FCC Chairman Kevin Martin didn’t reveal his hand on the fate of the proposed XM/Sirius merger, which is still in the hands of the DoJ (the FCC must also sign off on it), but he may have tipped his cards a bit. Speaking at CES in Las Vegas, Martin praised the satellite audio offer to provide an a la carte menu option for subscribers in the event that the merger is approved. According to Bank of America’s Jonathan A. Jacoby, Martin said that no FCC decision has yet been made on the merger — but he does like the a la carte concept, a regimen he has strongly advocated for cable systems.
Jacoby noted that any positive was a good thing for the satellite services, but remained neutral on the prospects of the merger going through. He said that we haven’t even heard from DoJ yet and suspects that the senior residents of FCC 8th Floor has yet to "dig their teeth in," and further speculated that even if the DoJ and FCC do grant approval, the devil would be in the details of the restrictions almost certainly to be imposed. And even IF conditions are minimal, Jacoby continues to have doubts.
RBR/TVBR observation: Can we get off of a la carte at some point? The value of an MVPD is its ability to deliver a wide variety of programming at a very low cost per service. The first thing a la carte does is drive the cost per channel through the roof; and if a la carte is for some reason widely adopted by consumers, the next thing that will happen is that niche, minority and special interest programming will be driven into bankruptcy. The preferable method of protecting children from off-color or otherwise objectionable material is channel blocking technology, which is readily available and easy to use on MVPD services.