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A la carte TV a tough sell on the Hill

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Those hoping to blow up the traditional pay-TV bundle probably won’t be getting much help from Congress, at least not anytime soon. Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) Television Consumer Freedom Act bill, which would give consumers the option to buy channels on an a la carte basis instead of in tiers, got its first airing before the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday but it didn’t find a lot of takers.

McCain, a long-time proponent of a la carte TV, made a special guest appearance before the committee, which he used chair but on which he no longer sits due to the GOP’s seniority rules, for a hearing on the state of the consumer video market to pitch his bill. No current member of the committee in attendance spoke up in support of the idea, however, nor did any of the other witnesses who testified. Instead, most of the discussion dealt with controversies of more recent vintage, such as Aereo, retransmission consent, and reallocating broadcast spectrum for use by wireless broadband services.

Apart from spectrum reallocation, in fact, which is currently creeping along at the FCC, there didn’t seem to be much appetite on the committee for doing much of anything about the current state of the video market, which the members seemed to feel was functioning smoothly enough.

As I’ve argued before, if the traditional pay-TV bundle ever does get broken up it will because it collapses under its own internal stresses, rather than as a result of any outside force, whether from over-the-top video providers, Congress, or the FCC.