How traditional TV networks’ resistance gave birth to a la carte pay TV

“TV networks have fiercely resisted selling their services individually; but in doing so, they’ve allowed something better to blossom,” Jared Newman writes for TechHive.

“Most people wouldn’t categorize Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, or Hulu as a la carte channels. They’ve never been part of any standard pay-TV package, and they don’t have linear programming feeds that you can flip through on a set-top box. And with vast catalogs of video on demand—much of which you’ll never watch—these streaming services are really, at a certain level, miniature bundles,” Newman writes. “But at their core, aren’t channels just mini-bundles too?”

“The difference compared to cable, of course, is that you don’t have to subscribe to all of these options, which in turn pits them directly against each other and creates fiercer competition. Amazon and Netflix are in an arms race to produce the best original programming, yet each has enacted only one price hike over the years. Meanwhile, lower-profile services like Crackle are completely free and ad-supported, while still producing interesting niche content, such as Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” Newman writes. “This is how it should work, with interesting channels competing for your business instead of cramming your cable bill.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As this unfolds, and traditional TV networkss continue to wise up, it opens up many possibilities for Apple TV’s future.


  1. Different levels of “a la carte,” or “bundling.” At the most discrete level, Apple sells (and rents) individual movies and TV shows. At the next level, there are choices on the Apple TV home screen (and via Mac web browser and iOS app) that are “mini-bundles” of content, such as NetFlix and Hulu, sold as a monthly subscription. And at the top, there are “mega-bundles” of content (bundles of bundles), which is what you get from cable TV service – all or nothing.

    Currently, the mega-bundle providers are in charge of TV, but mainly because cable TV providers have to power to “force” the bundling of cable TV service with Internet service. If and when typical consumers can get Internet service separately for a fair price, without it being attached to cable TV service from the same provider, THAT is when going “a la carte” becomes more popular and eventually dominant.

    1. “mega bundles” are dead man walking relics of a long ago technology (1940s/1950s). By the end of this decade broadcast (via airwaves or cable) will lose their grip on how content is consumed.

    2. Anyone that understands business and growth know the cable providers will never go all carte because a certain cash is necessary to maintain and grow its services – and most importantly, its profit. Growth is necessary to repay investors and to survive.

      So while some move to provide ala carte-like service, such as Amazon and Hulu and Netflix, don’t forget the cablers now control the pipes through which these smaller ‘choices’ flow. As the cablers lose customers, the price for Internet services will climb.

      There won’t be any real money savings for those who prefer just a few channels because there is almost no competition for the cable companies who effectively control the Interent.

      When the internet took off on the mid-90s there was plenty of completion nationally between a couple of national providers and numerous regional companies. Cable effectively wiped these out using the speed their cable network could provide that the competition could not.

      Never going to happen.

  2. I’m not sure I understand the semantics of what Jared Newman has written. But at their core, aren’t channels just mini-bundles too? <– HUH?

    But yes, this is a new customer driven market for media. The always asinine cramming of bundles down cable victims throats is winding down. I personally love it. It's my first anniversary of dumping cable and the big difference is that I'm not getting hammered with cable fee gouging. Meanwhile, I have access to everything I personally want to watch for a lot less money, whenever I choose to watch it, not when some boss-of-me network chooses to show it to me.

    This is a vast change for the better. I won't be responding to people with the ‘but a la carte costs more’ argument. For me, no it does NOT. But I’m comfy with the bleeding edge of finding media on the net for myself.

    Also, I invested years back in a decent amplified antenna to pull in the local digital TV off air channels. [For those interested: Philips TV Antenna MANT510 HDTV UHF VHF FM Indoor 50 DB Amplified]

    1. Do you get sports channels like ESPN, Fox Sports, and NFL Channel in SD/HD without a TV subscription?

      If so, then by all means enlighten me.

      1. There are nefarious ways to get some of what interests you. But note how I talked specifically about only myself in my post.

        I’m lucky in that I enjoy watching X Game sports on the boob box. At least I can watch a lot of highlights of X Game competitions. But of you, I see your point, of course!

  3. I am eagerly awaiting the day (and who knows if it will ever happen) where I can have Netflix, or similar, and an “a la carte” package of less than ten networks. That is really all we watch at my house.

  4. They need to incorporate similar taste blackouts on the Apple Music “bundle” like certain type of contemporary musical crap lockouts so we don’t have to suffer the talentless a-holes out there. A banned list of artists too. Program in your tastes and never fear to hear from the assholic, talentless, egomaniac & criminal likes of Kanye West & Chris Brown again.

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