I've been kicking around the problem of cable for a couple of years now. I recently made the every two-year switch between my local cable provider Comcast and DirecTV to get the new subscriber deals that they will never give to just keep me. One of my best friends made the opposite move at the same time. I was pretty close to cancelling both and just moving to internet based options, but I don't think we are quite there yet.
I keep hoping for some better option to be developed along these lines.
We know that cable companies have deals with the Cable channels and National networks that pay based on subscriber numbers and at least partially through viewership figures. What this looks like to me is a classic "Middle man" scenario. In the modern broadband era, there aren't many content situations where a middle man or distributor can bring additional value. In the past, the only way to get content was through a cable provider or a hard media copy. Today there are numerous viable ways for end users to find much of the content that they want and to watch it almost instantly.
I would love to see a solution that allows consumers to subscribe directly to individual network and cable channels via a monthly or annual fee. I imagine that if you wanted to watch a show on Food Network, you could pay a monthly fee that would give access to that entire network, including streaming live shows from a set top box like an Apple TV and perhaps a web app or a website. At the start of the next month, if you chose to watch another show on that channel, it would automatically renew but if there is nothing that you wanted to watch that month, you just wouldn't be charged. The number of different channels that you choose to subscribe to, would determine your monthly fee. In other words, you don't pay for channels that you don't watch.
Imagine paying between $2 and $5 each month for each channel that you choose to watch. I actually did a little study a couple of months ago and figured out that we watched 11 channels. I don't know about you, but for me that comes out to a much lower bill than what I pay currently.
I'm not aware of what sort of profits networks and cable channels bring in per cable subscriber, but if these numbers are even slightly accurate, I imagine that a package like I've outlined would be a much better deal for consumers and may cut out a significant piece of overhead for channels and allow for more freedom and higher quality in programming. According to some recent statistics available from the Cable TV Wikipedia page, the typical cable channel only collects between 2 nd 20 cents per subscriber, while ESPN, which seems to stand alone here, requires as much as $4.08 per subscriber.
One other major benefit over time would also be the ease of direct sales for more niche programming than is currently available. I would hope that this would really refocus on content quality as consumers can just vote with their subscription money.
I totally understand the big money that would oppose a change like this, but staying tied down to coaxial lines and bundled pricing is going to go away. It really is just a matter of who makes the first move.
I'm ready for this.