Television Consumer Freedom Act aims to eliminate pay TV bundles

By on May 9, 2013, 4:30 PM

Senator John McCain introduced a piece of legislation today that would allow customers to pick and choose which television channels they want. The Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013 is designed to “help shift the landscape to benefit television consumers” and free them from an injustice being inflicted on the American people, McCain said.

It’s a bill that’s likely to gain support from droves of consumers that are fed up with having to subscribe to expensive television programming packages in order to gain access to a select few channels they are interested in. It’s a practice that has gone on for many years and one of the key reasons why a number of consumers are ditching pay TV altogether.

McCain criticized programmers and distributors for the tactic known as bundling. As an example, he noted that all cable subscribers are forced to absorb the cost of ESPN whether they watch it or not. “Today we are putting up a stop sign,” he said.

Cable and satellite providers, however, argue that bundles actually save money for their customers. If a network like ESPN or TNT was to suddenly disappear from half of the homes they are in today, the networks would have to charge those still interested in the stations double the price.

Naturally, the bill is expected to face a ton of pressure from industry executives that aren’t too keen on changing an extremely lucrative business model. Whether or not McCain can even get the bill off the ground remains to be seen. *crosses fingers*




User Comments: 26

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TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Oh man....PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE let this happen!!

1 person liked this | soldier1969 soldier1969 said:

I already make this happen for myself, its called torrents and I look under what shows I watch, commercial free and in HD.

1 person liked this | TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I already make this happen for myself, its called torrents and I look under what shows I watch, commercial free and in HD.

That's fine except for what constitutes a significant portion of tv viewing - live sports.

howzz1854 said:

I just emailed John McCaine to thank him and asked how and what I can do to help make this happen. I encourage you to do the same: [link]

howzz1854 said:

I already make this happen for myself, its called torrents and I look under what shows I watch, commercial free and in HD.

for those of us know how, it's fine. but for the rest of the general population who don't have the knowledge nor time to search and download torrents that's not an option.

Guest said:

It's truly sad that this had to come from our government; that the cable providers couldn't figure this out on their own.

The cable companies are on a slow and steady demise.

NTAPRO NTAPRO said:

OMG I've been trying to do this for boomerang since forever lol

2 people like this | ---agissi--- ---agissi---, TechSpot Paladin, said:

The gov is trying to keep mainstream TV alive so it doesnt die over night with startups like Hulu, netflix, etc. They wont be able to control the news as well if it does.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

I think this is terrible. Most people don't understand how it really works. Companies won't be able to force cable providers to bundle channels in a package, such as Disney ( espn and such) actually making channels more expensive in the long run. Also a lot of channels will disappear completely, and I don't mean" the basket weaving channel" but channels that are popular.

Its rather complicated to explain. My previous job of 15 years was with a large cable provider.

most people blame the cable companies when prices go up, but in fact it is mostly due to price gouging by the companies that own the channels.

Ranger12 Ranger12 said:

The gov is trying to keep mainstream TV alive so it doesnt die over night with startups like Hulu, netflix, etc. They wont be able to control the news as well if it does.

Interesting idea...

I have yet to figure out how I feel about this bill. It sure would be nice to have subscription options like this but I really do not agree with passing laws to tell a company what they can and cannot sell. I think cable companies would eventually be forced to go this way as consumers slowly wake up and seek other alternatives. However, the rate at which consumers are ditching cable is agonizingly slow.

howzz1854 said:

I think this is terrible. Most people don't understand how it really works. Companies won't be able to force cable providers to bundle channels in a package, such as Disney ( espn and such) actually making channels more expensive in the long run. Also a lot of channels will disappear completely, and I don't mean" the basket weaving channel" but channels that are popular.

Its rather complicated to explain. My previous job of 15 years was with a large cable provider.

most people blame the cable companies when prices go up, but in fact it is mostly due to price gouging by the companies that own the channels.

you might be the few who actually find the majority of the so called "popular channels" watchable. for the most of us, all we care about are either ESPN, HBO, Discovery, Nat Geo, E, and I am sure I am missing quite a few. yes, we'll end up paying more per channel. the per channel cost might go up two fold, or even three folds, but at least we get the choice of paying for what we need, and at the end of the day, it'll still come down to be cheaper than paying for the full package of $150~$200 a month. let those you call it "popular" channels disappear, because nobody watches C-span or whatever those channels that no one ever heard of, they're just dead weight being subsidized by the package. but sounds like you're on one of the few who actually watches ALL Of them, that's great, but for the rest of general population, we don't watch all of them.

it's a draconian model that needs a complete re-model. right now the per channel cost might $2.50 (a random number), if you divide the whole package amount by how many channels you get. the new model might call for a $10 per channe, which btw is a very high estimate on my part, but just to be on the safe side. but for the general population who watches a handful of few channels, will likely end up paying up to 5~6 channels, or $50~$60, again that's a very conservative estimate favoring the high side. t, which is WAYYY cheaper than the current price. and combine that with free OTA channels you get (roughly 10 worth watching ones), you have a pretty efficient and lean model. and you can always trim down the channel count as needed. the current model gives you very little choice. it's the 21st century, it's time for a re-model.

BlueDrake said:

it's a draconian model that needs a complete re-model. right now the per channel cost might $2.50 (a random number), if you divide the whole package amount by how many channels you get. the new model might call for a $10 per channel,

Actually that's about how much it is, per channel for us up in Canada from Bell. If you want 2+ channels in a particular 'pack', then it makes more sense to add the entire thing. It's $5 per pack of x channels or so (changed most likely since then), so logically you're throwing too much at them for so little.

I personally don't watch a whole lot, because really I find a lot of things online for free. I don't mean via torrents either, but that's likely due to my interests which isn't the point. I've cut the cable and not even using Netflix or other services, because it doesn't interest me to spend $100+ per month extra for so little. That's not including all the 'premium' channels, but just select channels in general. IE: No sports or anything in my full package.

I can imagine though so many can't live without sports, so they end up paying a fortune to have the action at home. Then it varies depending on SD or HD watching, all so you're not without your sports. Really find all channels including sports too much, so I said forget the cable and move on with saving money.

Guest said:

The first decent thing he's done since he's been in office...The cable industry is like the music industry. They waited until the NET led the sheeps away, now their trying to get them back.

1 person liked this | captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Well, as much as I hate to say this of an honored veteran and former POW, but I truly believe the best of Sen McCain, is still in North Viet Nam.

His own party traded on that by offering him the presidential nomination, in an election they had to know beforehand, they couldn't possibly win. (Did any Republican in their right mind think their party could elect a president right after George W. Bush)?

As far as cable companies fighting this tooth and nail, it gives me pause to profer, "methinks the lady doth protest too much.

Take any object you have in your home you which you have a parts price list. Sum the parts prices. You will find the prices of the parts to build the item, will be more than treble the cost of buying it assembled. And so it will go, should you be able to order cable channels a la cart.

The reason for packages is to fuel a price war between providers. He who offers the lowest price with the most perks, gets the subscription.

To recap, this action is tantamount to removing the rate cap on utilities, and John McCain is being played.

Its rather complicated to explain. My previous job of 15 years was with a large cable provider.

most people blame the cable companies when prices go up, but in fact it is mostly due to price gouging by the companies that own the channels.

Yeah right. If the content providers raise prices, then the cable companies raise prices commensurate with maintaining the same profit margin. So, if content had cost $0.75 per unit, and the cable company sold it for $1.00, then when the content provider raises the price to $1.00 per unit, the cable company will be charging $1.33 per unit, maintaining the same 25% GPM.

And the cable company cried all the way to the bank..., boo hoo.

Both the Comcast and Verizon buildings are the tallest and perhaps most among the most valuable in Philadelphia. So, if you're trying to say the large media distributors aren't making tons of money, you're either patently naive or blatantly full of s***.

And if you want to get any law passed, just pander to the voter's ego by tacking, "freedom" in the title!

PinothyJ said:

88% of American households have some sort of pay TV so I imagine this will get all the support in the country. It will be interesting to see how the international markets will be effected by such a move. It is a bit different in Australia as our television situation favours free-to-air programming, with a lot of the programmes you would have to pay for over there (sport, comedy, drama, et cetera) being shown on our standard commercial stations. Despite having a higher mean (and median) wealth our pay-TV adoption rates (29%) reflect that. There is definitely a possibility for markets similar to Australia's getting screwed out of this deal, with pay networks jacking the prices of TV show licencing to compensate, in an attempt to force us to become a cable TV nation.

We will have to see...

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

This sounds like more regulation, and I am generally opposed to more laws. Free market will make changes on it's own. If a cable provider or TV network decides to do this on their own, they'll make money. No need to force people to do things a certain way just because John McCain says to.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

While I agree that cable companies should have a la carte viewing options I don't think legislating them is the way to go. I vote with my wallet and just watch over the air broadcast and a few free shows on the internet. I think that TV viewing is rapidly changing, with Google (YouTube), Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, etc. I think we will see many new internet offerings over the next few years and then things will settle down into a new realignment of watching TV, where most shows will be streamed via the internet and more local shows may still be over the air.

1 person liked this | tw0rld tw0rld said:

While I like the idea, I hate the fact that it is being legislated. I believe the consumers should make this decision by doing what they have been doing which is ditch cable for streaming services like Netflix. I am always troubled when the government starts sticking their head into things, it always ends up bad for the consumers and the Companies. I believe consumer emigration to streaming services speaks loud, while allowing the cable companies the time to make the necessary adjustments to meet their customers demands. A law like this would bring about to radical of a change over a short period of time in my opinion.

Timonius Timonius said:

Too little too late...or is it too much too late? Whatever, it's useless in the www/internet/cloud age.

hitech0101 said:

No one watches a channel for 24x7 even though this is good move but in today's scenario its still way behind I hope to see pay to watch only the shows/events you want and pay for that duration.

Captain555 said:

most people blame the cable companies when prices go up, but in fact it is mostly due to price gouging by the companies that own the channels.

That's exactly what the problem is. They price gouged because they have the big end of the stick. Once that is turned around, they will have to compete instead to earn your viewership. Price will go down.

Guest said:

Ah, just in time! ...as the industry shifts to internet streaming. (albeit slowly)

1 person liked this | tipstir tipstir, TS Ambassador, said:

I had ditched my High Cost CATV with HDTV and DVR boxes costing me like $2,000 bundled packages with digital phone and internet. This is no reduced I only pay $14 a month for 1 year while the cable company pays $100 month for my 105mbps down and 20mbps up for internet. That's the deal corp gave me for the mishandling of the service reduction by 12 customer service reps throughout the USA who had I spoken to.

So today this is what I built on my house.. To get 67 to 69 DTV HD 1080i Dolby Digital 5.1 Sound. My DVR are two ACER\Gateway Laptops connected to WD Passport 500GB to 1TB. Using WME (Windows Media Center Edition.

Dual RCA HDTV ANT 80 miles Range with the Dual.

HDTV ANT JOINER TO ADD A SECOND HDTV ANT

RCA Pre-amp 16dbm

CableTek Box (same box used by my CableTV company) Just near their box.

Save over $1,832 per year

howzz1854 said:

I had ditched my High Cost CATV with HDTV and DVR boxes costing me like $2,000 bundled packages with digital phone and internet. This is no reduced I only pay $14 a month for 1 year while the cable company pays $100 month for my 105mbps down and 20mbps up for internet. That's the deal corp gave me for the mishandling of the service reduction by 12 customer service reps throughout the USA who had I spoken to.

So today this is what I built on my house.. To get 67 to 69 DTV HD 1080i Dolby Digital 5.1 Sound. My DVR are two ACER\Gateway Laptops connected to WD Passport 500GB to 1TB. Using WME (Windows Media Center Edition.

Save over $1,832 per year

I've been doing that since 2007, glad to see more people are going that route. HTPC is the way to go.

to top it off, having a blu-ray drive, MCE netflix plug in, and TB's of space where I archived all my DVD collection. you can watch recorded tv, blu-ray, spotify, netflix, DVDs all with one remote in MCE. btw, Lossless capable with direct bitstream passthrough DTS-HD, TrueHD through HDMI 1.4. 3d blu-ray also with the same remote. I have no idea how much I've saved since 2007, but must be A LOT

tipstir tipstir, TS Ambassador, said:

Yeah laptop that is the MCE DVR has BR on it but I already have 6x SONY SMP-N100 1080p , 2x SONY SMP-N200 1080p 3D, SONY -BD Network so I also have Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Videos. I use Netflix 99%. Yes I have SONY STD- 700 watt True HD 7.1 Dolby Digital clone in the LVR 12-inch Active Sub-woofer 240-watts Fires downward along with 6x SONY 120watt Speakers and MBR has the same except for the sub woofer is Yamaha.

PC way seems easy for me I record all Six Million Dollar, B-Woman, Everything off the local is HDTV 5.1 1080i. A lot more fun than it was in 2003 when I started HTPC craze!

war59312 said:

Bad, bad, bad.

If this happens you can kiss all your fav channels and shows goodbye.

And welcome back to just the big four (ABC,NBC,FOX,CBS).

And you think commercials are bad now!

No else will be able to compete! Only those shows that can afford to air on the major networks will make it. And the cost of doing business will sky rocket.

And you really think it will be something like $5 per channel! Yet right!

They are NOT going to lose money in this deal. You will be paying more money for just 4 channels than you ever have for cable or sat.

You are crazy if you think these companies will lose in this deal. It's always the customer that loses in the end when the government gets involved.

Which is why this will probably never happen! So nothing to worry about.

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