Over time I’ve certainly thought a la carte cable channel selection would be a step up. We dropped from a 100 channel, to a 50 channel package, but in reality we needed something like a 12 channel package, including the broadcast networks. A recent story at Variety, explained why we’re not going to get it, and why that’s probably what we want.
I know the temptation is to think that Variety would be arguing against a la carte cable selection for the usual argument: that the popular channels subsidize the less popular ones, which would not survive in an a la carte world. But no, the argument makes sense:
A la carte confuses the true brand currency of the TV kingdom: it’s the shows, not the channels. The programming-to-pricing ratio will be out of whack as long as the channel model holds sway.
To create a marketplace truly better off without the bundle, content companies would have to share their product in one massive trove for onestop shopping of tens of thousands of programs, where they can be re-aggregated by consumers free of traditional borders including channels, production companies and the conglomerates themselves. Then let great user experience and data-mining take care of the rest.
That may not mean the channels of yesteryear go away entirely. But the notion that unbundling will leave channels more important than ever, is folly. A la carte is a delusion we’ve held onto for so long that no one bothered to notice how obsolete it already is.