels. so, if most of the customers are suddenly paying less for their service (which seems to be the underlying idea here -- paying only for what you want, saving money by not buying that which you don't need), the cable companies are short some income with no way to make it back -- forcing them to raise rates anyway.

someone tell me if i'm full of it.
2004-07-15 01:46:38 AM  
Who in the fark says that the cable companies don't have the tech to send certain station signals to certain customers? They have been sending HBO and The Movie Channel to specific subscribers for 20 years. At least!

It would be nice if this "pay per channel" system was implemented based on a "darwinian" survival of the fittest business model. If I run a crappy channel, I have a crappy chance of being around next year. Much like if I ran a crappy restaurant.

However, we all know that the large media conglomerates have adopted the "sell a huge block of channels to cable company #462, reap huge rewards from advertisement sales from said block, who gives a rat's arse about the quality of programming on all but two channels of said block" business model.

If cable subscribers actually had a choice between cable-coms this would not be an issue. But, the cable industry is a government mandated monopoly! In my personal opinion, this gives the government a pretty damned good excuse to listen to the citizens wishes and then ask/tell/demand that my (and your) cable company do what the majority of tax payers and/or cable customers wish.
2004-07-15 01:49:08 AM  
jimb213 made my point two posts earlier and much more succinctly than i did
2004-07-15 01:53:39 AM  
The TV stations and networks have the cable companies ballocks in a vise.

If I pick the channels I want to watch, the advertisers had better choose the TV networks they want to put their ads on so they can reach me. TV networks can only get advertisers if I am watching their channel.

Simply put, I do not watch crappy channels, so advertisers would only then have to switch to the channels that are popular, if the a la carte system were to be used. The crappy channels would then die out for lack of funding, and advertisers would be running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Therefore, it's ultimately the channels/stations themselves who put pressure on the cable companies to steer away from the a la carte concept.

The a la carte concept could work if ALL network channels were made available for subscribers and advertisers. If you don't watch TV, you pay nothing. Then, a subscriber could be charged on their bill for all the channels that the teevoo/digital cable box says the subscriber watches for any length of time. If the subscriber watches though a commercial, however, they get proportional discounts on their bill. THIS IS HOW THE INTERNET WORKS! Sign me up!

/people are stupid, and greed makes a fog through with stupid people can not see the Big Picture (relax people)
2004-07-15 01:59:01 AM  
requires that they also support Comedy Central and those raunchy kids on South Park.

umm.. they know it's a cartoon, right?
2004-07-15 01:59:22 AM  
Allowing (smaller, independent) cable companies to offer a la carte programming is DEregulation, not regulation. Right now cable companies have all sorts of special government protections that free-market capitalists really ought not to be supporting.
2004-07-15 02:00:46 AM  
nobody has the travel channel on their list
2004-07-15 02:02:16 AM  
It would be nice if this "pay per channel" system was implemented based on a "darwinian" survival of the fittest business model. If I run a crappy channel, I have a crappy chance of being around next year.

Simply put, I do not watch crappy channels, so advertisers would only then have to switch to the channels that are popular, if the a la carte system were to be used. The crappy channels would then die out for lack of funding, and advertisers would be running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

The problem with this is that "crappy" is a pretty subjective term. What if everybody else thinks the channels you watch are "crappy" and they last a whole three months in an a la carte system and the only channels left to watch are the ones you just called "crappy"?
2004-07-15 02:03:40 AM  
a HUUUUGE, GIGANTIC, SPECTACULAR "BRAVO!" to Dalcius, who summed up about 99.99% of the problems in the United States today...way to go!

I used to work in the M.I.S. department at Cox Communications in Baton Rouge, LA. I can tell you from FIRSTHAND knowledge that the entire building is full of nothing but modern-day slaves. Cox wants your money, and as much of it as they can get. Plain and simple. The fact is, they would be charged and extra couple of cents per channel if they removed the bundling of programs they currently offer...but would charge the consumer some outrageous fee like $5 per channel, and blame it on customers not wanting to pay for crap the won't watch.

Most companies are like this. The call-center people (the ones you talk to when you sign up, change, or have problems with your cable) get exactly 2 10 minute breaks per 10 hour shift...they don't pay them worth crap it's not overhead that they're charging for.

Wake up and smell the coffee....the cable companies do this for only ONE reason...because we, the consumers, have allowed them to.
2004-07-15 02:06:04 AM  
Because someone has to pay for Lifetime and Oxygen?

Let's face it, without packages those two channels would be gone faster than the Bush twins from a busted coke party.
2004-07-15 02:08:35 AM  
I only want History and CourtTV. Nothing Else. If need news, I have Google News. If I need weather, I have If I need sports....well, I don't need sports. DVDs are for movies. I probably don't even need Spike, since I can download MXC from p2p nets.

The girlfriend would want HGTV.

So only two stations I want: History, CourtTV, and HGTV.
2004-07-15 02:09:38 AM  
I got fed up with cable almost 2 years ago and have been receiving regular, plain-old broadcast television service ever since. Do I feel any regret? None. Whatsoever!

If you want people to get interested in your startup channel, give us a free subscription for a week. If we like it, we'll give you money. If not, we won't.

I, for one, favor a business model where good stations are rewarded with money that is paid by interested subscribers, rather than 20 minutes of advertisements in a 60 minute program.

Maybe then, perhaps, I would consider contacting my local cable company/extortionist.
2004-07-15 02:11:40 AM  
They can offer ala carte for other people if they'd like, but I personally like checking out the occassional new channel added to my service. Yet, I would like to drop a few channels from my list if it would save me money.

WE (boo hoo your husband doesn't understand you)
Lifetime (see WE)
BET (racism is ok as long as you're not white)
TLC (surgery shiat is nasty)
Discovery Channel (see TLC)
History Channel (I already know about WW2 and the Cold War)
MTV (too obvious)
Fuse (was ok when it was Much Music, now sellout whores)
TNN (should be called Maxim TV, that's their crowd)
TBN (these people scare me)
Disney (fark Lizzie McGuire and all those bullshiat shows)
CMT (farking hick shiat)
GAC (more hick shiat)
G4Tech TV (farking embarassing to the gaming culture...lets slap whores all over TV and bend over for the mainstream Madden biatches and we'll swim in farking money...culture raping farkers, piss off!)

There's much more but they're not pissing me off enough to mention.
2004-07-15 02:12:22 AM  
You can only get premium channels and pay-per-view on a cable box, people. This would require you to get a box for every television in your home. That costs extra money, passed on to you.

Maybe then the government passes another law mandating new cable box technology be built into every TV. (V-Chip anyone?)
This costs extra money, passed on to you.

The cost of cable is mostly for the infrastructure (cables, right of way, maintenance, etc) so forcing companies to allow ala-carte only decreases revenue...

That costs extra money, passed on to you.

Are we sensing a pattern here? I'm with some other posters here, let the market take care of itself. No one is dying in the streets because they pay for BET but don't ever watch it. Broadband television is already here in several markets, DirectTV & Dish Network are providing immense competition for cable, and many municipalities offer several cable providers anyways. In Minneapolis-Saint Paul we have Time Warner and ComCast competing heavily, and both have to deal with satellite.

If you want a government solution, just make it illegal for cities to force monopolies in the first place... that's the only thing the government's there for -- to prevent crime, not regulate the market.
2004-07-15 02:18:22 AM  
because my cable bill would be about $3/month then.

2004-07-15 02:20:52 AM  
still not getting it are we.
think about it for a click,
if it was going to drive cable prices up,
why the h3ll would cable companys resist it?

they wouldnt. you know they wouldnt. i know they wouldnt.

this would pave the way for us to buy tv show's directly from the network.

tottally bypassing (and eventually collapsing)
the over inflated cable system already in place.

and to those who are pissing about "the death of capitolism"

Quiet noob.

This is the very princible of capitolism.

The product will cost whatever the market can bear.


This will drasticly reduce the cost of cable
(elimenating two middle men from TV; advertising, and cable companies)

/tats mah speal.
2004-07-15 02:25:40 AM  
You know, if you're going to quote more than one person, the general rule of etiquette is to separate the quotes. If I turned in a paper the way you submit a post, I'd probably be kicked out of school.

And getting back on topic, if everyone thought the stations I watch are "crappy" well then I would suppose that the stations I watch are not strong enough to survive.

/every station I WOULD watch if I still had cable has been praised as a worthy channel in this thread...repeatedly. Go figure!
2004-07-15 02:27:14 AM  
The product DOES cost what the market will bear. This is regulation to try to change that. Think for a second sometime...

And learn to spell "capitalism"
2004-07-15 02:30:07 AM  
there are two distinct economic arguments which cut both ways.

FIRST, the pure market theory. Creating an a-la-carte system would basically allow for the market to account for the demand of any individual channel. The Food Network might die, but that would only be because people enough people wouldn't want to pay to see Emeril Lugasi make veal parmigian again. BAM. This is not a bad idea in any way, as it would force networks to compete to meet consumer desires (as a market should function).

ON THE OTHER HAND, there is the insurance theory. We all pay a tiny fraction of what each channel actually costs, and thereby the channel owners get paid enough to be happy. (Just like when houses or cars are insured -- millions of people pay a fraction each month for peace of mind of what a few will unfortunately have to suffer). Anyway, we pay $40 a month for ostensibly $300 worth of a-la-carte channels because if you spread it out over enough people, everyone can get all the channels (and have the OPTION of any channel).

On a related note, spreading the multitude of channels via the tiered channels allows media companies to inflate the possible viewership numbers to potential advertisers. If you say "we reach 30 million homes," it's much more effective than saying "we have 25,000 subscribers."

All in all, I think the cable industry would be benefitted by a shakeup like this.
2004-07-15 02:41:33 AM  
This kinda system would only work on digital cable. It would not work on analog. With digital, it's just a matter of provisioning a block of channels on the main server (called a DNCS) and it tells your box what channels to be able to tune to. On analog however, you have to physically prevent the signal from entering the house. This would require very, very expensive filters on each subscriber's house. An interesting thing is that if you get analog cable, chances are every single digital channel is there as well, you just can't tune to them with a normal television.

So, basically what this really boils down to is replacing the analog head end with a digital one. This is not cheep, especially for a small provider. (And politics, farking politics..)
2004-07-15 02:42:02 AM  
... that's the only thing the government's there for -- to prevent crime, not regulate the market.

What happened to the prison scandal? Wait, that makes dubbya look bad for sending troops over there, take those stories off the air. Make sure you put extra stuff on about the Saddam Hussein trial, because then they'll think we made the right decision by sending troops in. Put a bin laden threat in there every few weeks too, just to keep them a little scared, so they think we have a reason to be over there. Oh, the CIA is confident that its bin laden's voice...Bin laden could be a fictional character for all we know.

Disclaimer: I'm not saying that I agree/disagree with, or believe anything that I wrote above. I'm just making a point on one extreme of the spectrum.

A lot of people believe a lot what they see on TV, whether they realize it or not... A lot of people also believe a lot of what they read on the internet :)
2004-07-15 02:45:21 AM  
You know, if you're going to quote more than one person, the general rule of etiquette is to separate the quotes.

Yeah, well, you both provided basically the same comment of "crappy channels should die" and my response was to that idea.

The question remains, what if all the channels you watch are considered by the viewing public at large (and if you honestly believe this thread is a good sampling of that population, you're just wrong) die? What are you going to do, besides come on Fark and whine about how you can't watch your fav shows anymore?

My point is that the channels you watch probably aren't "crappy" and don't deserve to go under. You should respect the fact that some people who don't watch them are paying for them so you're able to watch them and vice versa.

/be cool, stay in school
2004-07-15 02:49:30 AM  

2004-07-15 01:31:17 AM Sergio_Van_Lukenstein

There is one good home shopping channel that I'd pay extra to get.


2004-07-15 02:49:45 AM  
And what did anything you had to say have to do with anything in this thread? It doesn't even correlate with the quote of mine you included.

How you managed to turn a thread about market regulation and cable providers into a nonsensical rant about the war on terror, I'll never know.
2004-07-15 02:50:42 AM  
The cable industry has a point, but then again I pay $72 a month for cable, which just tossed in a bunch of new channels, most of which I can't get unless I move to a more expensive plan. Around 1/2 to 2/3 of my channels are useless to me because they contain things I don't like to watch. Plus, I'm not a sports fan and now have about 20 sport channels. They added a bunch of pay-per-view channels and then show the same 3 or 4 movies on them.

Then, after midnight, most of the good stations switch over to infomercials and turn into krap.

Actually, I got better TV years ago when cable first started and there was only a selection of maybe 20 stations.

To make money, the cable companies break up the good stations and sprinkle them among more costly packages, so if you want real good TV, you wind up paying around $100 a month, which is ridiculous!

I think I might be happy with some control that would blank all of the stations I don't watch off the menu to save me some time in trying to find out what is playing.
2004-07-15 02:54:55 AM  
i steal cable... so guess this arguement does not apply to me!!!
2004-07-15 02:55:39 AM  
The choices for telephone and cable options are downwind of arse. All I need for a phone is my cell phone, but to get DSL I would need to order an extra (and useless) phone line package. To get a cable modem, I must order basic cable at the least to get broadband. Channel tiers suck in their own right, but why can't get internet connectivity without being forced to by shiat we don't want or need. Fark you accounting departments everywhere!
2004-07-15 02:58:14 AM  
What sucks is that they intentionally divide up related-theme networks into different packages.
In order to get every Discovery channel, you have to order every package.
Didn't RTFA.
Didn't RTFpost right before mine. ;)
2004-07-15 02:58:42 AM  
Having lived without cable until college, I find myself addicted to only a few stations now, but I'd love an ala carte. The only problem is when I find an hour or so of something every so often that I want to watch.

At the least, I'd be happy with CNN, ESPN, and the History Channel. And maybe Nick, and SciFi if they'd show more Quantum Leap, and Cartoon Network...well, OK, maybe I'd be happy with those six.

Course, that means I'd probably end up paying up the wazoo to get ESPN, just as Cox tried to use that station as leverage for a rate hike in the past year.

/mmm...Nick at Nite
2004-07-15 03:05:21 AM  
The question remains, what if all the channels you watch are considered by the viewing public at large (and if you honestly believe this thread is a good sampling of that population, you're just wrong) die? What are you going to do, besides come on Fark and whine about how you can't watch your fav shows anymore?

As I said in a post above, I had my cable subscription turrned off. I'm not here, on Fark, whining about how I can't watch my fav shows anymore. I'm here, on Fark, whining about how it's not cost effective to watch my fav shows anymore.

If my cable company gave me some options that made their ever-cost-rising-services just a little more cost-effective, I might just consider re-enlisting.

Until then, there's always Bittorrent. (yes, I have contributed, you should too)
2004-07-15 03:07:14 AM  
Honestly, why do I have 5 spanish channels?!

/DirectTV is bad, but not as evil as Comcast.
2004-07-15 03:08:49 AM  
Let's see...

History Channel, Food Channel, SciFi Channel, Cartoon Network, CNN, Animal Channel, A&E, Spike, and TCM.
2004-07-15 03:09:27 AM  
I know people hate advertising on channels they pay for, but has ESPN gotten too much for anyone?
There is no less commercials. It's more in-show advertising. Most of it by automobiles, beers, and beverages. I can hardly stand to watch SportsCenter anymore. Too much advertising, too much bullshiat, like the Budweiser Hot Seat. Or when they have NO BOTTOMLINE ALL FARKING DAY because it's a countdown to a new episode of the World Series of Poker!

Remember when ESPN was the worldwide leader in sports?
2004-07-15 03:10:01 AM  

As I said in my post I'm just making a point on one extreme of the spectrum.

I don't own a TV, so I rarely watch it, but when I do, it seems to be scattered with "nonsensical rants about the war on terror", so, I'm sorry that the first example I thought of had to do with the war on terror.

Since you obviously missed the implied point of my previous post, I will spell it out for you: Maybe the government is the problem and they should back off a little and let the cable companies figure it out.

Let me apologize in advance for making this thread a nonsensical anarchist rant.
2004-07-15 03:21:59 AM  
If my cable company gave me some options that made their ever-cost-rising-services just a little more cost-effective, I might just consider re-enlisting

If you honestly believe that a la carte programming is going to be more cost effective than today's bundles and still provide the same level of programming that you're used just keep on believing that.

And seriously, Bittorrent? Come on now.
2004-07-15 03:24:04 AM  
i'm quiestioning this: who submitted this?
2004-07-15 03:24:33 AM  
I was a cable guy for 6+ years. Installation and service. I know a little bit about this.

1. Cable companies are NOT a monopoly. The only reason that in your area you only have one cable company is because only 1 cable company has decided to put wires on the streets and provide service.

Start your own cable company! Im not kidding. Set up your own system and run your own wires. Compete! Its a free market! Drive Comcast/Adelphia/whoever out of business! Make a freekin fortune! I dare you!

Oh and theres also a couple of satelite companies and something called 'books' (remember those? words in ink on paper? i know, kinda old) so cable isnt forced down your throat. Oh.. and you can put an antenna up and get the local channels for FREE.

2. Serving cable channels a la carte to the customer is a logistical nightmare.

If you provide an ANALOG signal, you have to trap out an absolutley astronomical number of combinations of channels for your system. Youd have to order traps by the truck-load. (Ever try to put a few traps in a too-small lock-box on the side of an apartment? Imaging putting 20-30 traps.. ON EACH LINE) And then you have to run amazingly strenuous audits of your system cause any farkwad pinhead with a ladder or a pry-bar can climb a pole/destroy a $150 lockbox and remove traps, costing the cable comany far more then its worth to provide service.

And the first time you get some dorkface who wants certain channels in one room, and other channels in another room, just go ballistic, and take them out. The 20 years is a small price to pay to remove these wastes from the gene pool.. and it feels soooo goood...

If you provide a 100% digital signal, you have to provide a digital box for EVERY SINGLE TV in your system, you alienate people who do not WANT a digital box. Oh my freekin god, you have no idea what im talking about unless you have ever installed cable for a living.. the numbers of complaints about a cable boxes size, shape, color... and a very sizable chunk of the populus is NOT smart enough to operate a universal remote. If i had a nickel for every time i had to explain to someone that their TV had to stay on channel 3 for the box to work, id just buy up all the cable companies and dismantle them.

Also you have to deal with pirate boxes and cards to boot.

And the next time the cable company ups their rates, if you look into it, its not because the cable company is trying to up their profits, its because the GOVERNMET has imposed new fees, or the CHANNEL PROVIDERS have raised their fees. The cable company is just passing on the cost increase to you.

Do you know how much it costs to provide *just* ESPN to you?
2004-07-15 03:30:52 AM  
First, the cablecos and networks will use Congress' plan to drive up prices, delay HDTV, and ram more copy protection crap down our throats.

The future we really want is pay-per-view on-demand everything. Turn affiliates into data centres to deliver shows over the net to the local area.

Turn on your TV. Ask it what is new. Hey, there is a new episode of The Simpsons available. Pay a buck (or whatever) and watch it. If a buck sounds too much for a half-hour show think about how much you spend on a two hour movie. Older episodes are offered for less than new episodes. Prepurchase a season's worth and get a discount and episodes a day earlier than everybody else.

New shows can be advertised by giving an episode away when viewers buy another show ("Thanks for watching the Simpsons. Here's a free episode of a new show we think you'll like.").

But it will never happen because it would force people to make conscious decisions about how much TV they watch and what it is actually costing them. The cablecos and networks don't want that.
2004-07-15 03:36:24 AM  

2004-07-15 03:36:33 AM  
shiat...this happens and all of our favorite obscure stations go bust... good bye trio....good bye morgan web....good bye... and guess which ones would remain??? MTV...good bye capitalism and the free market.. you had a good up, I only want to pay my ISP for access to fark (and also the links)
2004-07-15 03:39:17 AM  

Not to mention the fact that that would be much easier over high speed internet then it would thru cable TV.

I mean look at the online music industry.

Pay-per-show Online TV cant be far away.

Oh and then you can just Kazaa and download any Simpsons episode you want for free.

*shrug* Things are gonna change drastically for the cable companies in the next 5-10 years. They may be better of just ditching the analog/digital TV side and just becoming High speed Internet/Telephone providers, and provide TV programming thru the internet.
2004-07-15 03:44:32 AM  
rodr3, I respect your technical knowledge on the matter. I do. But, as a consumer? Even if it's only going to save me $5 to drop the forty channels that I don't watch? Bye-bye channels.

For the record, I used to work at a local TV/news station, and we got plenty of the calls that were aimed at you guys. I feel for you bro.
2004-07-15 03:46:28 AM  

Im cushed! Destryed! Obiterated. Im gona cral into bed ow and cry.
2004-07-15 03:48:19 AM  
Read my post. That's exactly what I said. The only thing I advocated was removing the ability of a municipality to create a monopoly by forbidding a competing cable company to operate in town.

I'm a libertarian myself, I agree with you. Try to read the first half of the post before you disagree with your own shared opinion.
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