A La Carte Cable Gets The Nod From FCC; McCain Promises Legislation

Hard to say yet what kind of real effect this will have on multichannel video providers — ie cable, satellite, IPTV … A la carte proponents finally have the report they’ve been waiting from the FCC, a study overturing the Michael Powell-tenure report that a la carte channels would cost consumers more, not less. The new study says the old one was based on flawed numbers but has gaps of its own, including any real sense of how much cable nets will charge for a la carte channels.
U.S. Sen. John McCain quickly responded with word that he “will soon be introducing legislation that would entice all providers of television services to offer an ‘a la carte’ option in addition to a package of channels in return for regulatory relief.”
From the FCC (links below): “The corrected calculations show that a subscriber could receive as many as 20 channels, including six broadcast signals, without seeing an increase in his or her monthly bill. This is more than the 17 channels that the average television household watches. The corrected calculations also show that, in three of the four scenarios considered in the Booz Allen Study, consumers’ bills decrease by anywhere from 3 to 13 percent.” NCTA president and CEO Kyle McSlarrow responds: “Most studies conclude that a mandated a la carte regime would be more expensive for consumers and result in less diversity in programming. It is disappointing that the updated Media Bureau report relies on assumptions that are not in line with the reality of the marketplace.
One of the most persistent arguments against a la carte is the effect it could have on small and emerging networks. The FCC’s response to that criticism: “A la carte could make it easier for programming networks valued by a minority of viewers to enter the marketplace. … If consumers were able to express their interests through subscriptions, advertisers and
MVPDs might find it easier to judge the value of smaller networks.”

Or, as we’ve already seen with TRIO, they could disappear from the cable/satellite multichannel universe altogether for viewing only by those with broadband access. … I’m sure we’ll have more on this.

FCC: press release (pdf) | Report (pdf) | FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s statement (pdf

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