The broadcasting trade group says the cable group’s plan against bundling niche programming channels goes against the Communications Act and would result in “a less informed and educated nation.”
It has been the worst year in recent memory for cable networks, with MSNBC, the History channel, Bravo, BET, USA Network and Comedy Central all seeing double-digit declines in audience this year. In March, cable ratings were down about 10 percent from the previous year. With new streaming services stealing away viewers, cable TV has been hit with a Darwinian shake-out where only the most popular networks, such as HBO and ESPN, are able to find paying customers.
As the television industry transitions in the digital age, cable profits are increasingly tied to broadband rather than video.
Now that third quarter reporting season is largely behind us, it’s worth stepping back from the numbers and delving a little deeper into what media CEOs had to say on the traditional cable bundle. It’s clear that the bundle is starting to evolve, but no one is quite sure what that will end up looking like. And no one wants to lose any money in the process, which may slow any radical changes to the market.
ESPN President John Skipper said pay TV companies should offer smaller packages of channels to consumers who don’t already get cable or satellite services. Skipper said there are 6 million to 8 million young people in the U.S. looking for television programming and that serving the audience would benefit the industry.
What happens when the “bundle” begins to unravel? The question is taking on intense importance for the cable-TV business, which for decades has forced customers to subscribe to groups, or bundles, of channels—whether they wanted them or not. Now pay-TV executives — as well as its customers — are openly pondering a world where the bundle no longer reigns, even though such a scenario could be years away.
Less choice and higher cable fees isn’t enough to allege injury under antitrust law, according to latest appellate decision.