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Web's Rise Forces Cable Unbundling

  • Reuters, Wednesday, September 28, 2011 12:30 PM
Long feared by programmers -- and dreamed of by consumers -- cable unbundling is finally coming, reports Reuters. "U.S. cable operators are privately working on a plan to force programmers to unbundle their networks and allow customers to subscribe to channels on an individual basis," the news service writes. "The plan represents a complete reversal from cable operators' long-held opposition to what is known as 'a la carte' programming."

What sparked the shift? Executives now seem to believe that unbundling is a necessary response to shifting market forces like higher carriage costs, a weak economy, and, of course, the Web's increasing prominence.

Representative of the industry's woes, Comcast and Time Warner Cable -- the two largest operators -- collectively lost 1.2 million video customers over the past year (as of June, according to Reuters). An "a la carte" menu of programming would give consumers who are not sports fans, say, the freedom to drop high cost sports channels, such as ESPN from basic packages.

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