• TV Ala Carte

Hey folks, Valkor here. You know for the past few months, all I’ve been hearing about is ala carte in cable television. I’ve been reading about it on the web, reading about it in my local papers, I open up a Times, Newsweek, U.S. News, and there’s all this talk about Cable ala carte. The FCC wants it, but the cable companies don’t. Why and what does this pose for the future of television?

First let’s discuss cable TV ala carte. Basically you’re given the option to pick and choose the channels you want; eliminating the channels you don’t even bother watching. Can you imagine; No more having to pay for channels you’ve never tuned into in the first place. With ala carte, only the channels you watch are there and nothing else. I did a small survey basically asking people I knew how many channels in a month they actually watch consistently (not including the local stations). And the most common answer: 6. the highest is 9, the lowest is 2. So imagine you’re paying, the most, 100+ a month and all you’re watching are 2 channels. What happens to the other channels? If they just happen to disappear, would you miss them?

The fact is, with the way television is evolving anyway, why would you miss em? With so many “different” ways to watch TV, you wouldn’t need to channel surf anymore. TIVO and Video On Demand (VOD) are great ways to eliminate the process of wading through channel after channel looking for something good when all you really need to do is just click and play the shows you want. With TIVO even if you’re away from home, you can set your TIVO to your favorite shows and BAM! It’s recorded and waiting for you when you get home. Wanna go one better? There’s this device called the SlingBox that will redirect your shows from your TIVO box at home to where you are, no matter where in the world you are. Plus with DVD recording, media players and the ability to download your favorite shows from websites like Itunes and Kazaa… why do we need those channels?? And on top of everything we now have the ability to buy season sets of our favorite shows without dealing with syndication. Example: When 24 first aired, I was hooked. However due to my work schedule I missed a lot of the first season. Now I can just buy the box set and watch it at my leisure.

So why does ala carte work? Because it eliminates the process of having to pay for excessive channels you never bothered watching in the first place. How often do you switch to “The Science Channel”, “The History Channel”, “Outdoor Life Network” or even “The Fashion Channel”? I’m not saying there isn’t a market for these stations, but they’re not the most commonly watched. I’m not saying they shouldn’t exist at all, but why not have the option, to have it there to begin with? And that’s all there is to it. It’s the freedom to choose NOT to pay for something you don’t need.

Why doesn’t it work? Well the cable companies want to keep things the way they are, because if we did have ala carte, small stations such as the ones mentioned, would be gone from the face of cable TV. Cable companies also say that by having ala carte the price of cable TV would be even higher because you have to account that advertising would go up, just to keep up with cost. I simply don’t think that would be the case, because if advertisers know that so many bajillions of people are watching so-so network, then they would flock like the Swallows to Capistrano over to said network. Think about it; if advertisers pay millions upon millions to advertise during the super bowl, academy awards, and other hot events and shows, knowing that so many millions were watching, why wouldn’t they do the same to a network that’s also being watched by millions? Even millions more because of the fact they would now have hard numbers telling them that many millions are glued to their TVs, especially at specific times.

When you think about it, television isn’t all that old. From the time it was conceived until now, it has gone through quite the evolution. We’ve seen it go from having just a few stations, to hundreds of channels, we have portable and wireless, we connect our sets with VCR’s, TIVO, and DVD players to record what we want and watch it when we want. We can also take our television with us thanks to new technology that allows us to download our shows onto our media players and even cellphones; Television as we knew is ceasing to exist and it’s only fair that our cable and satellite television providers follow that process. If they say ala carte won’t work, then they should do their damndest to make it work because one way or another we will get ala carte, if not we have many other options to choose from, avoiding the cable networks altogether. It’s a scary thought to think about, but that’s how times are a-changing. We need to start flowing with it, not against it.