Dumb question (cable contract that includes only my selected channels?)

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by Lord Hamsa, Oct 24, 2013.

  1. Lord Hamsa macrumors 6502a

    Jul 16, 2013
    So, as a prospective cord cutter, I'm frustrated to see all of these internet-based streaming options for many of the specific channels I do want to keep, in a more ala carte world, require a cable (or in some cases, satellite) account. Don't get me wrong, I understand why this is the case, but to have those options so tantalizingly close...

    And then, an idea strikes me: what contracts/regulations/etc. are standing in the way of some cable company XYZ - one that might not even serve my area normally - selling me a cable "package" for these specific channels which just includes the authorizations I need for streaming? No fiber/copper/sat signal to the house, no set-top or converter boxes, just a login and password that I can then use for the associated websites or iOS/ATV apps.

    There isn't one cable company out there capable of doing this? Or is there a legal reason they can't?
  2. CoMoMacUser macrumors 6502a

    Jun 28, 2012
    No, there are no laws preventing a la carte. One reason why so few are doing it is because their contracts with content providers don't allow it. Another reason is because multichannel providers and content providers aren't sure how to come up with pricing that gives consumers that freedom but not at the expense of revenue and profits.

    The only U.S. multichannel op that I know of that favors a la carte is VTEL: http://adage.com/article/digitalnext/meet-vermont-phone-company-kill-cable-tv/146485. That was three years ago, and I don't know the status of its video rollout or its unbundling strategy.

    The Canadian government recently announced plans to force multichannel ops to unbundle. If that happens, it will be useful for ops in the U.S. and elsewhere for understanding how consumers react, pricing strategies, effect on profits, etc.
  3. gmhag macrumors regular

    Jun 10, 2011
    I agree and understand your frustration, however, be careful what you wish for. If channels to go strictly a la carte, simple supply and demand will make the costs of certain channels (ESPN) rediculous compared to other channels.

    Lots of people think "if I pay $100 per month to my cable provider for 300 channels, that's $.33 per channel per month. I want ESPN for $.33/month". I wouldn't doubt that ESPN by itself would cost closer to $15-$20 by its self.

    The cable companies and networks know they have you over a barrel. You either pay for all the channels or you get nothing. They know they would make much less money if they charged you by the channel. Don't expect it to change anytime soon.

    And as a cord cutter for almost a year now.... just do it. You'll be much more productive. Sadly, once more and more people opt to cut the cord cable companies will just jack up the internet rates to compensate.
  4. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    What you also don't realize is that many of the channels your cable company bundles are free or actually revenue generating and are included in your package to reduce the overall cost of your package.

    A LA Carte sounds fantastic but in reality you will end up paying thru the nose for the 12 channels you want. ESPN "package" alone is something like $10-15 per subscriber. You really won't save as much money as you think you could. I found some numbers awhile back and priced out a la carte for ESPN, Disney, Nickelodeon, discovery and a few others based on the per subscriber costs and the 12-15 channels I wanted would be MORE than the current offers from my local Cable Co.
  5. mslide macrumors 6502a

    Sep 17, 2007
    A la carte will never happen in this country. Unless you're talking about sports, I suggest just cutting the cord and forgetting about those channels. My wife and I were the same way. We quickly forgot about all those channels/shows we lost when we cut the cord and quickly found new things to replace them. Actually, we discovered all of our currently favorite shows after we cut the cord. I never realized how much content is really out there until I made the switch. That was over a year ago. Now, we couldn't imagine paying a cable/satellite company for TV. It seems like such a waste of money now.
  6. Lord Hamsa thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jul 16, 2013
    Yes, I understand the cost issues. ESPN, for example, costs the cable company something like $5+/month per subscriber, which they then need to add a profit margin on top of to stay in business.

    The question is more specifically focused than "gee, wouldn't ala carte be nice?" I'm asking about the legality, from both a government law and contract law standpoint, of an existing cable company selling access to content that they carry to subscribers who do not have a physical connection served by that company and may not even reside in company's normal service areas.

    That is, can cable company XYZ, who operates in a handful of states in the midwest, sell me, who lives on the east coast, simply a login/password for access to, for example, HBO, ESPN, NBCSN, and Food Network, charging whatever they need to in order to pay the content providers and make a profit for themselves in the process?

    This could take the form of ala carte or package programming, but one would have to assume that it should be a lower cost to the cable company (and hence, hopefully lower prices to the consumer) because they would not have to provide or maintain any of the infrastructure necessary to deliver content (though there's some overhead in account management and billing). No set top boxes. Customer service requirements would also be pretty low (account-related stuff only) since they're not the ones actually providing the content - that's up the the content providers and the ISP of choice.
  7. old-wiz macrumors G3

    Mar 26, 2008
    West Suburban Boston Ma
    The cable companies own enough people in Congress and the FCC to prevent any meaningful legislation/regulation that would require the a-la-carte stuff

    No cable company will sell you the programming you wish - why should they? Besides, they are probably only allowed to sell service in their own areas.
  8. Anonymous Freak macrumors 603

    Anonymous Freak

    Dec 12, 2002
    Cable companies reach franchise agreements with localities to be a local wire-line monopoly. That is why another one can't offer service in their area. Satellite gets around it because it's not wire-line.
  9. macs4nw macrumors 601


    Whether they legally can or not, they don't want to do this, and financially shoot themselves in the foot.

    I share your frustration, but also realize that a-la-carte may not be the answer many had hoped for. Those pesky long term contracts the cable/sat providers reportedly have with content owners/creators are for now the stumbling block towards true transformation of the status quo. The cable/sat providers are in no hurry to do this voluntarily; why would they, they still have a virtual monopoly, and for them that's a good place to be.

    Some of my earlier thoughts on all this:

    But there's change in the wind, and hope for the future. Check this out: https://www.aereo.com/ These guys are for now only available in select cities, but emboldened by lower courts siding with them in the face of challenges by all mayor networks, they are expanding rapidly.

    This will definitely end up at the doorstep of the Supreme Court, so stay tuned!
  10. CoMoMacUser macrumors 6502a

    Jun 28, 2012
    The answer depends partly on how you define "cable company." That term used to apply only to what's known in the industry as multi-system operators (MSOs) such as Time Warner Cable and Comcast. But now a lot of consumers and media use that as a catchall term to include telco TV, such as AT&T U-verse.

    From a regulatory standpoint, yes, it depends on whether the company is authorized to provide service in your state. But a company could get around that by going over the top (OTT) of another operator's broadband service, just as Vonage and others do for telephony.

    Then there's the issue of contracts. For example, Cox doesn't serve my market. Could it try to sell me OTT programming on an a la carte basis? That depends on whether its contracts with programmers (e.g., HBO, ESPN) would allow it. It also depends on whether Cox thinks it could price each channel high enough to cover the programming costs, plus the costs of marketing it and providing customer service, and still be at a point that enough consumers are willing to pay. A company won't go out of market OTT unless it believes doing so will be profitable.
  11. old-wiz macrumors G3

    Mar 26, 2008
    West Suburban Boston Ma
    SCOTUS is just as vulnerable to political/financiel influence as Congress. Don't expect the SCOTUS to do anything to help consumers. People think SCOTUS is above outside influence, but don't forget that the justices have money and they have investments and they are not going to rule against a company they have a financial interest in. Yes, they should recuse themselves, but they don't and there is no oversight on the court. There have been enough rulings where justices have ruled in cases where they had a financial interest in the outcome.
  12. macs4nw macrumors 601


    That would be shameful; they are supposed to be beyond reproach.
  13. old-wiz macrumors G3

    Mar 26, 2008
    West Suburban Boston Ma
    I wish it were so. Just read up on some of the SCOTUS decisions. google SCOTUS recusal ... this is just one case...

    Still, the SCOTUS is influenced by both the White House and Congress at least. Whether or not they take direct bribes is doubtful, but in these days it's hard to define or prove a bribe.

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