Washington, D.C. (March 6, 2013) -
Editor's Note: TV's
Answer Man, aka Swanni, takes your questions regarding how to
best use the latest products and services in TV technology. If
you have a question about TV technology, ask TV's Answer Man by
sending an e-mail to
Q. I hate that my
cable bill keeps going up! I read that something called a la
carte would fix that, but I couldn't figure out from the story
what a la carte TV actually meant. Can you help me, TV Answer
Man? -- Aimee, Forestville, Maryland.
Aimee, I sure can. A la Carte TV is the term used to describe
the concept of allowing pay TV subscribers to only pay for the
channels they want to watch. Instead of ordering a pre-set
package of channels from your cable or satellite operator, you
would buy the channels individually.
For instance, you might buy ESPN for $5.99 a month; CBS, ABC,
NBC and Fox for $3.95 each; FX for $2.99; your regional sports
channel for $9.99 and so on.
Sounds fair, right? Why pay for a package of channels that
includes some that you don't want?
Well, fair isn't always feasible and that's the case with a la
Carte TV. If the cable or satellite operators offered channels
on an individual basis, two things would likely happen.
One, to ensure they keep their profits high, the pay TV
operators would price the individual channels at rates higher
than you might expect. ESPN wouldn't likely be $5.99 a month; it
would probably be closer to $10 or more. Why? With subscribers
ordering fewer channels overall via a la Carte, the pay TV
services would have to charge accordingly to maintain the same
Two, niche channels such as the Military Channel, the NHL
Network, ESPN Classic, the Cooking Channel and many others would
likely be dropped from your lineup because they wouldn't
generate enough revenue.
You may say so what, but everyone has a favorite niche channel.
I always tell people that everyone has a list of his or her 10
favorite channels; about seven of those channels are probably
the same on most lists, but the last three are always different
and they are the niche channels. You might like cooking. I like
baseball. You'll want the Cooking Channel. I'll want the Major
League Baseball channel.
With program bundles, the pay TV services make enough money to
keep the niche channels on. But if a la Carte was the norm, they
could only afford to offer channels that generated a certain
level of revenue -- and that would be bad news for the small,