What do you want from television? Sorry, that’s trick question. What we want varies person to person but two things remain the same. First, television viewing is changing. Second, we really want ala carte TV.
A whole generation of viewers are growing up without the monthly subscription of cable TV. Instead, they get their video fix by watching whatever they can get on their smartphones, or via Netflix, Hulu, or various applications on Roku. The rest of us bite the bullet, pay for cable TV, and use Apple TV while wishing for a dream and hoping our video nightmare will end.
Ala Carte TV
What we want is what everyone has wanted since cable TV became the most popular way to view television programming in the good old U.S. of A. Ala carte TV. Say what?
A la carte pay television (from the French à la carte, “from the menu”), also referred to as pick-and-pay, refers to a pricing model for pay television services in which customers subscribe to individual television channels.
That’s not how television works these days because cable TV companies and even online streaming TV– including SlingTV and Google YouTube TV– prefer bundled channel groups.
The term “a la carte” as applied to pay television has at least two meanings. In the strictest sense, the term refers to the ability of subscribers to select and pay for specific shows, such as is afforded on some Internet services like Amazon Video and iTunes. More conventionally, the term implies that subscribers can choose and pay for individual channels, and it is this definition that is usually employed in the discussions about the issue. In North America, cable and satellite providers offer this pricing scheme, but mostly for premium channels (such as HBO and Showtime) and out-of-market sports packages (such as NFL Sunday Ticket and NBA League Pass). The vast majority of channels remains in bundled tiers
That is basic gobbledygook used to describe what we don’t have but all of us want. Television on demand. Any video– movie, TV show, sports, news– on any device, at any time. Here’s the problem. Ala carte TV is a pipe dream; a fantasy, a reasonable and logical notion that does not and likely will not meet up with reality.
Take Apple TV. Puhleeze. Apple’s expensive device may have the most channels-as-applications available, plenty of games and apps, and that makes it look and feel somewhat ala carte, but the reality is this. You pay for some channels but cannot have it all, so, ipso facto and alakazam– no ala carte TV for you.
Disney plans to buy Fox’s TV and movie business for more than $52-billion and that could bring us a few steps closer to ala carte– but only on those video properties owned by Disney. See what it starts to make sense that Disney and Apple hook up? What a powerhouse combo Apple and Disney would be. Instead, we’re going to end up with even more fragmentation among video entertainment giants than ever.
There’s Disney, there’s Hulu, there’s Philo, CBS All Access, plus Amazon Prime and Netflix, and then the cord cutter packages including YouTube TV, SlingTV and others. Instead of single source where we can go to get what we want– any kind of video on demand, any time, on any device– we’re still going to have to choose from packages of video from multiple sources.
Apple could change that by buying all the content in the world. Otherwise, it’s same old same old but with new names and different packages.