Low-Rated Cable Channels Soon To Be History?

In this age of testy retransmission battles, a remark from a DirecTV executive -- that some low-rated cable networks might be on the outs -- came as no surprise.

Retransmission wars have been eating into TV/video programmers' revenue for some time -- all because big TV networks are selling the point that their viewership is big and valuable.

Derek Chang, executive vice president of content development and strategy for DirecTV, didn't single out any networks, but did say some questions should be asked, perhaps "just to remove certain channels from our platform if they are not relevant."

He might also make a case for those networks that cost satellite, cable, or telco video operators too much, or aren't a big local-advertising-generating machine for cable operators and other video retailers.

What about program diversity, you say? The cable industry, for all its history, has never been a big philanthropic organization in this way.



Increasingly virulent carriage wars that take place between cable operators and all programming networks are only the tip of the iceberg. Soon there'll be outright cancellations of low-rated cable networks.

Press releases will be issued -- that, for example, the Accountant Nose-Hair Network or the Furry Clown Channel is no longer available on their system.

We'll then wait for the usual grass-roots response from a very select group of fans whose efforts will be heroic, but will fail. Cable programmers will then attempt to shift their efforts to the Internet or some other limited digital platform.

Diversity? You've got it on the Internet. Your production facilities will come from the video on your iPhone. Get a few more viewers and soon you'll buy another phone and get Google to send a few ads to your site. In turn, they'll send you a few pennies for those banner messages.

If it seems cruel, ask yourself about those dozen or so, odd broadcast network programs that get immediately canceled or never make it into their second seasons. If they don't draw an audience -- no matter the reason -- they are out.

11 comments about "Low-Rated Cable Channels Soon To Be History? ".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, December 7, 2010 at 2:13 p.m.

    Amen. Good analysis.

  2. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., December 7, 2010 at 2:29 p.m.

    I often wonder why I'm paying for a multitude of channels I never watch. When cable first became available - your choices were pretty much HBO or HBO, now I've got 500+ channels, a cable bill that's spiralling upwards at an uncontrolled rate and a whole mountain of channels I never watch that I pay for. In all fairness, I probably wouldn't have been exposed to such gems as "Breaking Bad" or "Jerseylicious" (seriously) if I didn't have access to the entire universe of channels that enhanced-mega-uber-global basic now provides. That being said, now that I've got On-Demand, I'd like to cancel about 90% of the "live" channels I have and just watch stuff as it becomes available on On-Demand. I have no need as a consumer to fork out big bucks for the "live" or first-run experience as I'm busy when most of that stuff airs the first time anyway. How about this for a new model: a flat fee for On-Demand access and a small incremental fee for the live channels I want - not the "bundles" some marketing dunderhead at the cable company creates. Anarchy? You bet. Otherwise, after a certain point - I'll just snip the ol' cable programming cord and let the bandwidth do the talking. I really never watch Animal Planet.

  3. Michael Kaplan from Blue Sky Creative, December 7, 2010 at 2:40 p.m.

    Personally, I can't wait for a la carte pricing -- or the entire spectrum of TV watching going PPV. I figure the amount of money I save by not watching overpriced sports channels (especially rammed down our throats in the basic tier) will let afford me all the TNTs, AMCs, USAs, SyFis and G4s I want.

  4. Todd Koerner from e-merge Media, December 7, 2010 at 2:59 p.m.

    Every time I pay that DirecTV bill at the same time I see another inane channel added to my package, I seethe. I suspect DirecTV is beginning to see the writing on the wall and cutting the fat, because if they don't, I will intensify my search for alternatives, as I predict many others will, too.

  5. Dave Scott from Scott Traffic LP, December 7, 2010 at 6:28 p.m.

    These comments are from users. Look at it from the company's standpoint: Turning individual channels on or off for each individual subscriber will be both a technical and administrative (billing) nightmare. Family members will call the TV vendor to complain they're not getting a channel that someone else in the family called to get turned off.
    It will cost the TV/cable/satellite company more to administer the turn ons/offs than you'll ever save for that obscure channel, or even dozens or perhaps even a hundred obscure channels. In other words, you won't really save money.
    If you ran a business, especially a retail store, you would understand.

  6. George McLam, December 7, 2010 at 7:35 p.m.

    The cable companies have never tried ala carte and have come up with lots of reasons they shouldn't. I can't think of another non-subsidized business where money losing entities are desired. Implementing ala carte would, among many other things, provide totally accurate data about what channels people are willing to pay for.

    As far as the comment about a "nightmare" to implement by the cable companies; cable needs to move into the present century. Each account should be available to their respective customers online where channels can be selected and unselected (and charged accordingly). No need for calling a human or the last century style house calls to "turn on and off channels".

    This is good news that so many dead channels may be history. I am sure they will find life on YouTube/etc rather than taking up precious bandwidth over mainstream TV delivery.

  7. Chuck Lantz from, network, December 7, 2010 at 8:47 p.m.

    Unless an ala carte system is implemented, the quality of the available cable menu will, once again, take another step towards even more mediocrity. Welcome to Lowest Common Denominator City.

    The potential good news is that this can only help push serious consideration of the internet for original programming. The sooner, the better.

  8. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, December 7, 2010 at 9:04 p.m.

    Vuh den ?

  9. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, December 8, 2010 at 5:44 p.m.

    As a user, the last thing I want is ala carte. One of the cable's called with an ala carte phone survey a couple of years ago. Yikes.

    Turned me off COMPLETELY to the idea. Just give me a decent choice among 4 or 5 packages and I don't care if there's some stuff I don't watch much.

    My sense is that consumer ADVOCATES yell loudly about ala carte. But the vast number of houses would find ala carte choices to be a step backward - not forward.

    In part, for a large portion of the mass TV viewing population, their viewing choices migrate constantly. With bulk pricing, they can migrate.

  10. Steve Coon from Iowa State University, December 8, 2010 at 6:27 p.m.

    I have no problem with a business decision to drop low-rated channels.

    The over-the-air networks cancel low-rated programs all the time because they don't attract the desirable target audience.

    It makes good business sense.

    As a consumer, however, I want the opportunity to seek either channels or programs that may not attract a huge viewing audience.

    Give me the choice to decide if I want to pay for a subscription or per-view of particular content if that's what is necessary. If that's the Internet, so be it.

  11. Kevin Barry, December 9, 2010 at 6:54 p.m.

    The problem with a la carte is that you might not be able to predict which channels you will want to watch in the future. A lot of viewing is still people tripping over programming they like. As far as being like over-the-air networks and seeking a (large) desirable audience--the over-the-air networks aren't doing so well, are they?
    Finally, I can guarantee that a program like "Mad Men" would never have seen the light of day if PRIOR to its being produced AMC didn't have the benefit of a healthy dual-revenue stream. You won't be able to PPV your favorite high-quality programs if they never get produced in the first place.

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