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Average American Cable Subscriber Gets 189 Channels and Views 17 340

An anonymous reader writes "Nielsen, the company that studies the viewing habits of television viewers, announced its findings in a blog post Tuesday. Since 2008, the number of cable TV channels offered as a bundle rose from 129 to 189 in 2013, but in that time-frame viewers have consistently only watched an average of 17 channels. The data seems to support the notion that consumers are better off subscribing to channels a la carte, but cable companies are of the opinion that 'the price of cable TV wouldn't change much if channels were served à la carte because content providers won't sell the most popular programs to cable companies unless the provider's other channels are also served up.' Nielsen concluded in its post that 'quality is imperative—for both content creators and advertisers', signaling the possibility that more Americans will cut the cord after realizing that their cable bill has increased in the last few years but their consumption of content hasn't."
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Average American Cable Subscriber Gets 189 Channels and Views 17

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  • 200 channels... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kaenneth ( 82978 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @10:10PM (#46945601) Homepage Journal

    and nothing to watch.

  • It gets worse (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @10:15PM (#46945633)

    On 17 channels, how many actual shows are being watched...

    Most people would be financially better off just buying what they like on iTunes, even at $3/episode.

  • by The Grim Reefer ( 1162755 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @10:19PM (#46945671)

    So even with 189 channels, Pink Floyd is still pretty close with the lyrics from "Nobody's Home"

    I've got thirteen channels of shit on the T.V. to choose from.

  • Re:Oh yeah right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @10:33PM (#46945775)

    ESPN is the most expensive channel in your cable package, and I don't watch sports. Just dropping the sports channels would cut a huge portion out of my (hypothetical) cable bill. Just because most people want ESPN doesn't mean everyone does.

  • by currently_awake ( 1248758 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @10:33PM (#46945781)
    So the reason we can't pick and choose, instead of buying bundles is because of anti-competitive measures by the suppliers?
  • Wrong conclusions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hibiki_r ( 649814 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @10:43PM (#46945875)

    The fact that most people only watch a few channels doesn't really mean that a la carte would be cheaper overall.

    Imagine that there are two channels. It takes a hundred bucks to keep the channel airing for a month. We have two viewers, A and B. A likes channel 1, and B likes channel 2, and they dislike the other channel. Right now, they each pay $100 to watch both channels, although they only look at one. Each channel gets paid $50 per bill.

    So imagine that we switched to A la carte. Now A only subscribes to 1, and B only subscribes to 2. They channels still need the same amount of money to stay on the air, so what is the new price? subscribing to channel 1 is $100, and subscribing to channel 2 is $100 too. both channels get the same amount of money, both people pay the same bill... and they now get half the programming. Success?

    So let's say that now ESPN charges $20 per subscriber. They do so, because they believe that the value they provide to the average subscriber is about $20. Let's say I don't like ESPN, Well, ESPN didn't get any less valuable, it's just that I will not pay the $20, and said $20 are going to be passed on as rate hikes to the people that want to watch the channel.

    So while some people that really just watch very few, cheap channels, might get some savings, if your 17 channels include ESPN, Disney Channel, CNN, AMC and HBO, guess what? You will probably be paying a whole lot more than before, as unbundling makes every single channel more expensive, and you just happened to like 'anchor' channels that can really ask for a premium.

  • Re:Oh yeah right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ChatHuant ( 801522 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @11:10PM (#46946031)

    You're assuming everybody subscribes to all the popular channels. At least in my case, that's not true; I'd be interested in at most a couple of them, so even if the total monthly cost is spread over only the top say 10 channels, I'd still save quite a bit.

  • So be it... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bartles ( 1198017 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @11:20PM (#46946099)

    The data seems to support the notion that consumers are better off subscribing to channels a la carte, but cable companies are of the opinion that 'the price of cable TV wouldn't change much if channels were served à la carte because content providers won't sell the most popular programs to cable companies unless the provider's other channels are also served up.'

    Then cable will die.

    When a company decides it is better to not provide value to it's customers, and there is now a plethora of other options, they will soon find themselves without customers.

  • Re:Oh yeah right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by njnnja ( 2833511 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @11:50PM (#46946303)

    The funny thing about a la carte is that it works the opposite of the way most people who think about it believe it will work. A channel has very high fixed costs and overhead so it is likely that that the more demand there is for a station, the cheaper it will be per person, and the fewer people who want to watch a station, the more expensive it will be. So a high demand station like ESPN will probably be very reasonably priced, despite having a high cost to produce.

  • Here's the Scoop (Score:5, Insightful)

    by schnell ( 163007 ) <(ten.llenhcs) (ta) (em)> on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @11:57PM (#46946335) Homepage

    Nobody wants to hear this, but it's the truth and people should understand it:

    • Unbundling will not happen anytime soon
    • This is because a handful of TV channels have a f***load of viewers (ESPN, Fox News, etc.)
    • If your TV station has a f**kload of viewers, you are an idiot if you don't charge cable providers a high fee to carry it
    • If you paid for each of those channels a la carte, it might be $10+/month or more, just like HBO
    • Instead, those providers "bundle" those channels with less popular ones because - even though the big channels are the cash cows - they still make money on advertising from less popular channels
    • For anyone (Disney, Fox, others) who have killer content on one channel, having more channels (even including less popular ones) = more money
    • People pay higher cable bills, but more niche programming is out there - for example, the fact that you get Cartoon Network/Adult Swim is subsidized by what you pay for CNN. If channels were unbundled, it's unlikely that the ratings of "Adventure Time" or "Venture Brothers" could pay for Cartoon Network to be on the air.
    • Unbundling may happen at some point, but when it does 70% of today's cable networks will go away. Maybe you don't watch most of them, but recognize that it will result in a diminishing of the wild diversity of programming (brilliant and crap, left and right politically, in many languages) that is arguably one of the best things about the "there's nothing on" diversity of channels today that doesn't appeal to many viewers but serves many previously neglected niches.
  • Re:Oh yeah right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @12:07AM (#46946381)

    That is an overly simplistic analysis.

    Reality is that the supply of ESPN and crappy channel are both unlimited once the channel is 'added' to the network, so the a la carte price is what the market will bear -- ie what is highest price they can charge for it where charging more will lose them more subscribers than the extra revenue will cover.

    For a channel like ESPN, they can raise the price pretty high and lots of people will continue to pony up to keep getting it. For a channel like "gameshow reruns from the 70s"... not so much so it will be much much lower.

  • by odie5533 ( 989896 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @05:53AM (#46947479)
    The subsidization of niches seems to be failing of late. Rather than serving their niche, low-tier channels want more viewers so they can get a bigger cut of the pie. To do this, they tailor their programs for mass appeal. When once the History channel presented factual information about history, now it airs episodes of Pawn Stars and Ancient Aliens. When once TLC actually stood for The Learning Channel, now it airs things I'm embarrassed to know the names of. When once Sci-Fi aired niche science-fiction series, now SyFy is mostly about Ghost Hunting series. Abandoning the niche pulls in more viewers. I'd gladly pay $10+/month for an actual Sci-Fi channel that aired original science fiction series that haven't been retooled for the lowest common denominator of viewer. I think internet series are going to fill the niches going forward, while television seems to be homogenizing.

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