Time for a la carte cable


I settled in last night to continue my love/hate relationship with the Cleveland Browns, only to find that football's NFL Network feed was blocked by my cable company, which refused to pay the premium the league demanded for the game. Of course, the hundred+ plus channels of shopping networks, religious programming, pseudo-science and twenty-year-old sitcoms that I would never, ever watch continued unabated. This caused me to wonder, yet again- where is a la carte cable?

The free market is not working well for cable access, imho, because the oligopoly of my available vendors (Wide-Open West, Time Warner, AT&T) follow the same model; jam packages down the throats of customers, packages containing a few widely-desired channels and a boatload of crap. I'd much rather pay a base fee for the access and have the ability to select, one at a time, the channels I want. In our household, we watch at most 20 channels. Ever.

Imagine going to the grocery store to find that you could only buy one of three already filled grocery-cart's worth of food. Need baby formula? That cart also contains sardines, cigarettes and a dozen bagels. Imagine going to a doctor who will only treat your sinus infection as part of a bundle along with an MRI, fertility counseling and a nicotine patch prescription.

The first company that offers me a la carte programming will get my business. That is, if the free market model is ever adapted by this industry. I don't expect it to happen, though. What I expect is that the cable companies will remain steadfastly customer unfriendly until they are buried by internet-transmitted programming. A la carte programming.