Cablevision, a cable television provider, is tired of having to carry a bunch of channels that its subscribers don’t watch and don’t want to pay for. As a result, the company has filed a lawsuit against Viacom for “illegally forcing Cablevision to carry and pay for 14 lesser-watched ancillary networks.”
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Right now, if cable TV providers want to offer subscribers MTV, Comedy Central, and Spike, it must bill their customers for MTV 2, VH1 Classic, Nick Jr., and a slew of other, less appealing channels. This practice — called bundling — enables Viacom to demand more money from companies like Cablevision. This isn’t the first time TV providers have pushed back at Viacom, either, as it participated in a very public pissing match with satellite service DirecTV last year.
Should Cablevision win, it could drastically change the pricing model to an “à la carte” system and abolish the current practice of bundled packages of channels (from multiple cable networks) that many of us have no choice but subscribe to each month. For instance, if you only watch HBO, Comedy Central, Science Channel, Discovery, and the History channel, you’d pay a monthly fee for each of them.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that bundled channel pricing will go away entirely, but we’d certainly get smaller bundles. Customers may find that Viacom will charge more for each channel, which could make a Viacom-specific bundled channel package more attractive. But at least that would be more of a choice than what consumers are currently getting.
Bundling generally works in the favor of content providers and not in favor of the cable companies and their subscribers. For example, to get ESPN on Charter Communications, you are also paying for ESPN2, ESPNews, and on occasion more networks than that, depending upon the package.
Putting an end to bundling could help save pay TV in the long run.