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Television Media

Cable TV A La Carte? 461

Posted by michael
from the two-from-column-a-and-one-from-column-b dept.
Anonymous Coward writes "According to this BusinessWeek article you can now get your MTV a la carte. I having been waiting for years to buy my cable by the channel, and this article indicates that my cable company is now legally required to let me. I am going to call Time Warner tomorrow with my list just to see what they say. Anyone out there doing this now?"
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Cable TV A La Carte?

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  • woohoo! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by theWrkncacnter (562232) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @11:59AM (#4616920)
    Glad to hear it, now I can get TLC, Discovery, MTV2 and all the other good channels without BET and Lifetime.
    • by jocknerd (29758) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:07PM (#4617000)
      My wife would divorce me if I were to cancel Lifetime.
      • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:10PM (#4617029) Homepage Journal

        My wife would divorce me if I were to cancel Lifetime.

        I'm recently divorced and can honestly say the best part is never having to sit through another Trading Spaces marathon! :)
        • by cdrudge (68377) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:16PM (#4617077) Homepage
          I showed my wife an article about the behind the sceens of one of those episodes and how much damage/money it costs to repair the "renovation". I believe it was either the one where the lady cried on camera or the hay on the walls. She now hates the show even more then I do. :)

          Her best friend recently had a neighbor do an episode. The weekend after they left they undid everything that they had done to their room.
          • Happen to still have the link to that article around? I'd love to use it to get the show permanently removed from my TiVo.
          • I showed my wife an article about the behind the sceens of one of those episodes and how much damage/money it costs to repair the "renovation".

            LINKS, DAMMIT, LINKS!

          • I showed my wife an article about the behind the sceens of one of those episodes and how much damage/money it costs to repair the "renovation". I believe it was either the one where the lady cried on camera or the hay on the walls. She now hates the show even more then I do. :)

            But do you still watch it? I think it is a cool show. Vern has got some talent, and usually makes really cool rooms. But part of why I watch is to see how stupid they can get in their designs. If that bastard Frank drew any kittens/chickens/people on my walls I would strangle him. :-) And don't tell me Paige isn't a buff hottie, or you don't like watching Amy Wynn with the power tools, or wouldn't like to tumble with Genevieve.

            The good reactions are cool, but the bad reactions are even better. They even run episodes where they highlight the people who didn't like their rooms. I think it is hilarious when people bitch and moan. Come on, the show is well known, people know what they are signing up for when they go to do the show. Keep your damn rooms white and boring if you don't want to take a chance. And boy, some of the before pictures are hideous.

          • by cdrudge (68377) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @01:34PM (#4617767) Homepage
            Here is the article article [sfgate.com] about the hay incedent. The lady crying while on the episode is here [wingfieldfans.org].

            You can also do a search on Google searches for Tranding Spaces hay [google.com], Trading Spaces cry [google.com], or Pam Herrick [google.com] to find out more about the show.

            Things that they don't tell you on the show:
            You sign a contract stating what room is to be changed, what can NOT be touched (They ignore this), what you would like (colors, themes, etc). Trading Spaces then assigns a designer (none of which have any formal design education) to do what ever they want, not what you want. Most of the work is done off camera by the crew. Sewing done on camera is just for show...they have a crew to do that. Same with carpentry. The furniture is made super cheap...particle board bookcases come to mind on one show. I just got to the point where I started laughing at the shows. Some had interesting decorations, but most were a joke. You get around $1000 to change the room, but nothing if you don't like it. You are responsibie for carting away trash (they will pay the disposal fee, but it's just a hassle). You also have to put up with that annoying Paige lady. That would be the ultimate deal breaker for me regardless of the rest.
        • by baldass_newbie (136609) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:29PM (#4617184) Homepage Journal
          I put the parental block on HGTV, Lifetime and TLC after she started watching this crap and had me paint the whole fscking house.
          I set the password to '1234'. She'll never figure it out...
        • by danger42 (302987) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @03:36PM (#4618819) Homepage
          I'm recently divorced and can honestly say the best part is never having to sit through another Trading Spaces marathon!

          Is that because you no longer have a wife or no longer have a T.V.?
      • I bought cable internet without cable television but decided to try it anyway to see if it had been left unblocked. The ONLY chanel I get is Lifetime. It must be a cruel joke.
  • by burnsy (563104) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:00PM (#4616930)
    It says you can get HBO without having to pay for a premium level of service. They can still require you to get basic service and even make you rent a digital box.
    • Damn, that sucks, maybe I should actually read this stuff.
    • They just need to make every channel a 'premium' channel like HBO. I'd buy that, 'Comedy Central', 'Cartoon Network', 'Animeal Planet', and maybe 'TLC', and no others. I'd still spend less than I am now.
    • Yeah - I have satellite and only need the local channels from cable - yet I would have to subscribe to a package of like 30 channels and rent a box from them in order to get the local channels.
    • It says you can get HBO without having to pay for a premium level of service. They can still require you to get basic service and even make you rent a digital box.

      Actually, in the case of AOL/TW, you are required to have digital cable in order to have HBO, because they simply don't offer HBO on their analog cable.

      'Sides, one thing they can do (and are doing) to control this is with cable modems. I have AOL/TW's cable modem service. They charge $44.95/mo unless you have at least what they call their 'extended basic' package, which costs $39.95/mo. Otherwise, the price is $89.95/mo for the cable modem by itself.

      • Actually, in the case of AOL/TW, you are required to have digital cable in order to have HBO, because they simply don't offer HBO on their analog cable.

        BS! In Columbus, OH where I live, if your on Time Warner, if your on BASIC service (which is Analog) you can get 3 channels of HBO for price of one. For Digital subscribers, you can get 14 HBO's for the price of one. Doesn't do me any good cuz I'd never watch HBO any way.
      • Actually, I believe that the $44 vs the $89 is to combat cable piracy. It was discovered a while back (prolly been exploited for a couple years now) that all you need to do is splice the cable to your modem, just as you would to split signals between tv sets, and viola... free cable TV. So, if you don't get cable tv from us, we're going to charge you for it anyway. That way, we don't care if you're splitting it off for free TV.
  • Pipe Dream (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:00PM (#4616936)
    This can't be true. I mean, who's going to explicitly ask for the three religious channels, the channel where they talk about hot rods, and that one that's just a bad radio station? These things get bundled for a reason.
    • You would be surprised. I know people at every level of our local cable co (I also know the business, but can't work there...those goddamn anti-nepotism laws don't seem to bother the OTHER execs, dad) and was surprised to discover that when they introduced a set of digital "ala carte" channels from asia that they were soon outselling HBO -- to the point that they were offering the telesales guys some pretty cool prizes to trade in their commissions on that channel. My friend got a bitchin' Toshiba 7.1 receiver out of the deal.

      As for digital radio...I was at a party last weekend where that relatively benign phenomenon became the star attraction. The CD player was broken, you see, so we all fought over the remote, forcing people to listen to power ballads or progressive rock. It was more fun that it sounds in retrospect.

      These things get bundled for a reason, and it's that everybody has different tastes.
    • I'd ask for some of those. Personally I really like the Music Choice stations, and SpeedVision. After all, I'd much rather watch some down and dirty rally racing than the left turns in an oval that is NASCAR.
    • These things get bundled for a reason.

      As a welfare programme for arts graduates ?
  • by plasmd (447667) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:01PM (#4616949)
    If you read the article... it's only talking about getting premium channels individually. So you can get just one nightly dose of Skinemax, w/o paying for cinemax 2, 3 and 4.

    Doesn't apply to basic cable.
    • by Jobe_br (27348) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [hturdb]> on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:15PM (#4617071)
      I don't see anything that says that the Time Warners, Charter Communications, and Cox Cable networks out there have to charge any *less* for saying "I want HBO-East only!" v. what they charge for having 6 HBO channels (comedy, family, etc.) From what I can recall, adding a premium channel has always been $10-$15 extra a month - just now you get multiple premium channels for the price of one.

      Am I missing something here? Seems to me that being able to select which regular channels you want (so you don't have to get QVC, for example) would be more useful.
      • It's illegal to charge someone more for using a credit card. It doesn't stop one of the local gas stations from giving me a "discount" for using cash.

        I imagine they will charge a crazy amount for individual channels, but then give a "discount" for multiple channels. I may get 10 channels for $40 now, but if I ask, they'll probably charge $10 each and then bundle the 10 for $40.

        My cable company, Adelphia, is made up of a bunch of weasels (some of whom are now headed to jail for dipping into the profits for personal use) always looking to screw people. Where there's a weasel, there's a way.
  • Price limits? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Penguinoflight (517245) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:02PM (#4616952) Homepage Journal
    What kind of price limits are they put to? Same price as in a package of channels? Obviously, if they aren't held to any firm price limits, they'll just charge $20/channel, and nobody will buy it.

    I do think this is a good law though, How many people on slashdot would want to get cable just for TechTV?
    • Re:Price limits? (Score:5, Informative)

      by CerebusUS (21051) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:23PM (#4617141)
      Our local cable company offers the ability to buy individual channels from the packages they offer.

      However, unless you are buying less than 5 channels you'll spend more money than the package.

      Since most people want at least MTV, TWC, CNN, DISC, CC and SCIFI it's kind of a moot point.
    • by Dalroth (85450)
      Good God, TechTV is the most god awfull horrible piece of rubbish on the airwaves right now. Yes, they play Thunderbirds (but the popups seriously detract from the quality of the show) and Max Headroom occasionally, but you could get those elsewhere. Everything else on that channel is crap.

      True SlashDot geeks are watching the Discovery network channels, National Geographic, and the History channel any chance they can get.
      • True SlashDot geeks are watching the Discovery network channels, National Geographic, and the History channel any chance they can get.

        You left out BBC America...where else are you going to get your Monty Python fix?

      • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:48PM (#4617331)
        True SlashDot geeks are watching the Discovery network channels, National Geographic, and the History channel any chance they can get.

        Thanks for reminding us, Dexter. Sometimes I forget what I am supposed to watch or do so that my membership in the True SlashDot Geek Club won't lapse or be revoked. I'd hate to have to turn in my decoder ring.

        All my free-thinking and living-my-own-life crap sometimes plays havok with the whole /.-Hive-Mind, but I'm working on it, really I am. Still, It's real swell to know you're here and have the time to set me and all the other strays back on the path of True Geek Righteousness.

        Thanks again, bro!
      • i agree somewhat...all the shows on there are good ideas but there's only so many way you can:

        Screensavers: Talk about using bash
        Call for Help: Plug in a printer
        CyberCrime: TAlk to somebody about ID theft
        Fresh gear: The only 'fresh' show on the network
        TechLive: "Bill gates announced xyz today, yesterday he announced zyx!"

        and speaking of TechTV, read on fuckedcompany that they just closed 3 bureaus..12 people canned

        here's the story [bizjournals.com]
    • See, the thing is that they have enough bandwidth now to deliver 500 channels. So their business is getting like $50 a month from each subscriber. Once they have the bandwidth, giving you 500 channels isn't much more expensive (if at all) than giving you 3. They are not going to give a discount simply because they don't *get* a discount in terms of reduced expenses by providing fewer channels.

      The only way it would make sense for them is market segmentation. In other words, if some new pricing scheme made them more money than it lost (in terms of full subscribers switching down), then they'll do it. This is why they offer a really shitty basic cable - they want it to be just better than a rooftop antenna, but limited enough that it makes you want premium.

      So no, there is no system under which we all end up paying less for cable than we are now.
  • my order (Score:5, Funny)

    by Minn_Kota_Marine (621197) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:02PM (#4616955) Homepage
    I'll take CartoonNetwork, half an order of HBO, and one Fox (hold the commercials please).

    Wait a minute, does that mean that now we have to tip? double the tax my ass!
  • Fun ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vonkraken (228236) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:03PM (#4616963)
    I am sure that the 'package' pricing will make consumer choice still include a few channels that would otherwise not be purchased. How many cable channels rely on being packaged with other groups of channels just to get a shot at having some eyeballs watching them?

    Package deal - 39.99
    Individual Channels - $3.00 -$5.00 per channel.

    It could add up very quickly, and I think that most consumers couldn't be bothered to pick and choose channels while taking pricing into account IMO.

    Cheers,

    VonKraken
    • Re:Fun ... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by danheskett (178529) <[danheskett] [at] [gmail.com]> on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:11PM (#4617033)
      I cancelled my cable and sold my TV. I told the cable company I'd resubscribe when I could get just the channels I want: A&E, History Channel, HBO (JUST ONE OF THEM, THANKS), and Comedy Central. That's it.

      I quit because all of the sudden Time Warner wanted (aka insisted) that we use "Digital Cable" - to get what I used to get just fine. There is no way I am paying $80 a month to watch a bit of TV. No way. None.

      $5 x 4 = $20 - yeah, I'd do that maybe. But I'd probably end up cutting out two so I could get it down to $10 a month.
      • Re:Fun ... (Score:3, Informative)

        by dalassa (204012)
        I quit because all of the sudden Time Warner wanted (aka insisted) that we use "Digital Cable" - to get what I used to get just fine. There is no way I am paying $80 a month to watch a bit of TV. No way. None.

        They tried to con you too? Be glad you didn't take it, digital isn't all that much better and it doesn't degrades gracefully. Time-Warner in our area didn't want to be bothered actually fixing the ancient equipment in our neighborhood so the tv was impossible to watch. We went back to analog in a month.
        • my dad uses directv now....great picture and it seems to be pretty responsive

          however, my ex switched over to TW digital cable; every time you change a channel it takes about 3 secods, then the picture becomes all blocky for a few while it descrambles

          fiber to the curb is what I'm waiting for
  • Wrong (Score:5, Informative)

    by ajakk (29927) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:04PM (#4616975) Homepage
    The headline and description are totally wrong. The rule says that a Cable company must allow you to buy HBO/Showtime/Cinimax/TMC without signing up for premium cable. So this means if you don't like watching MTV, Discovery Wings, or other non-Basic cable channels, but you watch HBO, you can drop Premium cable, but still keep HBO.
  • Long Time Overdue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CatWrangler (622292) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:05PM (#4616981) Journal
    I actually would be willing to pay more than I am now, if they offered more options on channels and I could configure my own system.

    It would be better to have 70 channels of things you want to watch, rather than have 125 channels which include 4 home shopping networks, oxygen, lifetime,5 gardening channels etc....

    Letting the viewers decide what they want to pay for is quite a concept. What took em so long?

    • so you are going to pay MORE for 70 channels of garbage when you could have 125 for less? There is a thing called "ADD/DELETE" where you can remove the crap (HSN, etc).

      Why would you pay more for 70 channels when you could just remove them from the scan for free?
      • hell yeah for ADD/DELETE

        i went home for the weekend last week and my dad had just gotten directv installed (i.e. "Tom! set up the stereo so i can use it!") and i found myself setting up my profile in the unit...

        i just kept deleting channels so fast, now i have maybe 10 channels and then the movie channels that he got free. surfing is actually easy now
  • by airrage (514164) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:05PM (#4616982) Homepage Journal
    If the cable companies start losing money on the pay-per-channel, they'll simply rebundle the premium channels (the ones that most people are willing to pay for per channel) and bundle those into basic service making you pay more in the end. Rule #1: In the end, the customer always loses.

    As long as I can keep Women's Entertainment (WE) I'm fine.

  • by MrSkunk (544767) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:05PM (#4616985)
    I know that cable companies try to screw you, but I didn't know they were so open about it. This is a quote from one of showtime's spokesmen.
    "It's our hope that our affiliates would use whatever tactics are available to increase their premium penetration."
  • by The J Kid (266953) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:06PM (#4616988) Homepage Journal
    ..they have always a stick behind the door to still screw some of your hard earnd dosh (tm) out of you!

    Yes, that right! Just read this:
    "It's up to our clients [the cable operators] to decide how they offer our services,"

    Translation: we got a stick behind the door.

    "It's our hope that our affiliates would use whatever tactics are available to increase their premium penetration."

    Translation: We're gonna screw you with it!
  • by LordOfYourPants (145342) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:06PM (#4616998)
    For places with digital cable, we have the following setup. I'm not speaking for all of Canada, but at least with this cable provider (Rogers).

    1) Analog channels. Channels 2-~78 are analog. We can choose between 3 "tiers" which determine what type of filter is installed at the cable box itself. 2-28 is "basic" cable. 29-~42(?) is another tier, ~43-78 is another. They are grouped this way as to make filtering easier. Changing the programming is a PITA as someone has to physically drive down from the cable company and change things. Usually being wishy-washy as to what you want will net you a $50 charge each time someone has to drive over.

    2) Digital channels. Channels 80-999 are digital. You can order most any of the "basic" ones for $2.50 / each / month. Bundling them in bigger sets gets you bigger discounts. ie: 5 channels for $10, 10 channels for $15, etc. You can mix and match as you please, and they are activated usually before your call to the cable company is finished.

    It's been this way for a year and a quarter now.
    • by Zathrus (232140) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:26PM (#4617160) Homepage
      This is how most cable companies are running things now -- a lot of them actually restructured channel numbers when they went "digital" to do it too.

      The wonderful thing about "digital" cable is that it isn't. Only some of the channels are digital - generally everything below 80-100 is still analog. You can tell which are which by looking at the packages - the basic cable and extended basic are all analog. But any channels that get added by upgrading to a digital cable package are digital. Heck, if you're on digital cable you can still plug in a TV/VCR to the cable feed without a box and tune to any of the analog channels.
      • The wonderful thing about "digital" cable is that it isn't. Only some of the channels are digital - generally everything below 80-100 is still analog. You can tell which are which by looking at the packages - the basic cable and extended basic are all analog. But any channels that get added by upgrading to a digital cable package are digital. Heck, if you're on digital cable you can still plug in a TV/VCR to the cable feed without a box and tune to any of the analog channels.

        That's just a pass-through connection...if you plug a TV directly into the cable outlet, it'll pick up analog. Here in Las Vegas at least (maybe in other Cox markets as well), I'm fairly sure that if you subscribe to digital cable, all channels are delivered as digital channels. I saw some decoding glitches last night while watching Enterprise, which would indicate that even the local channels are converted to digital before they're sent out. (It's either that, or the hard drive in my TiVo is acting up...but I doubt that's the case.)

  • Sweet (Score:3, Funny)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:08PM (#4617013) Homepage Journal

    Goodbye Showcase, CNN, Discovery, TLC, Sci-Fi.. hello pr0n!
  • We've had cable à la carte in Quebec for at least 4 years. You pay a small premium for the ability to pick your channels, but it is always worth it.
    Here is an example of one of our à la carte providers. [illico.tv]
  • I don't know what is sadder, the rapings by the cable companies or that someone actually would order Showtime to watch The Chris Isaac Show.

  • Blah, legislation should be spent on opening up cable internet access to other competitors like DSL rather than allowing them to retain their heavy monopoly.
  • What about satalite packages? I would love to buy just only buy specifcal local chanels (Denver, Miami, and LA) with just Sci-fi, discovery and nuddie channels. Unfortunatly Dish Network, makes you buy a shitload of other channels if I want sci-fi and discovery :(
    • ...uh....Discovery and Sci-Fi are in the cheapest, most basic package Dish Network offers, which is $24/month including taxes. $24 a month won't even get you basic cable around here, much less Discovery and Sci-Fi :)

      The real problem is getting local broadcast channels like Fox. If you don't live in one of their broadcast markets, they are legally prohibited from giving you the local package. The local Fox station where I used to live turned down my waiver request three times. The third time I called them myself and offered to give them $10, which is more then they will ever make off of me in advertising...like I am going to put up some analog wire when I have a nice digital satellite dish to recieve TV from space.
      • Sci-fi agreed. But discover home and the other discover packages are part of te Dish Top 150 package, which cost I think $39.99. Too much.

        How is it illegal? For 4 years now, I pick up the local channels for Denver, LA, Miami, New York and Chicago I think. but the thing is, Dish Network maks you also pay for my local chanels (Boston). so you first must buy the local package, which is $4.99 I think. And then you can upgrade that to the super local package which is $7.99 (maybe 9) that includes the other cities. And yes, I do get the WB, UPN and fox local channels for those cities. I thinks it just a mix.

        I am a little confused why you made a waiver request? If you do have Dish Network, ask for the super station package and it include other local channels.
  • They honestly need more stations like VH-1 Classic(ie MTV back when it was worth watching). All they seem to play are blocks of mega-obscure videos from the early 80s(and some '70s in their own time slots). I end up just leaving it on that channel for the entire weekend seeing videos I never knew existed before. Commercials? yeah, they seem to air them every 45 minutes or so. I watch that instead of G4 all the time now.

    It's too bad MTV2 failed where VH-1 classic picked up. Imagine, a channel that plays just music videos that time hath forgotten! Never thought I would see the day VH-1 Classic is playing Megadeth videos while MTV plays "Fast Lane".
  • by joe52 (74496) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:17PM (#4617092) Homepage
    What are the cable deals like for Slashdot readers outside of the US?

    I spent four months living in France this year and my cable provider had a point system. Each channel cost a certain number of points (ranging from about 2 for something boring up to 15-25 for a premium channel) and you paid for packages with varying amounts of points. Then you could pick the channels you wanted and not waste points on something you would never watch. It seemed like a better deal (perhaps not cheaper, but much more flexible) than what we have in the US. I don't even have cable here since I'm not a huge fan of television and cable TV packages cost more than I am willing to pay.

    -Joe
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Well in France, the whole country is divided geographically between operators, with each operator exercising a monopoly in its area. But the big advantage is that ALL of the cableco allow for pick and choose. In Paris, a basic cable subscription gives you all the free channels as well as the national ones, each additional channel is accounted for by a number of points and you can buy points for each month by points. I.E. you can buy 75, 110 , 150 etc. points. The only channels that are bundled are the 2 competing groups of movie channels that are sold in groups of 5. That way I was able to get Cartoon Network, CNBC, Mangas (yes we have an all anime channel in France) as well as Game 1 (which is another nice channel dedicated to gaming). My total bill each month is around 29 Eur.
    • by Mr_Silver (213637) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:51PM (#4617362)
      What are the cable deals like for Slashdot readers outside of the US?

      Well, in the UK, you've got Cable (NTL or Telewest generally) or if you want Digital, you have Sky [sky.co.uk] and Freeview [freeview.co.uk] (used to be called OnDigital then ITV Digital then bust).

      Freeview is in its unfancy and is basically free stuff. I also know very little about it.

      Sky on the other hand has tonnes of packages [sky.com]. In short, all the decent channels (IMO) are spread about several packages. Which means that if you want all of them you have to pay the premium rate and get 55 other really rubbish ones.

      AFAIK there is no way to pick and chose your cable products too. You just have to pick a bundle and put up with the rubbish ones that come with it.

    • UK (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Martin S. (98249)
      What are the cable deals like for Slashdot readers outside of the US?

      Perhaps the biggest difference is that the dominant pay-tv supplier is satellite, not cable. The satellite system has practically completed the switch to digital, the cable systems are much more recent than the US <10 yo) and pretty much entirely digital. You usually get a free STB, but are committed to a min contract of 1 year and pay for services.

      The packages are similar to the older US system as described in the article, but are sorted by content type rather than supplier. i.e. Entertainment, Sport or Movie packages rather than Disney, Vista, etc. These tend to be priced at £10-£20 (15-30 $/) per package per month for ~10 channels. The exception is the premium movie channels with cost about £8-£16 (12-20 $/) each pcm, expensive but good. They do seem to take most new-release movies within a few weeks of DVD release.

      Aside from the Premium Movie Channels, the best content is available from the free-to-air BBC which is mainly distributed though both analog and digital terrestrial (UHF) transmission. They are usually also bundled with the other transmission mediums. This medium also support some national and regional advert funded, free-to-air channels of good quality.

      The new kid on the block is broadband IP-DTV, this is delivered via broadband xDSL line to a STB. It differs from cable because the network topology is star and not a ring. It supports a real return channel, dedicated bandwidth to each installation. And therfore allows true content on demand (VOD), server side PVR, and real interactive content. I guess you can call it programme level al-a-carte. Each movie is about £1.50-2.50 UKP (2-3.50 $/) for 24hours, this is about the same as a movie rental.

      I work on this (www.kitv.co.uk) IP-DTV project. There are a couple of others, Yes, and Homechoice.

  • IIRC, you can still do this for basically every channel if you've got one of the big satellite dishes with a C and Ku band receiver. There are packages, too, and some are unencryped over the bird.

    I used to dig watching M2 when it was new, and I was spending late, late nights in the TV station. *sigh* Master Control sucks.
  • Anyone know which federal rule that caused this? I read the article and its a little light on the details.

    I'd like to see the actual federal mandate to see what it actually covers before going to Time Warner here in Austin and asking them to give me some pricing info. If anyone's already done this here, reply and let me know..
  • What I want (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sakusha (441986) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:28PM (#4617174)
    is JapanTV, a 24/7 NHK feed. I'd have to upgrade my DirecTV decoder and get a new oval dish with dual receivers. Then I can get JTV a la carte for only $30/month. But I'd have to invest about $300 before I can even start spending the $30/mo. At least it would all work with my TiVo, they even have program listings. They have a bunch of ultrapremium channels in this price range or higher. Ouch, those prices are too damn high!
  • My cable provider (Adelphia) offers TV in bundles with Broadcast, ($11/mo) Basic, (+$20/mo) and then premium stuff, whose price I don't know. They also offer Internet.

    I don't know if they will offer Internet without at least Broadcast cable TV. But they add a surcharge to the cable Internet if you don't have at least Basic, so you may as well get Basic.

    Pricing for Internet wasn't mentioned, but now this makes me wonder if this practice is legal.
  • by dasmegabyte (267018) <das@OHNOWHATSTHISdasmegabyte.org> on Thursday November 07, 2002 @12:32PM (#4617209) Homepage Journal
    My dad's worked in cable engineering since its inception and has always said that ala carte pricing is not a good idea.

    First off, it's more expensive. Consider: a fair price for a channel you really want is probably 2-5$ per month. I receive 85 channels for $23. Even eliminating the dozens I don't watch, there's more than 10 channels I do want to get, including all five major networks, comedy central, cartoon network and a gaggle of learning channels, BBCA and of course Food TV.

    Second off, it's not really good for the cable co based on how the cable companies receive and send the channels themselves. Everything's handled by big blocks of splitters and amplifiers. Each handles a set of channels. Channels are pulled down from satelites in blocks as well...TWC in Albany has a set of five or so, one of which is dedicated to all the myriad HBOs, one to all the turner channels, etc. So it makes sense to sell TV in blocks...it's impossible to accurately tell how much a SINGLE channel costs you. In fact, after setup costs and maintenance costs and offsetting the possibility of customer service, just getting one channel may cost about $15 on a good margin, while getting fifty channels on the same line would only be pennies more.

    Finally, it's not fair for marginal channels. You know all those channels you don't watch, like History or Speedvision or Golf TV or Univision? They're all somebody's favorite channel, believe it or not. There may be very few people who watch them, but they're getting equal billing due to being part of a package deal. Thus, they also have the ability to get hugely popular -- after all, you're more likely to catch something interesting on than if you had to order it specifically. Would TV Food be such a mainstay in our house were it not for having actually seen Good Eats, Iron Chef, David Rosengarden's Taste or Jamie Oliver? No. Hell, we wouldn't have ordered "ala carte" a channel that was ostensibly just reruns of Julia Childs.

    Block pricing isn't really that expensive, anyway. I get 85 channels and broadband internet for less than the a quarter of the cost of my car's insurance and upkeep, and I sure get a lot more utility out of it.
    • Not fair? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nuggz (69912)
      I don't think it would be unfair for Speedvision to not subsidise GolfTV.

      Actually I think it is unfair that a Speedvision viewer would have to subsidize GolfTV.

  • This article depresses me because of two opposing facts:

    1. People don't care about networks, they care about shows. Give me "The Sopranos", "Survivor", "Cowboy Bebop", "[Insert your favorite show here]", a la carte. I couldn't care less about these dinosaurs called networks. The sooner networks disappear the better.

    2. But, this show based nirvana is never going to happen because the companies controlling the television system are just as violently opposed to changing their business model as the [RI|MP]AA companies. So even with a la carte networks, I'm still going to have to pay for 167 hours of crap each week for the one hour I do want.

    Feh! A pox on all their houses.
    • Actually, its more like they refuse to believe they are changing, seriously. Some exec don't think the internet will be around long enough to bother finding a way to use it effectivly. I shit you not.

      Its like a T-Rex loking up in the Sky to see a big firey meteor plunging toward the earth and saying "Boy, that sure is going to screw those other guys, I'm glad it won't effect me..roar."

  • I live in Westchester County, NY, a suburb of NYC. We recently moved from one Cablevision area to another, and lost some favorite channels from the standard lineup. I called Cablevision, and they added each channel I wanted for about 75 cents per month. Not bad!

    Although it sucks that we get fewer channels now for a higher price (even before adding the 75 cents) than we did in our old area.
  • My box lets me hide the channels That are not watched in my home.

    That means whe I surf I only surf the channels I watch.

    so take the 30 dollars divide that by the 20 channels that are watched. that means I'm paying 1.5 dollars per channel PLUS I get a bunch of "preview" channels of other shows, in case I want to see what my other options are.

    In short, just filter the channel you don't watch then see how much per channel you enjoy that you are paying. Probably getting a better deal then if you bought the channel individually.

    OTOH, thats not what the article was about, it was about not having to buy a premium package just to get HBO/Showtime.

    see, I did read the article ;)
  • by RatBastard (949) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @01:22PM (#4617656) Homepage
    I want the Shania Twain chanel. Muted, of course.
  • The local cable company here in Canada charges us 10.00/month for the digital cable box which we bought from them for 129.00 so we don't even pay that. They have this thing that's 20.00 for 20 channels, plus 1.50 or so for every other channel you want. You also have to pay 8.95/month for a basic set of 50 some odd channels.
  • Why is it that I can't just buy the porn channel and a few others? sure, I get about 15 religious and infomercial stations that I never watch (but end up paying for), but what I really want is the ability to only view what I asked for. If I wanted the latino HBO, I would have bought it. Since I get it, and I have to purchase 5 HBOs all together for one price, I end up paying extra for something I don't use. I think a la carte pricing is on its way, and not a moment too soon. The only reason cable companies would not want this is because they are subsidized by the extra crap.

    What if the internet was this way and you had to pay to view other web pages that you were not interested in just to get to the few that you actually want to see? Oh wait, NetZero and Juno couldn't give that away. the only difference I see is the cable companies don't have to compete for local market share (can you say monopoly?).
  • We can here... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wiswaud (22478)
    In Quebec with Videotron at least, digital tv has packages, but can be bought a-la-carte. You do need to get a base package which includes a few channels (like all on-air stations), but that's about CAN$10. You then have to choice to buy any channels you want. Most cost, if i remember correctly, CAN$1.50, but things like Playboy will cost you more.
    I found i still preferred to get a big package, though, just because i like to have lots of channels around. But someone who only wants the essential plus HBO wouldn't have to buy a package.
  • by angle_slam (623817) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @01:31PM (#4617740)
    I hate it when articles don't refer to the regulation being discussed. As far as I can tell, the article is discussing 47 C.F.R. 76.921, which you can find by entering a search at FindLaw [findlaw.com]. A direct link is available from the Legal Information Institute [cornell.edu], though this link appears to be slow.

    Because the link is slow, here is the text of that rule:

    Sec. 76.921 Buy-through of other tiers prohibited.

    (a) No cable system operator, other than an operator subject to effective competition, may require the subscription to any tier other than the basic service tier as a condition of subscription to video programming offered on a per channel or per program charge basis. A cable operator may, however, require the subscription to one or more tiers of cable programming services as a condition of access to one or more tiers of cable programming services.

    (b) A cable operator not subject to effective competition may not discriminate between subscribers to the basic service tier and other subscribers with regard to the rates charged for video programming offered on a per-channel or per-program charge basis.

    (c) With respect to cable systems not subject to effective competition, prior to October 5, 2002, the provisions of paragraph (a) of this section shall not apply to any cable system that lacks the capacity to offer basic service and all programming distributed on a per channel or per program basis without also providing other intermediate tiers of service:

    (1) By controlling subscriber access to nonbasic channels of service through addressable equipment electronically controlled from a central control point; or

    (2) Through the installation, noninstallation, or removal of frequency filters (traps) at the premises of subscribers without other alteration in system configuration or design and without causing degradation in the technical quality of service provided.

    (d) With respect to cable systems not subject to effective competition, any retiering of channels or services that is not undertaken in order to accomplish legitimate regulatory, technical, or customer service objectives and that is intended to frustrate or has the effect of frustrating compliance with paragraphs (a) through (c) of this section is prohibited.

    [62 FR 6495, Feb. 12, 1997]

  • by sulli (195030) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @01:36PM (#4617780) Journal
    "Your call is important to us, please hold"
  • by docwhat (3582) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @02:38PM (#4618344) Homepage
    Here is a summary of the part of the
    Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992 that is being refered to:

    Prohibits (with exceptions) a cable operator from: (1) requiring the subscription to any tier other than the basic service tier as a condition of access to cable programming offered on a per channel or per program basis; or (2) discriminating between subscribers to the basic service tier and other subscribers with respect to rates charged for video programming offered on a per channel or per program basis.

    Gotten from: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d102:SN000 12:@@@L&summ2=m&|TOM:/bss/d102query.html|

    So, it says that if a channel is offered alone, then the cable company cannot say must buy something else first. However, in the case of (for example) the Home And Garden channel, they don't sell it alone, so you cannot buy it alone.

    Cable Companies have actually been doing this for a while, but you have to ask explicitly for it. Even (on occassion) forcing the sales person to talk to their manager.

    I would love to buy channels ala cart, though.

    Ciao!
  • Why No One knows (Score:3, Interesting)

    by goon america (536413) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @03:24PM (#4618694) Homepage Journal
    A spokeswoman for the Federal Communications Commission says the agency can't require cable operators to advertise the new option because that would violate the constitutional right to free speech.

    Tell that to the cigarette companies. They are being forced to advertise the cancer-causing properties of their products -- against their right to free speech!

    For-profit companies do not have the same right to the freedom of speech as do individuals. The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are addressed to human beings, not commercial entities. The Constitution begins with the famous phrase "We the people" and the Bill of Rights amendements all specifically designate people as the recipients of those important freedoms.

    This law will be totally ineffective unless the corporations are forced to inform their own customers about their legal rights and options when purchasing services from them. It's not such a radical idea -- there are plently of examples of this already. The FCC should stop its laissez faire approach to regulation and actually try to enforce the law for a change.

  • by Tranvisor (250175) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @03:44PM (#4618886) Homepage
    I called Time Warner in my area and gave them my list of channels. Here's my list.

    ESPN2
    MTV2
    CNN
    Comedy Central
    Cartoon Network
    TNT
    USA
    FX
    History Channel
    The Learning Channel
    Discovery
    Animal Planet
    Sci-Fi
    National Geographic Channel

    The representative told me that I was 'wrong' and that I would have to pay $50 a month to get these, "along with over 120 additional channels". I told about the Cable Act, and she told me I was mistaken.

    So there's non-compliance with the law right there. Should I press charges ;)?

    Bastard cable companies.
  • by _ph1ux_ (216706) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @03:59PM (#4619001)
    I jsut got off the phone with AT&T digital cable.

    These people are criminals.

    I signed up for HBO in september - I told them that i didnt want anything but to add HBO to my existing service. I was told that there was now way that I could get HBO unless I signed up for their Silver package - at 62 per month.

    I asked what it came with and she listed all this other crap - i said that I didnt want any of that - that i just wanted HBO.

    Then I called today about this law - and the fact that I just wanted HBO - and they quoted a range of other packages that are cheaper that had HBO. The girl said that they didnt have these packages in September which is why I wasnt offered. I told her to find out. Low and behold - these packages were available in september, they dont knwo why i was told otherwise - and that no they could not change the package and give me credit back retro-active.

    the said that if you want HBo its 13.95/month + plus 12.55 for basic + 5.00 for the digital cable box rental.

    this is all bullshit. I wanted to hit them in the face with a shovel.

    In the end all i got was 10 off my bill for the next year.

    but I think Ill just cancel all together.
  • by PotatoHead (12771) <(doug) (at) (opengeek.org)> on Thursday November 07, 2002 @04:44PM (#4619431) Homepage Journal
    They depend on the package model. This is why:

    Networks make their money by packaging and sometimes producing programming to get eyeballs. The greater the number of eyeballs, the more they can charge for ad placement. Ad placement is directly responsible for their bottom line.

    Those same eyeball numbers also give them power over the marketing of their programming as well. Valuable shows make or break many networks. The power of the eyeball gives them leverage when it comes to buying or selling program content or placement on their network.

    Right now the Cable and Sat companies basically are selling a fat pipe. Everyone gets in, but everyone also gets out as well. There are basically three tiers. Lame Basic, the basic you should have, and premium. For almost all subscribers, you have to get the first two tiers because of the sick packaging schemes.

    These two factors boost the eyeball numbers for all the networks. This plus the fact that the cable companies can localize ad placement keeps ad revenue high. The more bundling they do, the better this really is for them.

    Networks compete now on a fairly level playing field. The bundles make sure that all of the networks get their chance for air time. If people are allowed to choose the channels they want, then the barrier for entry becomes a lot higher for those less popular or specialized networks. They must work harder to generate interest. Because they are not part of the default channel line-up.

    Nobody involved in the money chain wants this. The cable companies are best served by selling as many channels as they can. The networks want their chance at your attention to come as easily and cheaply as possible and the ad agencies want to be able to target as precisely as possible.

    Per channel subscription breaks all of this. Remember the network exists to make money, not serve your interests. Nice Huh?

    Bundles help smooth revenue also. The best thing you can do for your entertainment provider is to subscribe at the top tier, get your occasional bonus pay per view and never ever call them. Wall Street likes nice smooth growth and month over month revenue.

    This makes their revenue model very simple. Basically all they really care about is the number of subscribers. Their marketing efforts are more or less directed at customer loyalty (Hey we have added more channels!), pay per view and or premium content (Catch the next lame fight @ 49.95 today!), or new subscriptions. (You get your first month free and our installers will make sure your dish and antenna don't work after we are finished!)

    The packages build a sense of value for the whole thing and they stay focused on that. Think maga channels for few dollars -vs- sign with us and get program x.

    One other very important aspect of this goes back to the eyeball number. If you have more channels than you can use, the best way to get your moneys worth is to spend a lot of time watching. You might miss something right? After all there are so many channels, there has always got to be something on.

    Packages encourage casual TV use. There is something to browse and if you browse long enough, there is something interesting.

    Per channel subscription takes a lot of that away. People would then become focused on the various networks more than they are now. The result of this would be more focused television use.

    With both of these comes less overall use because people would become more aware of the programming and when they get the most value from it. Nobody making money wants this either.

    This also would encourage more time based competition from the various networks as well.

    Personally, I feel all of these things are good. Too much aimless TV viewing is bad for all of us. The problem really is there is *zero* financial incentive to provide the sort of service that lets users exercise control of their viewing experience. It is far easier to make money when the viewer has limited choices than it is when they have more choice.

    BTW this is exactly why I quit using subscription programming. Take that money, and purchase programming on media. You can watch at your leisure, don't have to worry about recording and archiving so many things, and can trade with your friends for big savings. If you are tired of it, you can resell it for an even bigger savings.

    Just got the first three seasons of Stargate SG1. Now if I have a free hour, I can watch one of those. In the mood at 3AM and want to share an episode with a friend? Maybe it came up at dinner or work? No problem, do it anywhere you like whenever you like.

  • Taking the next step (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TrevorB (57780) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @07:06PM (#4621009) Homepage
    We already have this in Canada. Out on the west coast, 31 channels were introduced on digital cable (yes, more if you're on sattelite). You can get one channel a la carte for $2/mo, 5 for $6/mo, 10 for $10/mo, and all of them for $20/mo. No, I can't yet choose to keep the older (still analog) TLC and drop Home and Garden TV, but it's a start.

    There's also a lot of selection in PPV. Movies for $5 (a bit pricey I think).

    What I'd like to see next is the ability to order specific shows on stations you don't subscribe to, for, say, $0.25 a show. All the TV listings are already there in the Digital cable box. I'd be more interested paying for shows than for channels. Take that marketing data to see if a show should stay on the air or not.

    And for the record, I've only ordered one channel from the 31.
  • Great News! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Hott of the World (537284) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @07:44PM (#4621348) Homepage Journal
    If this thing pans out, I can cut my cable subscription from 500+ channels to 50! Think of the savings! Awesome! I could finally afford a TV to watch it on! Right Now Im just listening through my stereo, and let me tell you, Leslie Neilson should not be on the air...
  • by flibbidyfloo (451053) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @08:26PM (#4621606)
    OK, here ya go, straight from the Gov (relevant sections only):

    CITE

    47 USC Sec.543 01/02/01

    EXPCITE

    TITLE 47 - TELEGRAPHS, TELEPHONES, AND RADIOTELEGRAPHS

    CHAPTER 5 - WIRE OR RADIO COMMUNICATION

    SUBCHAPTER V-A - CABLE COMMUNICATIONS

    Part III - Franchising and Regulation

    HEAD

    Sec. 543. Regulation of rates

    STATUTE (Partial Text)

    (7) Components of basic tier subject to rate regulation

    (A) Minimum contents

    Each cable operator of a cable system shall provide its subscribers a separately available basic service tier to which subscription is required for access to any other tier of service. Such basic service tier shall, at a minimum, consist of the following:

    (i) All signals carried in fulfillment of the requirements of sections 534 and 535 of this title.

    (ii) Any public, educational, and governmental access programming required by the franchise of the cable system to be provided to subscribers.

    (iii) Any signal of any television broadcast station that is provided by the cable operator to any subscriber, except a signal which is secondarily transmitted by a satellite carrier beyond the local service area of such station.

    (B) Permitted additions to basic tier

    A cable operator may add additional video programming signals or services to the basic service tier. Any such additional signals or services provided on the basic service tier shall be provided to subscribers at rates determined under the regulations prescribed by the Commission under this subsection.

    (8) Buy-through of other tiers prohibited

    (A) Prohibition A cable operator may not require the subscription to any tier other than the basic service tier required by paragraph (7) as a condition of access to video programming offered on a per channel or per program basis. A cable operator may not discriminate between subscribers to the basic service tier and other subscribers with regard to the rates charged for video programming offered on a per channel or per program basis.

    (B) Exception; limitation

    The prohibition in subparagraph (A) shall not apply to a cable system that, by reason of the lack of addressable converter boxes or other technological limitations, does not permit the operator to offer programming on a per channel or per program basis in the same manner required by subparagraph

    (A). This subparagraph shall not be available to any cable operator after -

    (i) the technology utilized by the cable system is modified or improved in a way that eliminates such technological limitation; or

    (ii) 10 years after October 5, 1992, subject to subparagraph (C).

    (C) Waiver: If, in any proceeding initiated at the request of any cable operator, the Commission determines that compliance with the requirements of subparagraph (A) would require the cable operator to increase its rates, the Commission may, to the extent consistent with the public interest, grant such cable operator a waiver from such requirements for such specified period as the Commission determines reasonable and appropriate.

    --

    Note that this the 1992 "Act" is really only a set of ammendments to the original Title 47 (Telecom act of 1934).

    The relevant portion is here:

    "A cable operator may not require the subscription to any tier other than the basic service tier required by paragraph (7) as a condition of access to video programming offered on a per channel or per program basis."

    This means that it only applies to premium and pay-per-view channels i.e. "offered on a per channel or per program basis."

    Paragraph 7 also is vague enough about the "basic" service they have to offer that AT&T (my provider) can use their "Standard" package ($37.50/mo) as the base. I called them and they said "Sure, buy the $37 standard package and we'll sell ya HBO ala carte." But he wouldn't sell me HBO on top of the $12 "Basic" package, which may or may not be legal.

    Regardless, this means diddly for me, because I couldn't care less about HBO. I just want Comedy Central and Sci-Fi with my broadcast stations.

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