Consumer Watchdog: The Case For Cable to Offer Dynamic Pricing

500 channels and nothing on is an old adage this TV Addict has been hearing for the better part of our thirty-something years on this planet. It’s also an old adage we’ve never quite agreed with. Like money in the proverbial banana stand, there’s always something to watch on television if one take a moment or two to look closer.

That said, the cost-benefit of our ever-expanding cable bill, coupled with our daily responsibility that has us compiling’s “On TV Tonight” grid has recently got us thinking about one thing: Should consumers (and by extension the U.S. Congress that is currently looking into such matters) be clamoring for seasonal pricing in addition to a la carte cable pricing?

Full disclosure: Despite only watching a fraction of the channels offered, this TV Addict has never really had a problem paying for our so-called 500 channels. The way we see it, the bigger issue is that consumers pay the same amount for cable during the months of June, July and August than they do during September thru May. Do you know how little television this so-called TV Addict watches in June, July and August? Oh sure, the major broadcast networks will have you believe that they’re attempting to program year around, but let’s face it… With the exception of CBS’ upcoming Stephen King miniseries UNDER THE DOME we can’t think of one show we’ll be watching on ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and The CW. Not one! Which raises the slightly awkward albeit painfully obvious question: Isn’t there a better way?

Wait, there is!

For years now, Airlines have been charging customers different prices for flights depending on a multitude of factors including time of day, week, popularity of destination, demand etc. While more recently, major professional sports teams have followed suit. Case in point, our hometown Toronto Blue Jays charge more for a ticket versus the dreaded Yankees or Red Sox versus the not-so-entertaining Marlins or Royals. Yet for some reason or other, us non-cord cutters continue to shell out the exact same amount of money for an evening of reruns and reality versus, say, a Tuesday night schedule packed with new episodes PARENTHOOD, HART OF DIXIE, MINDY PROJECT, NEW GIRL?

Agree, disagree, post away.

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  • Maybe I just watch too much TV (the answer is yes) but I hardly ever feel like I have nothing to watch in the Summer–it feels just as busy as ever to me. I miss the days of reruns and 3 months to catch up on what you missed in the Fall/Winter or older shows you never watched.

    Besides the many first-run network offerings during the summer (one of which is Big Brother 3x per week), the cable channels also have a lot of new and returning shows. This kind of defeat the purpose of seasonal prices–I probably end up watching more cable channels than networks during the summer.

    There are probably only a couple dozen channels I actually watch across the entire year–versus the 500 or so on my cable package! I would love a la carte style pricing for channels if it allowed me to save money by dropping the music, standard-def, shopping, religious, sports and dozens of other specialty channels that I have never once watched (well, I do watch ESPN once a year for the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest, but I can live without that). Instead of paying over $130/month for 500 channels I only watch a fraction of, I would much rather pay half that for just the tenth of those I am even remotely interested in! If this means some channels go away completely because no one wants to pay for them, then so be it.

  • Kyle,
    Firstly, you most certainly do watch too much TV! Second, my fear with regards to a La carte pricing is that as someone who watched too much TV, I’ll be forced to be even more as channels I watch will no doubt cost more than the less popular ones. That said, something I’ll be discussing in a future piece is the fact that I’m forced to pay an enormous extra fee for sports channels which I don’t care about in the least!

  • I still get some basic sports channels, but there is only one step higher I can go on my cable package–and that includes even more of them, as well as a couple movie channels. I hate that they bundle these together as I would never watch the sports channels and not worth paying even more just for MGM or Fox Movie Channel, whichever it is.

    I hear you about paying more for some channels b/c no one watches them–I fear that might be the case as well. There is no way switching to a la carte would be able to reduce EVERYONE’s cable bill in half–the cable companies cannot just suddenly take in half as much revenue and operate in the same way. They would find a way to recoup the costs in other ways or stick it to the people who want the less popular channels. However, personally, I’d rather they decided gouge the sports fans. 🙂

  • It is an interesting subject, with the only sure outcome is that consumers will end up paying more!