What Would A La Carte Look Like?
from the not-what-you-think dept
In all the recent debates over a la carte programming people always write a comment saying how they think a la carte would be great, because they'd just be able to pick the five channels they want, and pay a tiny fraction of what they're paying now. As has been explained repeatedly, there's a huge fallacy in that assumption: the costs of offering a la carte programming by traditional cable operators makes it impossible. First, cable operators would have to make a lot of changes to their system, and the costs would be passed on to customers. Second, the ongoing maintenance of having so many different customers, each with a completely different package would increase the overhead costs significantly -- and (once again) would get passed on to customers. Tim Lee has been thinking about this debate and thinks a couple steps out to figure out what a la carte programming would really look like, and realizes it's pretty much what we see right now. First, he points out that most of your cable fee isn't for content, but for infrastructure. So, any a la carte offering is going to start with a base fee anyway, and would then let you add channels at some additional fee. However, they might add in some less lucrative channels, like C-SPAN for "free." Already with the bundles that most people get, they end up with a "basic package" of channels, and then the premium channels are additional -- and Lee expects that "a la carte" would actually be quite similar. The big difference would just be that the core set of channels you get for free would be smaller (though, probably still cost a similar amount). So, in some sense, consider the bundle you get now as the base level, and then you get to choose some set of channels above and beyond that for an extra fee -- just like a la carte.