At 6:58 PM -0500 11/21/07, Manfredi, Albert E wrote:
Certainly, "a la carte" cable would very likely eliminate many of the niche channels, which I suppose would include the "minority" channels. Which is why I always wondered why Craig keeps asking for a la carte choice, and then complains about how hard it is for small producers to get their stuff out on TV systems.
Why would ala carte result in the availability of less channels?The problem for minorities now is gaining access to distribution. Other than the use of a TV license and must carry to get programs onto cable, it is nearly impossible for independent producers and small minority owned businesses to get distribution via cable, DBS et al.
Meanwhile, cable systems are trying to find spectrum for new services, as the FCC wants them to simulcast in analog at least through 2012. There are a growing number of channels now available in HD, and cable is being forced to make room for these as the Satcasters are using a strong line-up of HDTV channels to attract new subscribers.
And let's not forget that cable is doing a land office business with broadband and they are using some spectrum for POTS.
The FCC is threatening to change the rules on leased access, making it a bit easier for minorities to buy time on cable, but this is cost prohibitive if you want to launch a 24/7 network.
Ala carte would allow consumers to vote with their dollars for the content they want to watch. This "could" change the dynamics for programming for minorities.
But the reality is that the Time and Channel, 24/7 world of network programming is dying.
Most consumers only watch a handful of the channels they are forced to pay for, and they only watch a few shows on these networks. The whole idea of a network is losing its importance, especially as other network services like news are confronting declining ratings.
As we shift from the TV guide model of programming to a download model, network carriage is going to lose some of its importance. I say some, because many of the cable networks contract with independent producers to create their programs - this financing/distribution model for content production is beneficial for both parties, and is likely to survive, keeping most networks alive.
The real power behind the media conglomerates flows from two areas: 1. Control of content creation/distribution 2. Cross PromotionThere is no question, now that five companies own 90% of the content that we can watch, that the control of distribution is critical to their success. THIS is the real problem that minorities and independent producers face. But promotion has always been a critical part of the game. No just the direct use of promos and commercials placed in other outlets for popular programming, but the entire food chain is interdependent for promotional survival. Thus we see a constant parade of Hollywood stars on the morning "news" shows, Leno, letterman et al, the syndicated morning and afternoon talkers like Oprah. And the networks are willing to lose money on big sports franchises like the NFL and the Olympics, if for no other reason than their value as a promotional engine.
The first step toward opening up the channels of distribution (other than the Internet), is to get rid of these forced tiers of programming where we pay subscriber fees for stuff we don't consume. When consumers have a vote, it is highly likely they will not keep paying for stuff they don;t want, but they may be more willing to pay for the stuff they do want.
Ultimately its all about the ability of the distribution infrastructure to handle 1 to 1 and 1 to few transactions. Currently the media conglomerates can use technology as an excuse (at least they can blame analog cable). But with digital distribution it will be possible to handle transactions effortlessly and cheaply.
The claims that ala carte will make content more expensive is just ludicrous fear mongering.
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