Zogby has a new poll out with some odd results. Apparently 52% of cable subscribers said they would prefer a-la-carte pricing, but only 39% believe it would save them money. Which means that for 13% of cable users, the idea that they’re only paying for the channels they want is more important than actually saving hard cash.
The problem with a-la-carte pricing is that priority channels (think ESPN) would be ridiculously expensive on their own and eventually cable companies would start throwing in free channels to entice subscribers… which would lead back to tiered services. (Not to mention the fact there needs to be a funding source for promising but unproven programming, but that’s another issue.)
Aside from the impracticality of cable-based a-la-carte, there are a growing number of alternative options for folks who want more control over their TV viewing. There’s streaming video, video downloads (for free and for sale), and video-on-demand services. Yes, I know you have to pay for a tiered cable service in order to access VOD, but then you get the control of buying whatever additional content you want. A friend of mine converted to digital cable last year when she was presented with a really good deal to make the switch from analog. I saw one of her bills recently and she had accessed four movies via VOD in one billing cycle. She got content she wanted to watch, when she wanted it, and the price was a lot cheaper than hitting the video store.
If it’s control (and the perception of control) that subscribers really want, they’re going to find it increasingly not just online, but in their existing cable services… even without a-la-carte programming.