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Television Businesses

Unbundling Cable TV: Be Careful What You Wish For 448

schnell writes Consumers have long complained about the practice of "bundling" cable services and forcing customers to pay for channels they don't want — and an increasing number of "cord cutters" are voting with their wallets. But an article in the New York Times suggests that if cable companies are finally forced to unbundle their services it may actually result in higher prices and worse service. From the article: "there's another, more subjective dimension in which the rise of unbundled cable service may make us worse off. It's possible for a market to become more economically efficient while becoming less pleasant for consumers. For a prime example, head to your nearest airport."
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Unbundling Cable TV: Be Careful What You Wish For

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  • And? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @02:41PM (#48757679)

    Head to my nearest airport and observe what?

    • And? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      $400 ticket
      +$25 for luggage
      +$25 for 2nd piece of luggage
      +$50 for a seat that isn't between two 300 pound men who haven't showered yet this year.
      +$75 for to not have your legs knees shoved in your face when the person in front of you reclines
      +$15 for internet, 2G speeds only
      +$5-15 to use the entertainment console at your seat
      +$10 for a light snack
      +$25 to sit near the front of the plane so you don't have to spend 30 minutes in your seat both before and after the plane lands

      • Re:And? (Score:5, Funny)

        by thaylin ( 555395 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @02:51PM (#48757785)

        its only 7 days into the year, I dont smell that bad, lets give it another 3 weeks before you bully me.

      • But this is a weak analogy at best. I now pay for a bunch of sports channels and kids TV that I don't care about. Your example of internet access; if I'm not going to use it on the plane I don't have to pay for it. Same thing for the light snack or entertainment. I don't have to pay for it. Or I can bring my own candy bar. But with cable, if I want Channels X & Y, I have no choice but to get the package that offers Channels M through Z whether I want them or not. The idea that now you have to pa
        • Re:And? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by rudy_wayne ( 414635 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @03:23PM (#48758221)

          But this is a weak analogy at best. I now pay for a bunch of sports channels and kids TV that I don't care about. Your example of internet access; if I'm not going to use it on the plane I don't have to pay for it. Same thing for the light snack or entertainment. I don't have to pay for it. Or I can bring my own candy bar. But with cable, if I want Channels X & Y, I have no choice but to get the package that offers Channels M through Z whether I want them or not. The idea that now you have to pay for a lot of things individually on airlines that you used to get for "free" assumes that I cared about any of those "free" things in the first place.

          The problem is, getting rid of the things that you don't want and only getting the things you want, doesn't necessarily lead to lower prices.

          People want unbundling of cable channels because they have done the following math:

          200 channels for $100 a month = 50 cents per channel.
          Therefore, if I pick only the 50 channels I might ever possibly care about, my bill will be 50 x 0.50 = $25, a substantial savings.

          But there's nothing forcing the cable company to charge the same price for every channel. If you have odd tastes and most of the 50 channels you like are very unpopular, you might actually get your 50 channels for around $25.. But there's nothing stopping the cable company from charging much higher prices for the channels they know are the most popular, so, you could end up choosing your 50 channels and still end up paying about the same amount of money that you pay now for 200 channels.

          • There's another part to this as well. It could cut out some of the marginal channels that a few people like, but are supported by the one-size-fits-all bundles. If only a few people are paying for the Knitting Channel, then the price will go up for that channel. But ESPN's price won't go down, because it is generally popular (I think it's the most popular channel on cable), so they'll just charge a bunch for it because they can, and sports nuts will pay it. It seems like unbundling will probably raise the p
            • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
              If nobody wants the Knitting Channel, then KC will cut their prices to the cable company to ensure it's carried. The market would settle with reasonable fees per channel, but there is no "market". There are only battling monopolies.
              • Hopefully then the good knitting programs will move to YouTube or other platforms, continue to produce their gripping, high-quality knitting content and make similar profits to what they made on TKC, but without having to support the dead weight of the filler content they needed to make a 24/7 schedule. Plus, no more heavy-handed contract negotiations with the cable companies, and no more compromises with the censors who block the gritty, hardcore knitting content The Man doesn't want you to see.

            • Re:And? (Score:4, Interesting)

              by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@noSpam.world3.net> on Thursday January 08, 2015 @08:10AM (#48763803) Homepage

              TV channels are simply becoming obsolete, and most if not all will have to go away eventually. Some will move to a Netflix type model, some will simple become production companies that sell to Netflix et. al. and some will probably make more money posting content on YouTube.

              The idea that they will all continue to be viable while using such an inefficient and expensive delivery medium, coupled with a linear time broadcast format, is outdated I think.

        • Re:And? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by rot26 ( 240034 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @03:26PM (#48758255) Homepage Journal
          You missed the point... again.

          The "airport model" means that "normal" or base service is degraded into total uselessness, and you have to pay to add functionality until the service is no longer useless and/or intensely unpleasant. This may or may not be cheaper than what you had before... but you can't complain because you opened the door for a-la-carte pricing, which will inevitably be used to increase profits.
          • Re:And? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @03:35PM (#48758407)

            The difference is that air transportation is the most practical (and often cheapest) way to reach many places. Cable is pure luxury. If the "base service" sucks, I just won't buy it. I don't have cable now - we instead watch the Netflix and Amazon stuff. Without commercials you don't even know what you are supposed to feel like you are "missing". People tell me about a good show and I'll get around to watching it eventually.

            Sports is another matter. I'm not a huge sports fiend, but it would be nice to catch a game now and then. As it is, I can only watch the broadcast games. I would probably pay them if they would take my money, but they won't.

          • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
            You must go to a different airport than I do. "Normal" means unusable. "Oh, you want to be able to take your legs with you on your flight? Then you need our 'premium economy' ticket." Paying per-bag and no meal is fine. That can be shared, understood, and compensated for.

            So long as TSA stops taking food that's a "gel" , otherise all you can have is dry cereal. Most sandwiches are technically prohibited, as the cheese and other ingredients will usually trigger one or more of the "prohibited" definiti
      • by Pax681 ( 1002592 )

        $400 ticket +$25 for luggage +$25 for 2nd piece of luggage +$50 for a seat that isn't between two 300 pound men who haven't showered yet this year. +$75 for to not have your legs knees shoved in your face when the person in front of you reclines +$15 for internet, 2G speeds only +$5-15 to use the entertainment console at your seat +$10 for a light snack +$25 to sit near the front of the plane so you don't have to spend 30 minutes in your seat both before and after the plane lands

        wtf are you on about..... every year i fly to Denver from Edinburgh Scotland.
        I fly from Edinburgh to Amsterdam then onwards to Minneapolis then to Denver.
        my baggage allowance without purchasing extras gets me 1 x 25 kilo suitcase, 1 x 12 kilo hand luggage plus one "accessory" which is my asus transformer tablet in it's own wee case. the meal and the snacks are included, the movies and TV are FREE and i get to chose my seat too from within the standard class seating. KLM to Amsterdam then Delta the rest o

    • Head to my nearest airport and observe what?

      Did you RTFA?

    • Re:And? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Marginal Coward ( 3557951 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @02:59PM (#48757907)

      TFA bascially makes the point that you now have to pay for a lot of things individually on airlines that you used to get for "free", and that not everybody enjoys paying for these things. True enough, but the article brushes off the very real benefits of paying less when you get (and need) less. For example:

      As fliers have learned all too well in the last decade, air flight has become unbundled. Want a bit of leg room? That will be a $50 upgrade for a seat in your airline’s “premium economy” cabin. Sandwiches are on sale for $9, a glass of wine for $7. Checking that bag costs $25, and there is a $200 change fee for your ticket, or buy a much more expensive one upfront.

      However, what's wrong with bringing fewer bags, if you want to, or else paying the going price for the bags you really need?

      In the cable world, I certainly can imagine someone whining about "Why do I now have to pay X for channel Y - that's a ripoff!", but I don't see how it can be a bad thing to pay less for only what you really want. It really boils down to economics: if it now is efficient to allow people to select and pay for cable channels individually, that's bound to happen. It's only a matter of time.

      • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @03:39PM (#48758455)

        However, what's wrong with bringing fewer bags, if you want to, or else paying the going price for the bags you really need?

        The cognitive burden of facing all those "decisions" and the constant bombardment of the nickle and diming fees makes the entire experience less enjoyable for everyone.

        Imagine a game where you paid a fee to unlock each level, each quest, each item. If you don't play the game much, its more economical this way.

        However, the game itself isn't much fun because instead of playing it you spend all your time deciding whether its really worth another 50 cents for a bigger bag or whether that dungeon is going to be worth $2 or whether equipping this item is really worth another 25 cents...

        I'd MUCH rather pay $30 for the game, and have it all available, even if I don't end up exploring every nook and cranny.

        • Re:And? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Marginal Coward ( 3557951 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @05:15PM (#48759525)

          Interesting point. Certainly, there is a tradeoff here. I think in specific case of cable, though, the burden of selecting channels at first and perhaps once a year wouldn't be too onerous. In fact, most people make choices about channels - specifically, which ones to watch - on a daily basis.

  • In other words ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @02:41PM (#48757685) Homepage

    When one revenue stream goes away, corporations will gouge their customers in other ways to make up the difference, or make more money in the long run.

    The cable companies are screwing us now, and will continue to screw us in the future using whatever means available to them.

    It's a rigged game, played by people who feel entitled to the revenue, and who have more power than we do.

    This isn't a surprise, nor should it be.

    • Clear justification for net neutrality and taking content & services away from them entirely. Yes, they will still stick us with the bill. But we can limit our involvement and simplify the discussion to BW/$. Bundling makes the conversation confusing and gets too many "interested third parties" creating misleading noise.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Rockoon ( 1252108 )

      The cable companies are screwing us now, and will continue to screw us in the future using whatever means available to them.

      You are behaving exactly as if your cable plan is worth the money that you are paying for it, while you are saying stuff that doesnt agree with your actions.

      I know for a fact that the cable plans offered to be arent worth the money, which is precisely why I am not a subscriber. Because of this it is not possible for me to get "screwed" by the cable company the way you claim that you are.

      Its called a free market. You choose what you spend your money on. Clearly you are:

      (A) not a rational actor (becaus

      • by laird ( 2705 )

        Or you're a customer who likes cable TV, but is pissed off because the cable companies have been jacking up prices much faster than inflation (http://www.ibtimes.com/cable-tv-bills-outpace-inflation-cablevision-nations-highest-1661698), and who hate the terrible service, but because they almost always have monopoly status granted to them (by the city, or the building owner) there's no competition to drive down prices and improve service.

        So yes, they could opt out entirely. But it's unreasonable that's the o

    • Well, yes. You don't expect companies to start creating "products" that make them less money, do you?

      Even if there are cost savings for the cable company in the long run, those savings only return to the consumer via inflation by not raising prices. They're certainly not going to lower rates, especially when there's little to no competition.

  • by pecosdave ( 536896 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @02:45PM (#48757713) Homepage Journal

    And it's just getting worse. There's been articles here on Slashdot about how carriers "tune" channels for quality on the shared data pipe. SciFi, Discovery, the nature type channels that all benefit the most from good quality get the low tuned down shit, but never mind, the Home Shopping Network is always 1080P and max bps.

    I haven't had cable of my own or satellite in years and I frankly don't miss it. Every time I'm at a friends or relatives and I see definitive examples of said channel tuning and all the Spanish networks being on the lowest paid for tier while even channels that are free streaming over the web and on terrestrial satellite being on upper tiers it doesn't soften my feelings towards cable companies.

  • Worse service? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bananaquackmoo ( 1204116 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @02:46PM (#48757719)
    Worse service? Than a cable company? I'm 99.99% sure that is impossible.
  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @02:49PM (#48757753)
    Nearly everyone I know has dumped cable and in most cases it wasn't to make their budget better but that once they got Netflix that commercials became insufferable and the cost per cable hour watched then skyrocketed. In my area to have a half decent set of packages you will end up paying around $100 per month. So for people who were just watching the occasional news show and not much else they realized that they were paying pretty much the same per show as the entirety of their monthly Netflix cost.

    But then I hear other complaints which is that the news is becoming wildly biased while the quality of most programming is in freefall. I hear that it is becoming clear that many of the new programs are being made on silly low budgets. For instance I was over at a cable using friend's house and the weather reporter was talking to a camera on a tripod. They had eliminated the cameraman. Plus some of the travel shows are basically all selfie shots with a selfie stick or a tripod.

    And CNN really took the cake when they had 1000's of hours of reporting on the missing airliner when their only two real facts were that it was missing and that it turned left.

    So while in 1994 I would have killed to get my channels a-la-carte at this point it is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      Add to it that the amount of money saved can be used to purchase the movies I really want to watch. It will still be cheaper than to subscribe. Especially since I haven't been watching TV much at all the last year - it can go more than a month between each time I turn on the TV.

      • by Luthair ( 847766 )
        I've advocated to people for quite a while that they'd be better off buying a season on DVD once a month rather than cable subscriptions. Seasons are typically 20-50$, if you trickle it out over a month you're saving money, plus a year or two later you still own the content and can watch it for free if you feel like it.
    • I used to be a news junkie. That was one of the reason we got cable in the home. But then the real reporting kept shrinking while the talk (or rather "arguing") shows increased. It's like 1 hour of fluff news and 23 hours of talking heads arguing for the sake of arguing, just like that Monty Python sketch.

      • I really hate when they find one guy with a PhD who just finished a well researched report proving that torture doesn't work and another guy who supports torture and was a general who knows none of the specifics and just keeps using phrases like "Think of the children" or "We must protect the boys in uniform." and after he is pounded into the ground the host will throw in a statement that the FBI thinks that they are justified in trampling rights because they are the "good guys"

        Or when the news hosts will
    • But then I hear other complaints which is that the news is becoming wildly biased while the quality of most programming is in freefall. I hear that it is becoming clear that many of the new programs are being made on silly low budgets. For instance I was over at a cable using friend's house and the weather reporter was talking to a camera on a tripod. They had eliminated the cameraman. Plus some of the travel shows are basically all selfie shots with a selfie stick or a tripod.

      The fact that some news or weather channel is low quality doesn't mean that TV in general is all going downhill. Actually, this is quite possibly another Golden Age for TV. Quality hasn't been higher for years. You now have more high quality shows than you can possibly watch. Among recent shows with very high quality are: Breaking Bad, Sons Of Anarchy, Game Of Thrones, House Of Cards (from Netflix, but let's count it as TV), Downton Abbey, The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family and others. There are actua

    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      Cable is a dying business model.
      The idea, and the neccessity, of being provided 100, or 100, or 1000, predefined channels with a set schedule is disappearing.
      The Hulus and Netflixes and other on demand services are the way forward.

      Hulu and Netflix have essentially taken the On Demand concept and maybe it more widely available, with a bigger content library and easier access via the internet. (In fact On Demand services, the update to the old Pay Per View which was still ona schedule, were basically an earl

  • It's not like they would have any reason to try to help us save money, since that money would be directly lost by them if they did. We already see that elsewhere - Verizon, for instance, is technically "happy" to let you not pay for phone service if you don't need it: you can pay like 70 bucks for internet by itself, or alternatively, you can pay *50* bucks for the same internet and also a phone line. But it's *technically* an option...

    I'm imagining that the same thing would happen here - yes, you can total

    • Reminds me of a real estate transaction once where the company handling it said, if you buy title insurance for $500, we'll waive our $500 processing fee.
  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @02:49PM (#48757757) Homepage
    The thing about airlines is that they unbundle things that almost everyone wants.

    Food, drinks, legroom, checked baggage.

    The thing about cable is that large majority of people don't want all the crap they force down our throat.

    For example there are romance centered channels, sports centered channels, reality show channels, cartoon centered channels, science centered channels and fake science centered channels (which USED to be real science centered channels).

    If you are a family with a wide array of interests than you might probably want all of that.

    But I have zero interest at all on the sports channels (total geek), fake science channel (TLC, I'm looking at you), reality show channels, etc.

    • by dirk ( 87083 ) <dirk@one.net> on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @03:14PM (#48758121) Homepage

      The bigger problem is that a lot of these channels will probably go away if they get rid of bundling. A lot of the smaller niche channels survive until they can support themselves by being bundled with more popular channels (and many of them never make any money and totally live off of other channels). If bundling is gone, then every channel basically has to be making money in a short amount of time or they will be gone.

      For example, I would bet dollars to donuts that the Sci-Fi channel didn't make any money for years. It survived because it was bundled with other channels so cable companies were forced to carry it. Basically, unbundling means the channels downgrade to the lowest common denominator because no one will be willing to spend the money on hoping a channel can find it's audience.

      • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @03:27PM (#48758273) Homepage
        I agree this is probably true. But it's not a bad idea, it's a good idea. Specifically, it's called capitalism.

        Good channels survive. For example the Sci-Fi channel does not exist. There is an abomination called the SyFy channel that should die a horrible death. Why? They screwed themselves. Before they even changed their name, they abandoned good Sci-Fi for wrestlers talking about vampires for some god forsaken reason.

        But getting rid of bad channels is not a bad thing. New channels will take their place. Good TV will still find a place to get made. They need to fire those idiots and let someone else with more brains and less marketing have a go at it.

        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot AT worf DOT net> on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @04:28PM (#48759085)

          I agree this is probably true. But it's not a bad idea, it's a good idea. Specifically, it's called capitalism.
          Good channels survive. For example the Sci-Fi channel does not exist. There is an abomination called the SyFy channel that should die a horrible death. Why? They screwed themselves. Before they even changed their name, they abandoned good Sci-Fi for wrestlers talking about vampires for some god forsaken reason.

          But getting rid of bad channels is not a bad thing. New channels will take their place. Good TV will still find a place to get made. They need to fire those idiots and let someone else with more brains and less marketing have a go at it.

          False.

          Cable channels ALREADY have prepared for a la carte. And they're not going the "better channels" route. They're going the "more eyeballs" route.

          First, you'll notice that your favorite programs are now spread across three or four channels. What used to be on History is now on H2/H3/other associated channels now. What used to be on Discovery is now on Science and the other channels.

          Next, have you noticed how the main channels like Discovery and History have gone practically all reality? Guess what? That's on purpose - because those kind of shows are popular with the public and get the eyeballs in. More eyeballs means more people wanting that channel.

          Your model is called the PBS model. No, we're not going to get more PBS-like programming channels (ever notice how PBS, who doesn't worry about eyeballs, always seems to keep a high level of programming and no ads?). Even so, PBS is under attack because of taxpayer funding through various means.

          In the battle for subscribers, you don't get them by producing thoughtful shows. You get them by producing crap that gets eyeballs in. Few want good documentaries on World War II. More want more Pawn Stars (and they want drama, not crap about crap), more people racing each other through dirt countryside and all that.

          Oh wait, you'll need ot purchase 4 channels now for that to spread the eyeballs around, too.

          In short - only two ways to get good programming - PBS, or subscriber funded channels like HBO. The other channels? They're going to fight tooth and nail for eyeballs.

          And yes, it'll cost more. After all, Discovery by itself is around 25 cents/subscriber/month, with all the bundling they force, it's probably closer to 40-45 cents. You can bet your cable provider will charge 25 cents or more for each channel. Maybe a whopping dollar per channel (right now, less than $1 of your fees are for Discovery).

          You want to see savings? ESPN charges $10-15/subscribe/month. Probably more because of bundling.

          Trust me, the networks are all prepared for this day. And they're not going after the people who want to see smarter TV programming. They're going after the lowest common denominator because there are more of them than you. History and Discovery catering to you? Probably a few subscribers. Cater to the crowds? At least 10 times, if not more subscribers.

      • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

        For example, I would bet dollars to donuts that the Sci-Fi channel didn't make any money for years.

        And that's because people who wanted SyFy didn't pay more for it as they would have if it were unbundled. So to keep the channel attractive to cable companies, SyFy was forced to cater to the lowest common denominator in order to get viewers.

      • The bigger problem is that a lot of these channels will probably go away if they get rid of bundling.

        And this is a bad thing.... why?

      • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @03:54PM (#48758639) Homepage

        This is true, but... do we really need channels at all?

        Personally, all I'm interested in is shows. There are a handful of shows on TV every season that I want to watch, and I don't care what channel they're on. I don't care what time slot they're on. All I actually care about is, when is it available for on-demand viewing?

    • by Enry ( 630 )

      At least Mythbusters hasn't devolved to "God did it! Confirmed!"

    • The diversity of channels isn't the issues, it is the same channel with just a different program schedules.

      Discovery 1, Discovery 2, ESPN 1-9999, Even CSPAN has multiple channels.

      • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

        Having multiple different channels of the same network isn't the problem. While I'm not sure anyone watches all of the ESPN stations at once, I think if you took a sports fan that wanted to subscribe to the "ESPN channel" that you would get all those channels. Same with Discovery, CSPAN, whatever that has multiple variations on the same basic channel.

        The diversity of channels and forced bundling as it stands today is for instance Viacom insisting that if you want to receive Comedy Central, that you must al

    • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

      The thing about airlines is that they unbundle things that almost everyone wants.
      Food, drinks, legroom, checked baggage.

      If it's something people don't all want equally, what the airlines are doing makes perfect sense. Unless you arrived at the airport hungry, thirsty, tall, or bringing a lot of luggage--then you might disagree.

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      Worse, airlines have more monopoly control than the NY Times author ever acknowledged.

      Even worse, what does unbundling mean in the airline world? None of the "unbundled" options like extra leg room or baggage check make any sense unless you buy a ticket. It's not like I'm going to decide to go out and buy extra leg room on a flight to Dallas or check a bag without buying a ticket on that flight, and there's no way I can purchase those items from anyone else and use them on that flight -- at that point, th

      • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @05:09PM (#48759463) Journal

        Right the airlines are not operating what is the model of an efficient market. They are actually trying to take advantage of inefficiency. As you say these 'unbundled' items are not really items at all. They have no value or even meaning outside the context of the other product.

        A hour of content is an hour of content, independent of what transport protocol gets it to my display. Leg room on a flight to Dallas no so much.

        The airline game is really about reducing your access to information and making it harder to price compare. So when you go to the travel website and see Airline A wants $200 and airline B wants $220 a ticket you can't immediately determine which is the better deal, because you first have to find out if they charge for checked bags, how much, is the first bag free, etc.

        Unbundling cable has the opposite effect it will make it perfectly clear where you money goes (ESPN). Without the cross subsidy will the hangers on have the pricing power to be profitable. My guess is no, but really nothing of value will be lost.

    • science centered channels

      I'm pretty sure those don't exist.
      Maybe 'warning-may-contain-occasional-science' channels. But 'science centered'? No.

    • Look at HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, Starz, etc. That's the unbundling model, and even those channels are "bundling" by offering multiple movie channels. Ad-supported channels may cost less per channel after unbundling, but they'll quickly add up. Meanwhile, the price of basic cable won't budge and you'll end up paying more.

      It's like DLC vs expansion pack. You buy the game, and then get nickled and dimed for every little additional item or feature. And the more popular content will be more expensive than the les

  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @02:50PM (#48757763) Homepage Journal

    With fewer channels on average the value of the advertising per channel should go up. So while Logo will probably end up with less money and cost more if you really want it or go away completely. Cartoon network, AMC, and other popular channels might actually drop in price so they can sell more ads.

  • I wouldn't have cable, but my wife likes watching the shows. My way of getting back at the cable companies and the MPAA in general? I like local entertainment - open mic nights, concerts, jams, plays, reading, writing. I know that's not for everyone but those are the things I prefer. It will take a while to make all of those illegal.
  • Neil Irwin is a talking head on CNBC, MSNBC, PBS, etc...
    http://neilirwin.com/about-nei... [neilirwin.com]

    So he's not exactly unbiased. lol

    For a decent counter to his stupid argument:
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/ti... [forbes.com]

    • Neil Irwin is a talking head on CNBC, MSNBC, PBS, etc... http://neilirwin.com/about-nei... [neilirwin.com]

      So he's not exactly unbiased. lol

      For a decent counter to his stupid argument: http://www.forbes.com/sites/ti... [forbes.com]

      Worstall has part of an argument against the Times opinion piece, but he makes an even bigger whopper with his "proof" that no one wants taxes raised, because people aren't voluntarily gifting their wealth to the Federal Government by the hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

      • Re:um yea... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @04:00PM (#48758717)

        Neil Irwin is a talking head on CNBC, MSNBC, PBS, etc...
        http://neilirwin.com/about-nei... [neilirwin.com]

        So he's not exactly unbiased. lol

        For a decent counter to his stupid argument:
        http://www.forbes.com/sites/ti... [forbes.com]

        Worstall has part of an argument against the Times opinion piece, but he makes an even bigger whopper with his "proof" that no one wants taxes raised, because people aren't voluntarily gifting their wealth to the Federal Government by the hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

        But he's right. No one wants their taxes raised. Everyone wants everyone else's taxes raised. His point is people will say lots of things because of their ideology when being polled. But when the tax man comes around, the tax hike aint fair! And when they need to get on a plane, they're getting on bundle or not.

        Will al-a-cart be more expensive? That depends entirely how you look at it. You currently pay about $100 for around 350 channels. But, you absolutely cannot be watching all of those. In fact, you likely only watch less than a dozen. But they know what those dozen are and they organize those in such a way that you have to pay for all 350 to get the 12 you want. When it's Al-a-cart you'll likely pay around $5/channel on average. So now you'll be paying $60 for 12 channels instead of $100 for 350. Is that more or less expensive? It's more "per channel" but its less "per month" and you're not losing anything you were using.

        But that's if prices remain the same. Which they absolutely will not. There is virtually no competition on the content side, they set a price and demand it. A company like Comcast can't just turn off "Comedy central" so they're stuck paying it. For evidence of this just check out Viacoms profit margin: http://ycharts.com/companies/V... [ycharts.com]

        They're running at 22% profit... that's insane Most of the people out there paying for Viacom aren't even watching it! It's just part of a package they had to get to get some other channel. With a 22% profit margin and viewers that actually have a choice in the channels they pay for suddenly Viacom might decide the $7 they're charging might be a tad high.

        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )

          But he's right. No one wants their taxes raised. Everyone wants everyone else's taxes raised. His point is people will say lots of things because of their ideology when being polled. But when the tax man comes around, the tax hike aint fair! And when they need to get on a plane, they're getting on bundle or not.

          I was always the exception. I want my tax rate raised. It's too low. For what I make, I should be paying 15% more. I make about $100k and pay about $10k in federal income tax (about $20k all direct taxes). It's insane, and it's too low. But taxes fall as income rises. The greater your disposable income, the more you can afford to "hide" income (in legal ways, of course).

          What happens with these polls and stories is that there are a large number of flaws in human reasoning. Humans aren't rational. A

  • The simple solution is to completely unbundle everything and you only pay for the shows you want to watch. For examples, there's not reason someone should have to pay for Discovery channel for an entire year or even an entire month if the only for the channel is to watch a few hours of TV on Shark Week. The reason unbundling is expensive for the consumer is that they are left subscribing to channel just because they may want to watch it for a couple hours a month. If they unbundled it down to individual ep
  • by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @02:55PM (#48757847)

    Cable (and IPTV/satellite) is unbundled where I live. Guess what happened? People ended up getting less channels, paying more per-channel, and at the end their monthly bill ended up about the same. Now the CRTC is likely going to force unbundled cable to be required nationwide, and I expect to see the same thing happen in all other provinces.

    Cable companies will set their prices so that their ARPU remains unaffected. The vast majority of people will save no money. A small number of people who pick an extremely limited number of channels might save some money.

  • That when industries raise rates and lower service to unacceptable levels (Blockbuster) that someone will come along with a better, cheaper, and more convenient alternative (Redbox, Netflix) that will kill them. And in the end, the content makers will find a new, albeit, less lucrative alternative distribution model.
    • Ah, but you see, the big cable providers are going to spend unbelievable amounts of money to get lawmakers to kill streaming, so there won't be any alternatives.

  • "May"? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @03:00PM (#48757919) Journal

    "May" actually result in high prices and worse services? Of *course* it'll result in high prices and worse services, when the cable companies are *forced* to do anything. What you think, they'll go "ok we've learned our lesson, we're going to play nice now".?

    The real answer is to starve them out. Use alternate services whenever possible. Don't give in to cable. If there's a series you want to see, wait for netflix or hulu. Or lower your expectations for TV-brain-to-mush time. I'm not a "kill your tv" person but TV just isn't important enough to put up with cable in any fashion.

  • I don't care about cost, personally. When I do watch TV shows, I don't want commercials, and I don't want to watch junk. I watch what I carefully choose. So higher cost is not an issue. Quality is. I want to be able to cherry pick what I want to watch, and if I have to go to a hundred different sources, that is fine: I will discover which sources are worth checking. That is what I do now. I don't watch cable TV at all: I watch shows on Netflix and Amazon and streamed via Comcast - never cable. So cable has
  • I got fed paying $100+ just to have 100+ channels of zero-value content so my family cut the cord a couple of years ago. When we visit relatives with cable we find we aren't really missing anything. Our Roku with Netflix is more than enough to keep us happy and surprise! we've been going to the library more.

  • Completely unbundle your cable subscription. Tell them to shove their box up their ass.
  • by crunchygranola ( 1954152 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @03:15PM (#48758129)

    The real problem with cable companies is not that they "bundle" to create fixed service packages - it is that they are effective monopolies providing an essential service, that escape any meaningful regulation that such a model absolutely requires for to protect the interests of the public. As long as this situation persists any service pricing scheme is going to gouge the customers for Internet access as well as TV access.

    The weakness of regulation is nicely conveyed by the the FCC itself [fcc.gov]:

    Your local franchising authority - the city, county or other governmental organization authorized by your state to regulate cable television service - legally may (but is not required to) regulate the rate your cable TV provider can charge for "basic" cable service. The rates you pay for other cable programming and services, such as expanded cable channel packages, premium movie channels and pay-per-view sports events, are set by your cable TV provider.

    So no regulation by any government body for "non basic services". And "basic service" regulation is entirely optional, and left piecemeal to lower levels of government where it is always ineffective in exercising oversight for national corporations which practice cartel-like collusion to protect their margins and market share.

  • Those that are big consumers of high-cost channels like ESPN aren't going to like unbundling at all. Those whose TV watching needs tend towards the lower-cost stations will be pleased.

    Unlike airlines, a channel list is pretty transparent. With airlines the amount of fees you need to pay is often a little hard to figure out.

  • Like most of SlashDot, I dumped cable a couple of years ago and haven't missed a thing. File Charter and the rest of the them under "Buggy Whips In Progress"

  • I have comcast. Can customer service get any worse or the prices get any higher?
  • If all features or options in a flight were to be bundled with every ticket, the cost per person would be outright extravagant. Free checked baggage, enough room to cross your legs, a simple meal when flying cross-country, wider seats, onboard wi-fi-- you'd be buying all of that whether you like it or not. Since there's insufficient demand for flights at that price point and the businesses know that some willing are willing to pay more (though not max price), you get the fee-for-service system. That way, th

  • by hhawk ( 26580 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @03:30PM (#48758333) Homepage Journal

    Josh's article last year was wrong on a few levels. This article is wrong as well. What's important to understand is the price you pay depends upon "how many channels you buy, how frequently you buy, and when & where you watch, etc."

    1st., you are overpaying why you buy local channels; they are free "over the air" but they are allowed to charge when a cable company transmits via their cable -- today a digital antenna works well for most and certainly anyone who is price sensitive.

    2nd., we are just left with the cable TV shows and "Premium channels" -- and in this context Josh's article is right IF your family is large and/or you consume a lot of programs of different types a bundle that includes everything can be cost effective.

    3rd., if we remove the cost of local TV and assume you just want to watch specific channels than Josh's calculations are certainly wrong. The question becomes when you want to watch a "new" channel or a show on an ad hoc basis -- should you subscribe to an entire bundle to get one network, or a whole network to get 1 or 2 shows?

    4th., another reason Josh's calculations are clearly wrong is the time and place value of information; do you need to watch a show as a "first run" or can you wait until later and watching it on a web site like Netflix or Amazon Prime?

    5th., If you limit your intake to specific networks or shows (through Google Play, Apple iTunes, NetFlix) you costs can be much lower ala carte.

  • Sure, Airlines have unbundled extras from the basic ticket. But the article then makes a gigantic leap to dissatisfaction with said airlines, without showing any work or proof that the complaints are at all related to the fees for said services!
  • Consider the Comcast policy for low cap internet as an excellent example. All plans are capped at 300GB. If you don't need that much you can reduce the cap to 5GB and get a massive $5 discount off the base price of the plan. However, under the reduced plan each GB over 5 costs a dollar per GB. If you get back up to 300GB that would cost you $295 for the same data that only saved you $5 when it was removed.

    Savings per GB reduction $0.02
    Cost per GB added $1.00

    This is the actual pricing plan current
  • by joabj ( 91819 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @04:15PM (#48758909) Homepage

    My problem with bundling is that your cable dollars *underwrite* crap like the Kardiashian shows, whether you watch them or not. I don't, but through my cable bill, I'm as responsible for the Kardiashians (as a media entity) as much as anyone.

    I'm surprised more people aren't irked at this aspect, that as cable subscribers, they are funding any shows/channels they detest.

  • by weiserfireman ( 917228 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @04:37PM (#48759177) Homepage

    I have a couple friends who are senior people at Cable companies I am not sure it is always the Cable companies fault.

    1. Cable companies have to pay distributors to license feeds
    2. Those distributors bundle their channels. One or two popular channels, 8 - 10 undesirable ones. Cable company has to buy the whole block, it is priced as a monthly charge per subscriber to the tier that includes the block.
    3. Distributors are always trying to raise the rates. Thats when you get the websites about "Tell Comcast you want to keep your channels", because the cable company is trying to hold the line on price increases
    4. ESPN is the most expensive part of the cable bill. Last I saw the numbers, it cost the Cable company $5 per subscriber per month. It is probably higher now. That is why there has been an explosion of Sports Networks on cable. They are all trying to get that sweet sweet cash flow that ESPN gets.
    5. The content providers have been fighting al a carte pricing. It will signal the death of a lot of channels that get few viewers. In the end, it may lead to less choice

    My Cable company was very slow to get a lot of HD channels. My friend told me it was part of their strategy to hold the line on prices. They refused to pay extra to include HD feeds. Their belief was, the production company already had sunk the costs into producing the show in HD. It cost them extra to produce a non-HD feed. A customer who was watching the HD channel, was not benefiting from having the non-HD channel available too.

    Maybe if I ever had Comcast, my attitude would be different, but I feel like my Cable company is doing what they can to control costs.

  • by senatorpjt ( 709879 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @07:18PM (#48760529)

    It's possible for a market to become more economically efficient while becoming less pleasant for consumers.

    Possible? That is how it will always happen when there is no/limited choice.

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