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[ NNSquad ] Re: Atlantic article claims "Cable TV is Doomed"

The issue of a la carte is worth thinking about in terms of economics in
general. We seem to have warped the idea of Capitalism into a la carte
funding of everything in society with the notion of every part only being
valuable if it is valuable in isolation. This is part of the current debate
over health care and so much more.


We also see this in "broadband" based on the notion that each wire should be


There's the converse problem of trying to create a blizzard of fees, tools
and other nuisance charges to fund the commons by telling stories. Here too
we see it playing out in broadband by saying that we could auction off all
the spectrum in order to fund the wires that should make "spectrum"
worthless. But why worry, it's just a story . isn't it?


I'm glossing over the question of how we decide what the commons is - with a
la carte textbooks are we going to simple teach people what the most local
community believes in without challenging it?


Responding more narrowly to the question of "cable":


I agree that with the both the "demise" of cable since NBP is simply Cable
V2 (with the fixation on highs speed for video) and the dangers of a la
carte. It's the same as the newspaper problem. Fox News [sic] is
entertainment and all-the-more important because it is profitable even if


As I understand it Discovery et al are viable as part of a package but not
on their own. And I'm willing to accept ESPN in the bundle if it gives me
Discovery, History etc. But even then we already see it with so much of
History about ghosts and supernatural stuff. PBS has Nova but also a lot of
questionable content too.


Perhaps this is the problem with Hulu -- it moves us towards a la carte.
Maybe HBOGo is a better example of content as a part of whole rather than
parts purely a la carte. We saw a similar situation in video games years ago
when the market collapsed due to abundance. Things might be different now to
the extent that high production costs have become an effective barrier to


This is a complex and fluid topic - for now it is important to be aware of
the problems with the a-la-carte model as well as the issues with bundling. 

  [ I also chuckle over History Channel's gyrations between nonsense
    programs and genuinely eye-opening ones.  But even with a single
    channel, if they don't have wide enough appeal they probably
    could not survive.  Sort of like the broader a la carte situation
    in microcosm.

      -- Lauren Weinstein
         NNSquad Moderator ]


-----Original Message-----
From: nnsquad-bounces+nnsquad=bobf.frankston.com@nnsquad.org
[mailto:nnsquad-bounces+nnsquad=bobf.frankston.com@nnsquad.org] On Behalf Of
Lauren Weinstein
Sent: Saturday, March 20, 2010 15:05
To: nnsquad@nnsquad.org
Subject: [ NNSquad ] Atlantic article claims "Cable TV is Doomed"



Atlantic article claims "Cable TV is Doomed"


http://bit.ly/au5nkb  (Atlantic)


The author inexplicably says of the FCC's National Broadband Plan:


"But the measure, if it passes, will accelerate the demise of cable

 television as the standard method of consuming television."


Hmm.  There's no measure there to pass as far as I know, just a 

series of recommendations, each of which will be in various 

combinations ignored, altered, sliced, diced, modified, mutated, 

skewed, skewered, and/or mutilated by Congress and the Courts.


Anyway.  As I've noted before, the concept of purely "a la carte"

programming (regardless of the delivery mechanism) carries with

it the risk of a "race to the bottom" of lowest common denominator

programming that will appeal to the most people.  It's hard to

see how specialty channels (yes, including some of my favorites)

could survive outside the subsidy model.  


The result could be a viewing universe consisting almost entirely of

crime dramas, sports, and cheap unscripted ("reality") shows from

professional producers, since these might be the main categories of

programming that could attract sufficient stand-alone revenue to survive.


No doubt some people might prefer such a universe, but I must admit

that I would not.



NNSquad Moderator