Midday Report: John McCain Pushes for à la Carte Cable, Providers Resist


À la carte cable: a cheaper option for consumers, or fool's gold?

Senator John McCain is pushing a bill to allow TV viewers to pay à la carte rates to get only the channels they watch. He told a Senate panel yesterday that consumers would save money if they did not have to pay for bundles of channels, most of which they rarely turn on.

He's especially focused on sports programming, especially for people like him who rarely tune in to ESPN and other sports channels.

According to a report by the research firm SNL Kagan, ESPN charges cable companies an average of about $5.50 per month, and that cost gets passed along to consumers.

McCain argues about cable billMcCain says it's "unfair and wrong" that we're forced to pay for things we simply don't want.
But the cable industry says that argument is unfair. It maintains that bundles, such as the basic cable package, offer a wide variety of viewing options and a better value than per channel pricing.

Consumers are often outraged by the high cost of cable or satellite subscriptions. The FCC said the average cable bill in 2011 for the most popular package cost more than $57 a month. That represents an average annual increase of 6.1 percent a year, every year since 1995.

That makes à la carte pricing sound pretty attractive to many consumers. But some analysts say most people would actually lose out, because they would no longer have access to channels that they don't watch on a regular basis, but do tune in to for some particular programs.

For instance, maybe you don't watch PBS very often, but love "Downton Abbey." Or maybe there's an old movie on AMC that you want to catch.

This even pertains to sports programming. You may not watch games on a regular basis, but you still get caught up in March Madness basketball games or the World Cup soccer tournament.

Critics say à la carte pricing is a lose-lose proposition. They say consumers would end up with far fewer channels to choose from without saving much money. Smaller cable channels that are likely to get dropped by many people would lose potential viewers. And the cable companies would lose revenue.

Not surprisingly, a trade group representing Comcast (CMCSA), Time Warner Cable (TWC) and other cable companies opposes McCain's bill.

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg


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Lonnie McVaigh

The truth is... The Airwaves already belong to the Public, remember when th FCC used to broadcast that message every night after the last aired program? Our Tax Dollars actually put up all the Communications Satellites that the Wall Street Banksters are charging us for anyay...

Remember when they got those privilages... We were all suppossed to get Free WiFi in each City of certain sizes? Now those WiFi Services are for Smart Meters, City Muni and PD... All added charges on our Water Bills or Solid Waste!!! Antenna's have since become Muni Code Violations in many areas too!!!

May 15 2013 at 6:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The cable companies know exactly which channels viewers watch and have broken them down
amongst the tiers they offer. I have basic ( 2-78) with a tier 1 as extra.
Not to much to my surprise, quite a few of the basic channels are duplicated in tier 1.
Why? Tier 2 has perhaps a couple of channels I may watch but I would probably get more redundentcy and definately not worth the price.
I heard of a new company starting on the east coast called Aero (?) which will allow you to watch over the air broadcasts, as in the days of analog programming, on your computer, even complete with its own TV guide.
The article is spelled out quite clearly in the second last paragraph -
" And the cable companies would lose revenue"
Aw schucks.

May 15 2013 at 5:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Won't be long before ALL cable companies go the way of the dinosaur with the technolgy that is being developed. They are overpriced and lack in all areas of "customer service"..I have such disdain for Comcast, I can't even BEGIN to list the reasons why. They have been a monopoly for far too long but their days is coming. Personally, I can't wait!

May 15 2013 at 5:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What is McCain doing, free cable, send troops to Syria, Has he become senile?

May 15 2013 at 5:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

yes like you can trust anything from John Kick the Can.

May 15 2013 at 5:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I would be totally aginst anything that JOHN Kick the CAN even gets involved in.

May 15 2013 at 5:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rodney Reese

It should be up to the consumers what we want to watch and pay for. I just wish this issue was brought up years ago. Out of the hundreds of channels I get, I watch maybe 20 channels if that many channels that I have available. I never watch any of the Spanish channels,but they are mixed in with all the others.We should be able to order and pay for the only channels we want to watch. Not package deals.

May 15 2013 at 5:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Not to be too cynical about this bit of news, but to me this sounds like shakedown legislation at its best. That's when politicians write up laws that they know will not get anywhere but that industries have to fight nonetheless through the legalized bribing system known as lobbying. There might be a committee, perhaps a hearing then the cable companies will open up their checkbooks and tell their K Street boy to apply the grease. Some influential senators will get donations to their 're-election campaign funds' and the whole thing will get swept under the rug. Nice try, Sen. McCain, but the day Congress starts putting the interests of consumers ahead of those of corporations has not dawned yet. As John Wayne would say: "That'll be the day!"

May 15 2013 at 5:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As usual, the public is getting ripped off. The popular or good channels would survive and the garbage would go away. If you like the garbage, you could order them. I have over a hundred channels and only watch less than twenty. Give them HELL McCain....

May 15 2013 at 5:19 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I can guarantee that we the people will lose out on this deal. Any time govmnt. gets involved with trying to make things better for the citizens-we lose. STAY THE HECK OUT OF OUR LIVES. Here's how we'll lose if this goes into effect. The ala carte pricing will be so high that people will stay with the bundles if they chose just half of the stations their getting now. People will get half the channels at the same price of the bundle price they're paying now. Corporations always outsmarts the gubment.

May 15 2013 at 5:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply