Unicast video on a converged network is a la carte in all but pricing

By Brian SantoCablevision CEO James Dolan recently warned content owners that if they keep raising their fees, consumers may rebel and demand that the industry move to a la carte pricing.*

The comment has to be taken in the context of contentious ongoing negotiations between cable operators and various programmers over retransmission fees. Nor was it anything anybody hadn’t heard before, but his comments got a lot of play because this time, things are a little different.

This time, consumers are reeling from the lingering effects of the longest recession since WWII, which makes it a bad time for the industry to raise prices again (and again), as Dolan pointed out.

So might consumers start agitating, en masse, for a la carte? Not likely, especially after they realize what they’ll end up paying and what they’ll get for it. Disney is liable to start charging $20 per month per subscriber for ESPN alone.

Meanwhile, with Kevin Martin safely buried in the private sector someplace, there’s no one in a position to try to impose a la carte from above.

Meanwhile, the MVPD industry is moving – slowly but inexorably – toward unicast. Everybody involved in broadband also expects that business is going to move to consumption pricing. Eventually consumers are going to notice that unicast video on a converged network, where one of the major services is already being metered, is a la carte in all but pricing.

Then what is Jim Dolan going to threaten programmers with?