Monday, March 3, 2008

To Bundle, or Not to Bundle

(Originally posted May 10, 2007)

The Federal Communicationse Commission has just released a report that reveals -- not surprisingly -- a significant increase in television violence.

And while I didn't become violent last week when I encountered some unexpected "adult content" on our televison, it did rekindle some long-time beliefs that support the concept of "unbundling" television program packages. Basically, that means subscribers should be able to choose only the channels they want in their home package, rather than paying for a bunch of channels they don't want.

By the way, the culprit channel noted above was one of the HBO channels. I didn't stick around long enough to see which one. I'm not a fan of Deadwood or most other HBO programs, but I am aware they've done some good programming -- albeit not enough for me to justify paying for it. Our HBO channels were thrown in as a temporary "freebie" -- part of the incentive to make us new subscribers to Midcontinent Cable in South Dakota.

About "bundling" and "unbundling" channels: parents of young children may enjoy having Disney, Discovery, and the Cartoon Channel, but they may have no desire for VH1, MTV, and Comedy Central. The fact is, their cable or satellite subscription bundles all of these together, and customers can either take it or leave it. If they take it, they're not only paying for what they want, but a lot of channels they don't want, too.

The technology is readily available to provide unbundled services, although cable and satellite services bemoan the fact that it will cost them money to implement such changes.

Cable has long been criticized, justifiably, for poor customer service. And while they've worked hard to overcome this stigma, it still haunts them. It's about to hit them over the head again big time, if they don't quickly come to the realization that there is rapidly growing public support for "unbundling."

I'm delighted that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is among those pushing for such unbundling. Other commissioners are supportive, as well. However, the real catalyst is a growing groundswell of public sentiment that cries for greater responsibility and accountability in the corporate offices of major cable and satellite service companies.

While parents and other care providers have prime responsibility to monitor television viewing by young children, television executives have some responsibility, too. In this instance, they also have an opportunity to be the "good guys" and take the initiative to support parents and provide ALL consumers with what they want.

Increasingly, consumers want "unbundled" services that can be selected "a 'la carte."

Let's hope cable television executives aren't asleep at the switch again.

No comments: