Smaller Cable TV Bundles: Better Sampling, More Viewing?

Might smaller cable TV bundles be a savior for some TV networks, producing higher ratings?

Networks in traditional pay TV bundles, from cable, satellite, or telco services, can get lost in the growing array of cable channels -- sometimes as many as 150 to 200 channels in a package. So a slimmed-down market of TV channels might be beneficial. No, we’re not talking about “a la carte” packaging and pricing, but of smaller 30-channel packages that could develop as part stand-alone digital cloud-based TV services -- a trend that seemingly could grow over the next decade.

That trend appeals to A&E Networks, according to CEO Nancy Dubuc. "There's an awful lot of waste in the current system," The Street quotes her as saying. "I'm more excited about being in a 30-channel universe, and being sampled, than being in the 150-channel universe. Making sure that we're in those smaller packages is my No. 1 priority."



The 30-channel model would work well in theory, but there are a few pressing questions to consider (among many others): What package do you belong to? Or do you start your own cloud-based stand-alone service? For example, Dish Network has started up a slimmed-down cloud based TV service called Sling TV. But CBS All Access and HBO Go, is focused just on those one network/TV company’s  programming.

What to choose if you are a prospective stand-alone cloud-based TV service?  One approach: use just a small array of top-rated channels. But what about those networks further  down the list?

Using Dubuc's parameters to be in a group of 30, networks ranked 21 through 30, using fourth quarter 2014 numbers, are Syfy, Bravo, ID, Nick at Nite, Spike, Comedy Central, Disney Jr., VH1, BET, and Animal Planet. Coming in just under those networks are Fox Sports 1, Hallmark Movie Network, CNN, MSNBC, and MTV.

Of course, that’s just a rough picture. If stand-alone cloud-based TV services become popular, there will be plenty of variations on pricing arrangements and who will be included. This will provide fun --  and perhaps one or two late-night headaches -- for TV executives in the future.

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