US Sen. McCain working on 'a la carte' cable TV bill

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014
Senator John McCain is working on a legislative proposal that would, if enacted, significantly reshape the landscape of the broadcast and cable television markets by pressuring cable providers to allow their subscribers to choose which channels they want to pay for.

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McCain (R-Ariz.) will reportedly introduce his legislation in the next few days, according to The Hill. The Arizona senator was formerly the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and has pushed similar legislation in the past to little effect.

McCain's bill would, in addition to urging cable providers toward a la carte pricing, ban the bundling of broadcast stations with cable channels owned by the same entities. This would, for example, keep Disney from requiring that cable providers pay for ESPN in order to carry ABC. The bill also puts an end to the sports blackout rule, which keeps companies from carrying a sports event if the game is blocked out locally.

Notably, McCain's bill also includes a provision that would punish broadcasters who pull high-value content from over-the-air television in order to put it on cable channels. This section of the bill is aimed at broadcast television networks that have said they would do just that if U.S. courts do not stop Aereo, a service that rebroadcasts their channels to subscribers' iPads and iPhones over the Internet.

While the future of the bill is uncertain, it highlights the increasingly complex situation broadcasters and cable providers find themselves in. Consumers are less willing to pay for steadily rising cable costs, and a number have turned to services like Netflix, Hulu, and Apple's iTunes in order to get the content they want without paying for scores of other channels.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings recently noted this trend toward piecemeal content consumption, saying that he believes such is the way of the future. Hastings predicted a world where "apps replace channels."

"Existing networks, such as ESPN and HBO, that offer amazing apps will get more viewing than in the past, and be more valuable," Hastings wrote. "Existing networks that fail to develop first-class apps will lose viewing and revenue."

Hastings' Netflix, along with the streaming service's rival HBO, are at the forefront of the television-as-app movement. Both companies have released rich app content on Apple's iOS and other platforms, allowing users to mirror their content on other screens and to interact with content using mobile devices as a second screen.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 148
    Let the free market determine what people want to watch or if Cable is too expensive. I just assume shut the damn thing off.
  • Reply 2 of 148
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member


    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

    McCain's bill would, in addition to urging cable providers toward a la carte pricing, ban the bundling of broadcast stations with cable channels owned by the same entities. This would, for example, keep Disney from requiring that cable providers pay for ESPN in order to carry ABC. The bill also puts an end to the sports blackout rule, which keeps companies from carrying a sports event if the game is blocked out locally.


     


    I like this because:


     


    1. It says 'urging', not 'forcing'. The latter would be insane.


    2. It's exactly the same thing Microsoft was forced to do, and that worked out for the best.


     


    It's a shame we need a law for these idiots to get their act together and offer what would actually be best for consumers, but that's how the telecoms have always worked.


     


    In the face of this, though, they just might be a LOT more amicable to Apple's plan than being forced to come up with their own. Non-hobby Apple TV (box), here we come!


     


    Of course, this thing needs moved to PO right now…

  • Reply 3 of 148
    geekdadgeekdad Posts: 1,131member


    The cable industry needs to be more consumer friendly. We should be able to choose which channels we watch and want to pay for.......It makes no sense to have 300 channels if you only watch say 15 on any kind of regular basis.


    Kinda off topic but the same could be said for AT&T and Verizon. I  pay for 6GB of data every month. Sometimes I use the full ammount. Sometimes only 3 or 4GBs of data. But then i should get a rollover of that data. I was charged for it.....if I don't use it then roll it over to the next billing cycle. 

  • Reply 4 of 148
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member
    McCain is an asshole and an idiot but even guys like that get things right sometimes.

    This will almost certainly fail however. It's the same thing the consumer has been asking for since the very dawn of cable television and the one thing they've been denied all these years. If it happens now, it will primarily be an indicator that cable TV is on the way out, as it would tell us that the folks involved in it no longer have the power to block this long-running consumer desire.
  • Reply 5 of 148
    mudman2mudman2 Posts: 54member
    And if this does not work he will push to invade France
  • Reply 6 of 148
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,586member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

     

    I like this because:

     

    1. It says 'urging', not 'forcing'. The latter would be insane.

    2. It's exactly the same thing Microsoft was forced to do, and that worked out for the best.

     

    It's a shame we need a law for these idiots to get their act together and offer what would actually be best for consumers, but that's how the telecoms have always worked.

     

    In the face of this, though, they just might be a LOT more amicable to Apple's plan than being forced to come up with their own. Non-hobby Apple TV (box), here we come!

     

    Of course, this thing needs moved to PO right now…

     


    I'ts not the same thing at all. And, as someone who despises all major cable companies with a passion, I can tell you that ala carte channels will simply not work--at least not anytime soon. The reason is that the first channels to fail will be the small, but popular ones...such as Animal Planet. They get revenue, in part, based on monthly fees paid by the cable companies (who in turn charge consumers as part of a package). Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast, has discussed this at length. He says the number one request of consumers is to have ala carte pricing. However, he also states that if it happens, a lot of the channels people love will fail. His argument makes perfect sense (he went into the numbers specifically during several interviews).

    I suppose it could work with major changes to the content delivery model, but that would require a absolute revolution. What are the odds of that? The cable companies are like the new RIAA--completely outmoded regional monopolies and duopolies fighting innovation every step of the way, all while crying about how consumers are cheating them. Unreal.
  • Reply 7 of 148
    arbiter8arbiter8 Posts: 35member

    Quote:


    McCain's bill would, in addition to urging cable providers toward a la carte pricing, ban the bundling of broadcast stations with cable channels owned by the same entities. This would, for example, keep Disney from requiring that cable providers pay for ESPN in order to carry ABC. The bill also puts an end to the sports blackout rule, which keeps companies from carrying a sports event if the game is blocked out locally.



     


     Urging will do nothing, without force of law the cable companies will continue to hold us hostage to either take it all or get nothing.  The ban on bunding, however, would be useful and could drive costs down because networks could no longer force the cable company to pay for channels that the cable company does not want just to have access to the ones it is willing to pay for.

  • Reply 8 of 148
    crees!crees! Posts: 501member


    Again, this is not a job for Congress and I'll just leave it at that.

  • Reply 9 of 148
    go4d1go4d1 Posts: 34member


    The broadcast networks will smear you John. They should all be converted to cable only and the Broadcast spectrum dedicated to something more valuable than Jerry Springer.

  • Reply 10 of 148
    chandra69chandra69 Posts: 638member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Bob Carpenter View Post



    Let the free market determine what people want to watch or if Cable is too expensive. I just assume shut the damn thing off.


    I second you.

  • Reply 11 of 148
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    I agree with the overall sentiment against bundling but his strikes me as odd that McCain would be against the free market and using "big government" to want to take care of something that should have been dealt with decades ago if it was to be dealt with at all, not when the internet is already breaking it down. This is like the EU going after MS just a few years ago for bundling IE with Windows.
  • Reply 12 of 148
    It's a nice try, but doesn't matter. The cable mafia will find a way
    to adjust pricing so we are paying the same we currently are. It's
    all an illusion.
  • Reply 13 of 148
    kpluckkpluck Posts: 500member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post



    McCain is an asshole and an idiot but even guys like that get things right sometimes.


     


    We will be sure to let you know when that happens to you.


     


    In any event, as a service to AI readers, I would like to provide everyone with a rule that accurately predicts if a bill will pass...


     


    If it truly helps consumers, it won't. That is all.


     


    -kpluck

  • Reply 14 of 148
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    memorydump wrote: »
    It's a nice try, but doesn't matter. The cable mafia will find a way
    to adjust pricing so we are paying the same we currently are. It's
    all an illusion.

    It really is. If the networks lose their ability to bundle they'll have to charge a lot more for the popular stations and much less for the unpopular ones. The cable companies will also do the same. If that results in the loss of too many cable TV customers they'll raise the prices on the cost of internet or well see more cable companies with caps and caps that are more restrictive, which will work because people ditching cable TV aren't likely to be ditching "TV" just changing the location of the source feed.
  • Reply 15 of 148
    rob bonnerrob bonner Posts: 237member


    Yeah, this is what I want Congress working on since there are no higher priority issues to deal with.

  • Reply 16 of 148
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,666member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post



    I agree with the overall sentiment against bundling but his strikes me as odd that McCain would be against the free market and using "big government" to want to take care of something that should have been dealt with decades ago if it was to be dealt with at all, not when the internet is already breaking it down. This is like the EU going after MS just a few years ago for bundling IE with Windows.


    Yes, it should have been done from the get go, but it wasn't. If this bill goes through it will dramatically change the landscape (or speed the change up). It will pave the way for someone like Apple to create a fully fledged real time TV service. 


     


    But I do wonder why McCain is onto this. It doesn't seem like a Republican move. Government (Big or small) should have been onto this forever. The Free Market can do it's thing (be opportunistic, provide services and obviously make money), but government's job is to regulate on behalf of everyman and this actually (on the surface) seems to  do that. 


     


    Will we end up paying less for our content? That is a different story and personally I doubt it, but for now I'll settle for more control over how and where I purchase my content.

  • Reply 17 of 148
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,339member
    rob bonner wrote: »
    Yeah, this is what I want Congress working on since there are no higher priority issues to deal with.

    Well while not disagreeing with the sentiment nor taking a stand on McCain's bill either way, I have to say if all Congress did was consider high priority laws then we'd be missing out on a lot of smaller not so important bills which are quite often important in their own way ... if that makes any sense at all ... :D I think I am trying to say little stuff matters too. If the people we send to Washington actually tried to work things out and not be intransigent so much they'd have time for both you'd thing!

    That's me not being political :)
  • Reply 18 of 148
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,666member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    It really is. If the networks lose their ability to bundle they'll have to charge a lot more for the popular stations and much less for the unpopular ones. The cable companies will also do the same. If that results in the loss of too many cable TV customers they'll raise the prices on the cost of internet or well see more cable companies with caps and caps that are more restrictive, which will work because people ditching cable TV aren't likely to be ditching "TV" just changing the location of the source feed.


    It will be interesting to see how this unfolds. Cable companies will struggle to be anything but connection providers unless they own stakes in content. That is why these companies have been investing in rights to content for the last few years - typically sports.  

  • Reply 19 of 148

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by paxman View Post


    Yes, it should have been done from the get go, but it wasn't. If this bill goes through it will dramatically change the landscape (or speed the change up). It will pave the way for someone like Apple to create a fully fledged real time TV service. 


     



     


    Can't believe it took 16 posts for this to get called out. 

  • Reply 20 of 148
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post



    I agree with the overall sentiment against bundling but his strikes me as odd that McCain would be against the free market and using "big government" to want to take care of something that should have been dealt with decades ago if it was to be dealt with at all, not when the internet is already breaking it down. This is like the EU going after MS just a few years ago for bundling IE with Windows.


    McCain is viewed as a liberal by the ultra conservative Republican leaders. He occasionally comes up with a reasonable idea or two but he always caves in and rolls on his back when his handlers disapprove of his consumer advocacy tendencies.

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