The Myth of ala Carte Cable?

Legislators are busy crafting together a bill that will allow consumers to get ala carte cable – which is to say they can pick and choose what cable channels they want. Cynthia Brumfield has a good overview of the situation and points to two studies, one by the NCTA (download pdf file) and one by Disney. I can try and decode the reports: these two parties with vested interests are saying, well FCC blew it, and the consumers don’t want anything to do with ala carte cable.

Ironically, these unbiased interests might actually be speaking the truth, though I bet that wasn’t their original intention. Leichtman Research Group, did a survey and found that 40% of consumers are initially very interested in being able to choose and pay only for individual channels from cable and satellite TV companies. However when told the whole truth – that is the total number of channels they are likely to get and the equipment requirements of the service – you know the fine print kinda stuff, the interest level dipped to 17%. (Read the research methodology and decide for yourself, if this makes sense.)


“When consumers are informed of the requirements and consequences of receiving a la carte, we find that about one out-of-six consumers are very interested in a la carte as it would appear in reality,” says Bruce Leichtman, the principal at the research firm. Why the dip? “They are in favor when it is asked in an incorrect (biased) fashion, and without the implications,” he wrote back in an email, when I asked him the question.

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