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Friday
May102013

McCain Proposes Bill Allowing for ‘A La Carte’ Buying of Cable Channels

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has introduced a bill in the Senate that would let you get HBO without paying for the DFH Network, defying a powerful telecom industry that is vociferously opposed to allowing pay per channel options.

The “Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013″ would let consumers buy cable channels “a la carte,” something the Netflix and Hulu generation has been clamoring for to the trepidation of telecom giants.

“You want to watch one television program, you can watch it. If you don’t, you don’t have to. The situation today is obviously far different from that,” McCain said introducing the bill in the Senate Thursday.  “That’s unfair and wrong, especially when you consider how the regulatory deck is stacked in favor of industry against the consumer.”

For avid fans of Girls, or Game of Thrones, McCain is speaking to their deepest desires. The ability to subscribe to HBO Go, without paying Comcast, Verizon, or the Dish Network nearly $100 a month has for a long time seemed like a fantasy.

And it may yet be.

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association, which spent $200,000 on lobbying the federal government in 2013, is strongly opposed to the bill.

“In a thriving marketplace that is constantly providing consumers with new services and features, a government-mandated a la carte system is a lose–lose proposition,” they said in a statement. As countless studies have demonstrated, subscription bundles offer a wider array of viewing options, increased programming diversity and better value than per channel options. In today’s video marketplace, consumers enjoy more choice than ever before.”

And the NCTA’s lobbying pales in comparison to the $14.86 million that Comcast spent on lobbying in 2012.

McCain says that the cost of cable has spiraled out of control, which is only possible if large cable and satellite companies have a monopoly.

“People are on fixed incomes, people are hurting. Why on earth should they have a 100 percent price increase?” McCain said. “And the only way that could be done is through monopolies.”

McCain’s bill would tie the availability of copyright licenses that allow providers to protect their content to the voluntary offering of a la carte channels.

On the other side of the issue are smaller cable companies, represented by the American Cable Association, who support McCain’s efforts, which may help open some room in the telecom marketplace for smaller carriers.

Sen. McCain’s new bill highlights a point that many, including ACA, have been making for a long time, which is that programmers use their formidable market power to impose tying-and-bundling requirements on unwilling distributors. The result is that consumers must subscribe to large pay-TV packages that are populated with dozens of unwanted channels.

McCain’s bill also deals with another vexing issue for television watchers: sports blackouts.

His bill would also prevent sports blackout for games broadcast from publicly funded stadium -- which is to say a lot of stadiums.

According to Deadspin, which compiled data on stadium construction, tax dollars financed more than 60 percent of the cost of building or renovating the 186 sports stadiums constructed between 2009 and 2012.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar162011

Netflix Reportedly Acquires Original TV Series 'House of Cards'

PRNewsFoto/Netflix, Inc(NEW YORK) -- First Netflix vanquished Blockbuster, and now it seems to be setting its sights on cable TV.

Netflix is reportedly close to inking a deal to distribute an original television series, a move that would put the video streaming service in direct competition with cable channels like HBO.

According to Deadline.com, which first reported the news on Tuesday, Netflix outbid HBO and AMC for the rights to stream House of Cards, a series starring actor Kevin Spacey and directed by David Fincher, who helmed last year's The Social Network. The drama is to be adapted from a series of British political novels that was subsequently developed as a BBC TV miniseries.

"They're sort of taking a page out of the playbook that HBO and Showtime used," said Sam Craig, director of the Entertainment, Media and Technology program at NYU Stern School of Business.

When HBO started operating in the late 1970s and early '80s, it simply showed full-length movies. As competitors like Showtime, Starz and others began doing the same thing, the network moved into original series to differentiate.

While Netflix now dominates the streaming business, delivering six in 10 streaming movies in January and February according to the NPD group, a number of competitors have cropped up, including Amazon Prime, Apple's iTunes and Hulu's premium offerings.

"Netflix has sort of gone to the place where streaming and delivery of traditional DVD's is pretty much a commodity and they're getting a lot of competition. So I think it's essential that they develop distinctive content," said Craig.

To secure House of Cards, Deadline.com reported, Netflix has committed to two seasons or 26 episodes at a cost of more than $100 million. If those figures are correct, it would be an enormous bet that bucks the usual Hollywood procedure of requiring a pilot episode before committing to a series. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio