Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

How Badly Do You Really Want Your MTV–Or Your ABC or Fox or Your Food Network? Cablevision Wants to Know.

Now this is a telephone survey I’d love to answer, and I bet many of you would too: Cablevision, the Long Island-based cable operator, has been polling subscribers and asking them how much they’d like to pay for various channels.

From Broadcasting & Cable’s report:

Among the most surprising set of questions to consumers: “Do you watch broadcast TV?” If customers responded yes, then they were asked how much they would pay for Fox, or ABC, in particular. The multiple choice offered was: pay nothing, 50 cents, or one dollar? Customers were also asked if they’d be upset to lose either of those channels entirely….Cablevision customers were also asked if they mostly watched shows on cable or on broadcast TV and how upset they’d be to lose particular cable services.

As Claire Atkinson notes, Cablevision’s (CVC) likely aim here is gather ammunition for license fee battles like the one it just had with Scripps (SNI) over the Food Network and HGTV. And the one it is about to have with broadcasters like News Corp.’s (NWS) Fox and Disney’s (DIS) ABC.

But it would be fascinating for the rest of us to see just how much value cable customers really assign to various channels.

The conventional wisdom among the kinds of people who read this site is that TV watchers only care about a few channels and are willing to do without the others. Using that logic, the argument goes that the cable industry should embrace “a la carte” pricing instead of the package deals it promotes now–or risk getting eviscerated by Internet video.

Maybe. My suspicion is that most TV watchers like a lot of the channels they have–maybe not all six versions of ESPN, but at least a couple dozen different networks–and would be loath to give them up, which real a la carte pricing would require.

For instance, ESPN currently gets something like $4 for each subscriber, but only about 25 percent of cable subs actually watch the network. So in an a la carte world, Disney would end up charging something like $16 per ESPN customer to keep its revenue steady. ESPN is at the top of the food chain, but still, you can see how an a la carte bill could jump up fairly quickly.

In any case, I don’t think we’re going there anytime soon. In the meantime, I’d love to see that polling data. What do you say, Cablevision?

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