i do not want espn, the golf channel, or yes

Stanley and I have a high-end subscription to our local cable monopoly, Cablevision. We pay the bucks so we can get Showtime and HBO and well as IFC, Sundance, and Flix. Movies are our escape, and there are certain shows we love that are only found on premium channels free of the FCC bullshit that's dumbing down the airwaves.

But we don't watch sports. None of them. The closest would be the Eukenuba Dog Shows on Animal Planet. We're not Yankee fans, yet we have to pay and extra buck a month for Yes. We don't give a rat's ass for golf, yet we have to pay for the Golf Channel. ESPN: as far as we're concerned, is a ripoff for us.

And I'm sure the sports freak who doesn't watch movies much feels the same way about having to pay for movie channels she doesn't watch.

We could probably cut our cable bill in half if we could pick and choose the channels beyond the broadcast channels that we want and are willing to pay for. We would keep SciFi, but dump MTV. Discovery stays, Fox News: gone.

The cable industry says it would be too expensive. Congress will show it's usual lack of spine and probably not do anything about this any time soon. All kinds of alarmist warnings are strewn about. So it was kind of interesting to read an article that says giving consumer a choice really isn't that expensive, that some cable companies really would like to offer a la carte service, and that the biggie cable company in Canada is already offering this service:

Technology Review: Watching Channel Zero

The cable and media companies cited tens of billions of dollars in estimated costs to equip their digital cable boxes with the necessary "traps" to block individual channels. But that figure may be questionable. I spoke with Jean-Paul Galerneau, communications manager for Videotron, a Canadian cable company that has offered a la carte cable selection for over two years. He claims that his company didn't have to change anything at the infrastructure level to offer a la carte. Videotron customers can change their channel selection every month by calling a customer service representative or simply by visiting the Videotron website. He professes puzzlement as to why the U.S. cable industry insists that a la carte selection would entail an expensive transformation. "It can be done very easily," he says.

A quick call to Scientific Atlanta -- the manufacturer of the cable boxes used by Videotron and a leading supplier in the United States -- confirmed that offering a la carte channel selection wouldn't require any changes to the box. "From a tech point of view, there wouldn't be a problem," says Peggy Ballard, vice president of strategic communications at Scientific Atlanta.

Granted, switching to an a la carte model would incur some costs, such as training, upgrading the billing infrastructure, and marketing. But the $17 billion to $34 billion figures cited in a cable-funded study seem wildly off the mark. Whats more, not all cable companies are opposed to offering a la carte. The demarcation occurs around the issue of media ownership. Some smaller cable companies with no media interests are willing to offer a la carte, while large conglomerates oppose it.

Read the rest -- it's interesting (and I think it's one of the free articles in Tech Review).
Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/05/04 at 03:40 PM
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