Monday, December 11

Cable Television

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Cable Television

If you have cable or satellite television, you are paying for channels you do not watch. The cable company sells you a package of channels they have selected. If you want a couple of channels that are not included in that package, you pay more money for a bigger package. I get 72 channels. Nobody in my house ever watches Univision, the Cable Channel, Telemundo, BET, E!, NICK, TOON, DISN, MTV, TVLAND, FOOD, HGTV, VH1, TRINITY, or EWTN. That makes 15 channels I pay for but do not watch. Nobody in my house ever watches any of them. And yet I pay for them. Here are many others that we will watch on a rare occasion, but could easily do without.

Instead of insisting that customers buy a package, cable companies should offer a cafeteria-style plan. You choose the channels you want from a list of all the available channels. You pay a specified price for each channel, a price you will know before you decide if you want to sign up for it. With that kind of plan, a customer would have available, and pay for, only the programming she would actually watch. Then I would not have to pay for cartoons I do not watch.

Legislation has been proposed several times to require cable companies to offer cafeteria plans. The cable companies always manage to convince congress that it is a bad idea. I am sure that campaign contributions have nothing to do with the decisions of legislators. And if you believe that, I have a bridge I would like to sell you. The cable companies say it would be horrendously difficult and expensive to implement and maintain, so bills would have to go up to cover the costs. They also assert that some less-popular channels would not generate enough revenues to stay in business. They claim they are performing a public service by requiring me to pay for VH1 even though I never watch it.

Twenty years ago, it would probably not have been possible for a cable company to put a cafeteria plan in place. Ten years ago, it would have been possible, but it would have been very difficult and expensive. Today, the technology for switching and routing has advanced tremendously. Cable companies could put a cafeteria plan in place rapidly and economically.

As for the assertion that some niche channels would not get enough people to agree to sign up for them and pay for them for them to remain in operation, why is that my problem? Why should I be compelled to support TRINITY? I never watch it and I never will.

The only way cable companies will do this is if legislation requires it. They would probably have some reduction in revenue so they would not do it voluntarily. It is in their best interest, financially, to compel customers to pay for programming they do not want.

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