27 August 2015

Yet More Tyranny

Remember The Tyranny of Average Cost™? It exists just about everywhere in production. One the of major irritants of modern life is "paying" for cable channels "I don't want to watch". Interestingly, ESPN's many channels have been the major benefactors of this bundling.

Today brings a new analysis of Apple garroting the cable networks.

The thesis of the piece is somewhat on point, which I'll dwell on. Of interest is many (most? all?) comments, which boil down to: I only want to pay for the channels I watch. TeeVee a la carte, in other words. For those well off enough to eat in classy restaurants, ones that offer both dinners and a la carte menu, know full well that the a la carte meal is far more expensive, and not always superior to the dinners on offer. Again, The Tyranny of Average Cost™ strikes again. With a la carte TeeVee, in due time only the mega channels/networks will survive, and there goes choice. There exists choice of off-the-mainstream TeeVee because all subscribers subsidize the utility. And, despite what the Masters of the World assert, cable/sat TeeVee is a utility.

The author accurately points out that the "smaller" (read: left wing intellectual) channels can exist because they get more funds from bundling than it is expected they would get from a la carte. The result of either/both of unbundling and disintermediation would make a vewwy, vewwy compelling study and experimental design. Suffice to say that the conservatives would expect to see The Science Channel and its God and Guns hating ilk to die, while the liberals would hope that the God, Guns, and Amphetamine set go away. Given that the country, on the whole, is far more urban and liberal (closeted though it be) than right wing, I suppose that the result would surprise the snake handling set (yes, there are channels, "National Geographic" and "Animal Planet" which display such). No more "Outdoor Channel", too.

Production costs don't diminish with burgeoning numbers of channels. On the other hand, advert dollars are spread thinner, per channel. If one views 1960s TV on the Encore set, for example, one sees cheap production values: backlots and sound stages galore. Today, mostly on site, even if within the TMZ. Is it any wonder that the Golden Age of TeeVee profits fell off the table when cable dispersed from midwest farming towns to the Big City? Split three ways is one thing; split 500 is quite another. All that original programming on cable-only channels would disappear overnight. Well, except for the snake handlers, since they'll do it for cameras gratis.

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