Are We Getting Closer to a la Carte Pricing?

Imagine there’s just one app that you want to load on your smartphone. The thing is, the app costs money. But you decide to fork over the few dollars anyway. Now, let’s say there’s just one television channel you want. There’s a problem: You can’t just buy that one channel. You’ve got to also pay for a host of other channels, too.

If you’re allowed to buy whichever apps you want, one at a time, why shouldn’t you be able to do the same with television channels?

Believe it or not, the average American cable package consists of 189 channels, according to Nielsen. And the average cable user only watches 17 of those channels. Since today’s world is a customer-centric one, it appears as though it’s only a matter of time before broadband providers are forced to offer a la carte packages, allowing customers to choose whichever channels they want.

Verzion CEO Lowell McAdam recently voiced his support for a la carte pricing, shortly after announcing his company’s plans to launch its own over-the-top (OTT) service.

“Everyone understands it will go to a la carte,” McAdam said at a recent investor conference. “The question is what does that transition look like.”


While allowing customers to purchase channels individually might sound like the fairest arrangement ever conceived, some pundits speculate that a la carte packages may very well make bills even higher. Additionally, up to 124 smaller channels could go out of business altogether, eliminating 1.4 million jobs and putting $45 billion in TV ad spend at risk.

So at the end of the day, even though all signs indicate a la carte TV packages are looming, customers have to be careful what they wish for. Buying only the programming you want might be a great thing—up until the moment your favorite channel is the one of the 124 that disappears.