Comcast and other lesser cable and satellite operators need to give up their totalitarian, take-it-or-leave-it approach to marketing and give subs more choice in picking channels. Here’s one idea.
Comcast is the TV equivalent of the old Soviet Union, oppressing its proletariat subscriber mass by determining just what channels they must buy and how much they must pay.
This Multichannel State decides how much drama, comedy, sport, violence, sexual content and stupidity they can stomach, and tosses it before them in take-it-or-leave-it packages secretly assembled by the marketing apparatchiks of Market Street.
And it’s not just Comcast. I’m picking on it because it’s the biggest. The other lesser cable and satellite operators take the same totalitarian approach—that’s Package 1 with 100 channels for $39.95, Package 2 with 150 channels for $59.95, and Package 3 with 200 channels for $79.95.
They all support and maintain a system in which consumers are not allowed to acquire the individual channels they desire. Rather, they are forced to buy prescribed packages, even though they may contain many channels they have no interest in.
Should the consumer wish not to pay for channels he or she won’t watch, or should the consumer wish for channels not within the package that is within his or her budget, well, Big Brother won’t permit that. That’s not the way The Multichannel State operates. It creates the packages. It decides which cable channels are subsidized.
Giving consumers choice would constitute capitalism and how could The Multichannel State survive under that kind of a chaotic economic system? How could unwatched and unwanted cable channels survive without the careful packaging of the The Programmer/Operator Who Knows Best?
Yet, at the risk of being dragged off to a Siberian gulag, may I suggest an alternative, a way for Comcast and its bullying brethren to bring a bit of freedom to its subscribers without destroying themselves or fomenting revolution in the streets. Let’s call it cable perestroika.
The proposal is for a gradual movement toward full-blown “a la carteÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â marketing. Consumers would be able to pick their channels, but they would be obliged to pick a minimum number of channels at escalating price points. In other words, they could choose 50 channels (and no fewer) for X dollars, 75 channels (and no fewer) for Y dollars and so on. They would assemble the packages for themselves.
As things are now, we are trapped in this weird system of Negative Free Choice When It Comes to TV Programming. We can do better. Perhaps this is where the telcos (and broadcasters?) come in and shake things up, giving consumers what they want and will pay for. No more forced packages with subsidies for the weak and unworthy.
Pay attention, Comrade Roberts. Even you can learn a thing or two from this system of capitalism. Choice is a wonderful thing.
Jimmy Schaeffler is the chairman and chief service officer of The Carmel Group, an 11-year-old Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.-based consultancy, publisher and conference organizer that focuses on the global multichannel industry. He can be reached at [email protected] and 831-643 2222.