Pollster Zogby Interactive said 52% of cable users would prefer to buy only individual channels, instead of being sold the current pre-packaged set of networks by cable and satellite distributors.
But many of those same consumers--37%--believe an a la carte regime would be more expensive. Roughly the same number--39%--believe an a la carte system would be less expensive. About 10% believe the costs would remain the same.
Other results were in line with how consumers feel about cable--that it is generally too expensive (82%). More men than women want an a la carte system--56% versus 48%. Cable subscribers over 25 want it more than younger cable watchers.
Cable network executives have been virtually unanimous in declaring that if the U.S. went to a system that enabled every consumer to pick and choose their own channels, it would drastically disrupt their operations--in particular, selling to national TV advertisers.
Analysts say while many of the broad-base cable networks would be less affected, smaller cable programmers would almost assuredly be hurt. Consumers agree. According to the poll, Zogby says 42% were concerned that less-popular networks would be lost under a new pick-your-own-networks system.
This analysis will no doubt help Federal Communications Commission chair Kevin Martin in his efforts to push the cable industry toward an a la carte system.
This interactive survey was conducted among 3,254 adult cable subscribers over a two-day period, Sept. 25 and 26.