Legal beagles make a la carte a class action


Are you a consumer? Do you live in the United States? Congratulations! A who’s who list of major media companies is being sued for denying you your right to purchase cable channels a la carte, whether you want to purchase them that way or not. Thanks go to Blecher & Collins PC. It’s not quite inclusive of everyone – you have to have subscribed to a preset cable tier.

"The lawsuit challenges industry-wide agreements and practices that effectively mandate that consumers must purchase prepackaged tiers of bundled cable channels and cannot purchase channels or programming on an "a la carte" basis. The lawsuit alleges that the agreements and practices are unlawful restraints of trade in violation of the federal antitrust laws." Named in the lawsuit are Time Warner Cable Inc., Comcast Corporation, Comcast Cable Communications, Cox Communications, The DirecTV Group., Echostar Satellite, and Cablevision Systems Corporation. And the list goes one, "due to restrictive bundling agreements, to include program suppliers NBC Universal, Viacom, The Walt Disney Company, Fox Entertainment Group and, once again, Time Warner. The firm says consumers are deprived of choice, forced to acquire channels they do not want, and according to the FCC, are over-charged as much as a collective 100M per year.

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) countered that destroying the current bundling business model would completely disrupt the way advertising works, and would actually increase prices, often drastically. Channels would retain core fans, but would lose untold numbers of casual viewers who land there while channel surfing. Under an a la carte regime, CAGW says, "Bear Stearns projects that a monthly subscription to the Disney Channel would increase from 1.48 to 5.90. MTV would jump from 0.43 to 2.32, and most notably a subscription to ESPN would skyrocket from 3.78 to 15.82."

TVBR/RBR observation: Let’s not let cable butt in line. If we’re going to unbundled media entities, the newspaper comes first. Just as soon as we can buy the sports page, and only the sports page, we can move on to younger media like cable. And what about pinto beans? Sometimes I only want one or two, but try buying anything less than an entire bag full – it’s an outrage, and that’s been going on far longer than cable bundling.