Om Malik over at Gigaom.com has some good research on a la carte that doesn’t come from my employer. I admit, I have always been one of those people who believe a la carte would be a good thing. I don’t anymore, and not just because I drink the NCTA Kool-Aid.
When I stopped to think it through, I realized that I may only watch a dozen or so channels with great regularity, but I channel surf like a fiend. I’m always finding some show on the construction of the Hoover Dam or some giant oil rig in the middle of nowhere.
If you truly use only a small handful of channels, you might save money on the programming. Of course, to do that, you would have to pay for a set-top box, which would negate your savings.
If I took away my channel surfing options, and truly limited myself to a handful of channels, I’d go nuts. I know this because I tried turning off my movie channels once. I lasted about a week before calling and turning them back on.
The fact is, people gravitated toward cable because they didn’t want to be stuck with three channels of nothing on. They wanted 150 channels. Now that they have it, they’re intrigued by the idea of only paying for their notion of “the best” of the 150.
The trouble is, the FCC debunked their own report because of a minor mathematical error in one of several studies that demonstrated a la carte was not a good option. Now they say it makes sense, even though they said it didn’t a year ago. All of this is despite the fact the original error was corrected and didn’t change the outcome. In fact further studies back up the original conclusion. A la carte sounds good until you actually put pencil to paper, then it makes no sense.
All of this is somewhat moot, though, as I still believe the real a la carte will be done by program, not by channel.