Friday, November 19, 2004

Cable a la carte

I've been watching with interest the debate on selling cable "a la carte." Consumer groups, including my personal favorite Consumers Union, have been pushing for cable companies to allow families to choose just the stations they want and pay for each station individually.

Today the FCC released a study, which the Consumers Union calls "flawed," that states such a program would not save consumers any money. Their reasoning is that most families that have cable watch at least 17 channels, which if purchased individually would cost 30% more than an entire package. The article I read did not include details of the study, but I immediately wondered one thing: What about families that don't currently have a cable package? My husband and I decided not to get cable because it is just too expensive and I can't justify paying that kind of money to watch more advertisements encouraging me to spend even more. We miss ESPN, though. Occasionally, I wish I had the History Channel or A&E. That's about it. Did the FCC survey people who don't have cable? I think those are the target group here. The people for whom a la carte packaging would be best may not currently subscribe for just that reason -- they don't want to spend their money to just watch a few channels. In conclusion, a la carte may not benefit current cable subcribers, but it could benefit potential subscribers.