It may be no coincidence that Sen. John McCain's bill to revamp most of the modern TV business -- including a plan to give consumers the option to buying as many cable channels as they
want --- comes at the same time major TV networks are offering their new fall programming.
The logic increasingly makes sense to many: Why should consumers pay for 130 channels when they only watch, at best, 14 networks? The response from the TV business executives: If we offered you want you wanted, you'd pay more per month.
Major TV broadcast networks might not figure in this argument much. That's because most of the focus revolves around cable networks, especially those high-priced speciality networks like ESPN.
Paul Lee, president of ABC Entertainment Group, reminded journalists at a pre-upfront press conference that networks like ABC aren't cable channels. Broadcast networks still look to appeal to the widest possible number of people: men, women, young, old, rich, poor, and all those in-between.
If you have an over-the-air digital antenna — or even one of those digital "Internet" antennas from the controversial Aereo — you can get one of these wide-reaching networks. Cheap.
Yes, networks like ABC have cooking shows ("The Taste"), sports programming (the NBA), dramas, comedy, news shows, daytime talk shows, and late night entertainment. What a concept! For many, a broadcast network is like a cable network highlight show.
So-called "a la carte" programming — if somehow allowed to happened — would not only hurt many cable networks, it could be a major boom to TV broadcast networks that have been losing audiences for decades.
The theory of a la carte programming has been around for some time. But what McCain and others really get wrong is that "a la carte" programming isn't only about choosing specific networks. Increasingly, consumer behavior is about picking specific TV shows, not just Bravo over ESPN, HGTV over Fox News, MSNBC over the Food Network. Digital video platforms like Netflix, Hulu and networks own video-on-demand efforts have seen to this.
You just like AMC's "Walking Dead," but not "Mad Men"? Many younger viewers would tell you: Why can't I have exactly what I want?
The same should go for the broadcast networks. I'll take one "Castle" from ABC, a "Community" from NBC; a "Beauty & The Beast" from the CW; and a little bit of "Late Show with David Letterman" from CBS. Wait, I can do this!
A la carte programming will probably take on a new definition in the future -- possibly where consumers won't even want to buy and watch a whole TV program. Maybe just the highlights. Just the main course, not the salad or the aperitif.