Bell Canada Will Give You A La Carte Cable Channels… But Only If There's Real Competition

from the otherwise,-you're-stuck dept

We’ve had plenty of debates on this site about a la carte TV channels. A few years back the FCC put out a report that explained, pretty clearly why mandating the ability of users to pick and choose what TV channels they wanted in their cable package would cost more — even if the FCC later changed its mind under pressure from “family values” groups who wanted to be able to stop having to pay for “bad” channels to get the wholesome channels. Lots of people like the idea of a la carte channels, falsely believing that they’re “paying for channels they don’t want.” Our position has always been that it’s bad policy to mandate a la carte TV offerings, when it’s happening naturally in the marketplace — mainly due to pressure from competition.

So it’s interesting to see, up in Canada, that Bell Canada has apparently started offering a la carte pricing… but only in territories where it has real competition. Otherwise, you’re stuck with bundles.

Once again, as with net neutrality and metered broadband, we’re seeing a situation where the real issue is often a lack of competition in the marketplace, and the answer isn’t necessarily to force a particular policy on providers, but to figure out ways to encourage more real competition, such that these other issues take care of themselves.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: bell canada

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Bell Canada Will Give You A La Carte Cable Channels… But Only If There's Real Competition”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

A La Carte doesn’t make sense for the vast, vast majority of people. What A La Carte is meant to stop is if you want Local Networks + HBO, they can’t make you buy the $100 Cable Plus 80 QVCs in order to get the HBO. That’s really what people were complaining about. They wanted Local Networks + HBO and the cable companies don’t make a lot of money on Local Networks + HBO.

BrookeA (user link) says:

Re: Where's the Beef

You are onto something here! Bundled programming was originally good for the consumer and the TV industry. Bulk purchasing helped create diversity of programming.

But with the rabbit ears being retired, it is time we realized that the business has changed. Technology now makes it much easier for us to efficiently customize cable packages to suit the individual. also, we now have over 100+ channels force fed to us, even though the average household watches less than 20 of these channels.

There is a consumer movement to bring back competition and transparency into the industry. Hundreds of folks have already signed up in San Francisco. No reason why other cities should be stuck with the same old status quo.

Join the movement

fogbugzd (profile) says:

The problem is the subsidies

The problem is that some channels effectively subsidize other channels. Shopping channels give a cut of all their sales to the cable company which explains why there are so many of them. There are also some channels that give a lot of advertising slots to the cable company, so those tend to be highly profitable. In effect the “trashy” channels support the channels people say they really want.

People who want true a la carte are generally going to find that the really good channels are going to be very expensive if that is all they want. Of course, that is a legitimate thing, too. If you don’t want to wade through 10 shopping channels between your good channels, then you should be able to have that option. Of course, you can probably program your TV to skip those channels, but if you don’t even want to do that you can pay the luxury tax and just get what you want.

The thing that is funny in all of this is that the home shopping and other trash channels are only profitable because people actually watch them. It makes me wonder if people really want a la carte.

Ryan says:

Re: The problem is the subsidies

The thing that is funny in all of this is that the home shopping and other trash channels are only profitable because people actually watch them. It makes me wonder if people really want a la carte.

Spam is only continues to occur because people actually click on it. Doesn’t mean the vast, vast majority of people would prefer to do without it.

kellythedog (profile) says:

A La Carte

I should think its a small group of people who “think” they want choice. It does not seem to be a big topic of conversation in the Canadian Media.
I’m quite happy to pay *choice 1800.00 a year for all the channels, because i don’t want choice. I want everything.
I would like it cheaper, and likely it should be, but I don’t see how A La Carte would help that at all.

Pete Dixon (profile) says:

Internet watching

I agree with the comments from the non-TV watchers. I haven’t owned a TV for nearly 13 years and for the last 7-8 years have simply downloaded whatever I felt like watching.

Soon enough the technology will be available for everyone will be able to watch whatever they like on any device, and the current monstrosity which is cable TV is disappear into the history of media.

I actually witnessed cable this weekend at a friend’s place. What abomination! Mostly crappy content, lousy interface, and endless, irrelevant commercials. And worst of all, you were required to watch at prescribed times. All very strange!

inc (profile) says:

I think that being “A La Carte” one knows you are not getting a discount for the bulk buy. Even so, getting less channels at a slightly high price per channel would allow more consumers to be able to afford cable.

I agree that creating more and more laws telling people how to run their business is not a good thing. It goes against the capitalist market place a lot of people claim the US has. If a law should be made it should be to open the space for three or four cable providers to operate in every region. It seems now, in every encounter with cable I’ve had, is that they section off their territories into little countries. There is no true competition so there is no reason to care about what customers want.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...