“Why can’t I just pick and choose which channels I want?”

Because you can’t, for obvious reasons.

The odds of a change to la carte are long. The majority of the national and local sports channels are owned by a handful of media giants who like the current system and have the leverage to make distributors accept it.

“Our efforts are totally frustrated by this cabal of a half-dozen media giants,” said Bob Gessner, president of Massillion Cable, an Ohio-based operator.

But the shit is getting out of hand.

The average household already spends about $90 a month for cable or satellite TV, and nearly half of that amount pays for the sports channels packaged into most services. [Emphasis added.]  Massive deals for marquee sports franchises like the Dodgers and Lakers are driving those costs even higher. Over the next three years, monthly cable and satellite bills are expected to rise an average of nearly 40%, to $125, according to the market research company NPD Group.

So far, people seem willing to pay. But the escalating costs are triggering worries that, at some point, consumers will begin ditching their cable and satellite subscriptions.

“We’ve got runaway sports rights, runaway sports salaries and what is essentially a high tax on a lot of households that don’t have a lot of interest in sports,” said John Malone, the cable industry pioneer and chairman of Liberty Media. “The consumer is really getting squeezed, as is the cable operator.”

People get pissed off enough about something like this, you can bet there’s an ambitious politician out there who will make hay out of it.  Think I’m exaggerating?  Kevin Drum calls this a “sports tax” and that’s just the way to get folks riled up.

14 Comments

Filed under It's Just Bidness

14 responses to ““Why can’t I just pick and choose which channels I want?”

  1. Bulldawg165

    Which is why I canceled my cable. Between Netflix, over-the-air news channels, ESPN3 and sports bars I haven’t missed a beat. A 40% price increase just to watch the game from your couch instead of at a bar is unsustainable IMO.

  2. Dante

    I can pick and choose what I want to watch. There are plenty of places available online to stream any sports content. A lot of them are even legal. We live in an age where the transfer of information cannot be reasonably stopped. ESPN will adapt or die. Given how they’ve now muddied the waters with WatchESPN being separate from ESPN 3 and requiring you to subscribe to a pay TV package, they appear to be choosing death. On the other hand, CBS Sports streams all of their college football content. Just as they have adapted to pay TV, it looks like they will also adapt to the information age model.

  3. Wolfman

    I ditched my cable too. I’ve found ways to stream whatever I want, and even though it’s more of a hassle, it beats overpaying for cable any day.

    I wonder how this will affect the money grab for markets that conferences are currently rolling themselves in. Once that source of revenue is obsolete, will conferences decide that having 14 or 16 teams spread out all over the country isn’t worth it anymore?

    • James

      This is exactly the thought I had when the Big Ten added UMD and Rutgers. The move sounds great now — you now demand 100% of house holds in MD, NJ and maybe even NYC buy your channel. It’s a parlor trick.

      But here’s the thing: that’s a parlor trick that only works when you make land grabs and have bundled packages. UMD and Rutgers were both below average (well below average, actually) in fans and attendance.

  4. Mayor of Dawgtown

    A la carte is possible, but only if some politicians in Washington grow a pair. That probably won’t happen. Once everybody in the country en masse cancels their cable/satellite TV subscriptions the whole sports system as we know it will collapse because there won’t be enough money for ESPN et al to pay for the programming. Some leagues will fold with the NBA likely the first to go.

  5. Lee

    We need more people to drop cable and satelite before anything changes, too many people want their ESPN though.

    As odd as it sounds, if I had just bought everything I actually like, through iTunes or amazon, I would have saved money in the long run, especially considering all the stuff I rematch anyway.

  6. Lumpdawg

    I’ve been with Direct TV for about 10 years, but I am getting close to cutting it soon. We got Apple TV this summer, and I can get pretty much all of the sports that I want on the pro level without having to pay $100s for a season pass. With HULU plus, I get pretty much all the regular TV shows a day late. The occasional Sports Center, MLB Network show, or random college basketball game is the only thing keeping me a subscriber. I’d love to hear specifics from some of you how you get these without having cable or satellite.

    I would think a la carte programming is coming sooner rather than later. Many think this is the reason why Apple is banking so much money. It wants to turn TV watching into something similar to itunes where you pay for what you want. Apparently, the music industry didn’t foresee the future of music like Steve Jobs, and it gave away its rights to Apple for close to nothing. They thought Steve Jobs was a joke with his little iPod machine. Apple completely changed the way we purchase music, and it wants to do the same with TV. The TV industry knows its coming, but it learned from itunes, and its going to charge a lot for the rights. When this day comes, we’ll all benefit. Instead of watching Sports Center, imagine watching the sports news program that you want. One that doesn’t spend ten minutes on Notre Dame and OSU, but one that focuses solely on Georgia and the SEC. The day’s coming.

    • AthensHomerDawg

      Not really. Jobs banked $ cash LONG BEFORE TV programming came into the picture. Jobs is gone. Once when he returned he cut the product line to 3 or 4. Check the smudging of the lines between Apple products now. Execs scrambling …. copyrights infringements…… Its about the depth of the pocket per law suits. Apple has deep pockets. Samsung does too. I’ll roll with Samsung Galaxy III and the One Note. One Note is a sweet heart to right apps for. …. so I am told. Anyway.. i’ve seen the results of “hotspotting” a Samsung to deliver a live stream of an ESPN3 black out. IMPRESSIVE . These aren’t GT guys and dolls at all. Creative bunch of kids. UGa kids. You would be surprised by what they can do. I am.

  7. Always Someone Else's Fault

    Once you miss a “big game” and wake up the next morning without any real regrets, you’ll never go back. I haven’t had a single “wow, wished I’d had cable so I could have watched that” moment.

    • Ncfarmer

      Agreed. Haven’t missed the cable one bit. Plus, the free, over-the-air signal is higher quality as well.

  8. PatinDC

    I think subscritions for everything are getting out of control. I also dislike bundling. A LOT. Try figuring out a Verizon FIOS bill with bundled services.

  9. Russ

    Its getting ridiculous. There’s the Longhorn network, which is dumb. And now here in Houston the Rickets are on something called Comcast Sports Network. I don’t care because I don’t follow those teams. But if they were my teams Id be pissed.

  10. Macallanlover

    Pretty scary above with all you guys going “alternative” on the TV programming, but I hear that more and more from the younger folks. I have Apple TV and don’t even watch it, I just listen to my playlists off iTunes and played through my house sound system. That alone was worth the $100 to me, but I know what you are doing makes more sense. I pay Direct TV about $130 a month to watch mostly news, live sports, and DVRed series stuff that I like. Way too much, and if the cable/satellite guys push too hard I may roll back the clock and get hip, abandoning those pushy, greedy, corporate fools.

    Only problem is, Macallan is damned expensive in bars and I would definitely be over $200 for 4 Saturdays each month in the fall, and 5-6 days of Masters and US Open converage, each. Hell, this cable/satellite might not be so bad having my own controls, bathroom, foods, etc. Crap, that saving money stuff was starting to sound good….never have been too good at that.