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Still hoping for a la carte cable channel options? Don’t hold your breath

A La Carte Cable Channels

The option to save money on pay-TV service by choosing channels a la carte instead of paying for a package of channels that go mostly unwatched has been cable subscribers’ collective dream for years. Following comments from three cable company executives made during a panel at CES 2013, however, it appears as though an a la carte option will remain a dream for years to come.

TechNewsDaily reports that executives from Verizon (VZ), DISH and Starz Media are all very aware that their subscribers don’t want to pay for channels they don’t watch, but pay-TV’s current subscription model is unlikely to change much over the next five years.

DISH’s Dave Shull said that just two media companies account for roughly 50% of pay-TV providers’ content costs, and accounting for the unbalanced costs would be extremely difficult with an a la carte model. Shull thinks that “mini-packages” composed of related shows available for purchase on-demand are as close as the industry will get to an a la carte option.

The panelists did acknowledge that the high cost of cable is driving some customers to cancel their pay-TV service in favor of streaming options like Netflix (NFLX). Such services will never give customers access to premium content according to one executive, however, because an $8 monthly subscription isn’t enough to account for the expense of licensing top shows.

“That doesn’t leave any room for buying original content, which can cost as much as $4 million an episode to create,” Starz Media managing director John Penney said.

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content.

Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment. His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.