Are Cable Companies Secretly Planning An "A La Carte" Option?

Illustration for article titled Are Cable Companies Secretly Planning An "A La Carte" Option?

According to Reuters, cable companies are secretly discussing plans that'll let customers choose what channels they want. Content providers won't like this "a la carte" arrangement, but who cares. This is something customers wanted like yesterday. [Reuters via Tech Crunch; Image from IKO/Shutterstock]

DISCUSSION

As someone who used to work in the cable TV industry, I'll tell you that this is going to be a case of "be careful what you wish for". Everything has unintended consequences.

You know how when you used to turn on Discovery Channel, it actually had shows about science? When you used to turn on the History Channel, it actually had shows about history? Have you noticed how all of these channels now just show a bunch of reality shows about people building motorcycles or chucking pumpkins?

That's because these channels are now Nielsen rated, their subscription fees are dropping and these crappy reality shows get better ratings with which to attract advertisers and also happen to be cheap to make. If cable moves completely to a-la carte, you can expect an all-out rush to the bottom at every channel as they all go completely for lowest common denominator programming - expect to see "Real Housewives" clones on ESPN and Food Network, and "Extreme Makeover" clones on Palladia and the Science Channel. And a lot of people will complain and say "that's what they're not getting my money", but meanwhile those shows will get higher ratings and will be the only way those channels can survive.

A-la carte pricing will mean the end of specialized cable programming, and the end of anything worthwhile on TV. You're going to end up with 200 channels worth of cheap reality TV, all shows cloned from each other.