Choice = Better Television
I often find myself disagreeing with Scott Pierce, the television columnist at the Deseret News. However, I find his articles usually quite enjoyable to read. However, he is wrong in his latest column.
While, I don't agree with the Parents Television Council's effort for more government control of television. I do agree that Cable Television should provide an a-la-carte menu. I don't think that it should be government mandated, I just wish that private industry would provide an a-la-carte cable option without force.
Peirce argues that by creating an a-la-carte style cable system then many of our favorite cable networks would disappear. His claim is that many of these cable stations make money from subscriptions. This is a complete lie. Most subscription services (magazines, newspapers, and even cable networks) make their money from advertising. Subscriptions are simply used to prove that the people view the ads are actually paying customers and not people looking for a free ride.
Of the 38 networks that Peirce lists, there are only a few that are free of advertisements. The rest rely on ads to pay the bills. They are also able to charge a premium ad rate because they can say that their viewers have a specific interest. DIY and TLC can charge more for home improvement ads, and Oxygen can charge more for ads targeted to women.
If people chose their favorite 20 channels, then the premium they could charge for ads would go up. I am sure that this increase would more than make up for lose due to subscription reductions.
Further, If you accept Peirce's premise that bulk rates are the only way for some of your favorite stations to survive, then I have one question. Why should my money go to support something I don't watch? If it couldn't survive without my minute contribution, then why should it survive.
Some might argue that if the a-la-carte style cable system would work, then why aren't they offering it. The simple answer is because people are willing to pay for bulk packages. It is cheaper to eat at a buffet and not at a cafeteria. However, there are many people who will go to a good steak house rather than get a tough slice of second rate beef from a buffet.
I don't subscribe to cable. I don't see that it is worth my money. However, if I could buy just a few extra channels, then I might consider paying more per channel just to get the best of what is available.