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FCC wants you to pick your own channels

Kevin C. Tofel

UPDATE: The FCC statement is here in Word and here in Acrobat. The relevant information is near the end.

 Weren't we just talking about picking and choosing channels? I wonder if the FCC is reading HD Beat. According to a recent article in on CNN Money, the Wall Street Journal indicates that the FCC is expected to suggest (key word) to cable companies that they offer consumer choice for individual channels. This would be more like an "a la carte" or "make your own" package; something that I think would go over very well with a majority of the public, depending on the cost.

Last year, the FCC researched the cost of such a model and determined that it would cost the consumer more than the package bundles we see today. Perhaps someone did the math wrong because the report is getting revised to show the opposite: individual choice could cost less for the consumer in a "pay for what you watch" type of model.

We've already seen that this model can be somewhat successful: just take a look at the iTunes video offerings. People are obviously willing to pay a nominal fee for only the programming they are going to consume. In fact, people are willing to pay a good chunk of change for a device that can play back the programming they choose as well. So why can't this work with television?

The fact is: it can work with television if there is a fundamental change in the content owners approach. Take a look at any cable or satellite package on the market today. How are these put together? Well, part of it is pure numbers: let's split up the popular and premium channels across different packages so we encourage people to buy-up to bigger and more expensive packages. Sure, that's part of it.

There's an entire "dark" side to the packaging, however. Many networks will only sell their content to cable or satellite providers if the provider bundles the content in a certain package. Networks have to realize that with today's technology and connectivity, consumers aren't likely to be pushed around much longer.

If you want to force your programming in an overpriced bundle that only has two good channels out of fifty, be our guest. Just don't be surprised when we drop services and move to technologies like video-casting, TV-over-broadband and BitTorrent. Sorry folks, I just can't justify spending an extra $10 or $15 a month to gain 50 more channels when I'm only going to watch one or two of them. I'm tired of paying for channels that I'm not watching.

What do you think? Is an "a la carte" programming choice the way to go? What are you willing to pay in order to have full control over what channels you want to subscribe to?

Read [thanks for the tip Dave!]

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