For over a decade, the cable industry has maintained a united front on the issue of Cable Choice, determined to preserve the status quo – continuing to charging consumers for “bundles” of networks they never watch and don’t want. But now, some cracks in the alliance are beginning to show.
In the wake of Senator John McCain’s proposed Television Consumer Freedom Act, which would split up the “bundles” and allow customers to pay for only the channels they want to watch, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association has attempted to rally the entire cable industry to its banner – continuing the current system of forcing subscribers to pay for hundreds of channels they don’t want. In its quest, the NCTA spends almost $20 million a year in lobbying — more than the pharmaceutical or electric industries.
But with monthly pay-TV bills growing far faster than inflation and costs for TV approaching $100 a month, the industry has fractured. While cable giant Comcast and many other companies cling to the older model, some companies realize customers are dissatisfied, and are charting their own course. One such company is Charter Communications, the nation’s fourth-largest cable provider. Charter CEO Tom Rutledge called out the pro-bundle companies recently, saying:
“It is clear that consumers are being forced to purchase content that they don’t want or need. The tying together of networks by programming giants, combined with a lack of consistency in pricing for distributors and a complete lack of transparency surrounding that pricing, creates a no-win situation for consumers, who are forced to purchase large bundles of program content at prices that continue to escalate despite the myriad alternatives enabled by current technology. [It is time to give] consumers more choice in this difficult economic climate. [McCain's] proposed legislation is a logical step in that direction.”
The PTC has long called for Cable Choice – allowing consumers the right to pay for only that which they use. Senator McCain’s bill is a giant step in the right direction; and we applaud Mr. Rutledge for acknowledging that fact, and being willing to consider the interests of American consumers.