Media

À la carte TV pricing could be a reality if Cablevision wins legal fight with Viacom

Stephen Colbert

Cable TV service provider Cablevision is sick and tired of having to carry tons of channels that its subscribers don’t want and, more importantly, don’t want to pay for.

So today, the telecommunications giant filed a lawsuit against cable network Viacom (PDF) for “illegally forcing Cablevision to carry and pay for 14 lesser-watched ancillary networks.”

Right now, if cable TV providers want to offer subscribers MTV, Comedy Central, and Spike, it must bill their customers for MTV 2, VH1 Classic, Nick Jr., and a slew of other, less appealing channels. This practice — called bundling — enables Viacom to demand more money from companies like Cablevision. This isn’t the first time TV providers have pushed back at Viacom, either, as it participated in a very public pissing match with satellite service DirecTV last year.

Should Cablevision win, it could drastically change the pricing model to an “à la carte” system and abolish the current practice of bundled packages of channels (from multiple cable networks) that many of us have no choice but subscribe to each month. For instance, if you only watch HBO, Comedy Central, Science Channel, Discovery, and the History channel, you’d pay a monthly fee for each of them.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that bundled channel pricing will go away entirely, but we’d certainly get smaller bundles. Customers may find that Viacom will charge more for each channel, which could make a Viacom-specific bundled channel package more attractive. But at least that would be more of a choice than what consumers are currently getting.

We’re reaching out to Viacom for a comment about the lawsuit and will update this post with any new information.

Via AllThingsD