I won’t lie, when I first heard the words “a la carte” for Vue I got excited. Finally a service that lets me pay for channels I want while dumping channels like MTV. Dream come true, right? Well then I looked into it and it seems to get this dream my ultimate fear of it came true. It costs way too much.
According to early reports, Sony is offering a few channels in this style. Channels such as Showtime, Fox Soccer, and their “exclusive” Machinima channel. The first two channels will cost you $10.99 and $14.99, and Machinima will cost you $3.99. That nice little discount for PS Plus members that Sony told you about is a whole $2 off per channel.
To pay for all 3 channels you’d have to pay around $30 a month for them. On the bright side, these are “premium channels” and to get these channels on a cable provider you’d pay that same price, but get bundled in. For example Showtime would be an entertainment package of 10 other movie channels, or Fox Soccer would come with a bunch of sports channels.
That being said, these channels don’t come with the core packages Sony is also offering, and so far channels with those packages cannot be bought A la carte. Packages range from $49, $59, and $60 and include an assortment of basic channels you would expect. The core one does not include sports channels, while the more expensive “elite” one does.
The question is, how will they “unpackage” these bundles to make more channels a la carte? Right now some networks such as CBS offer a subscription, but it costs $5.99. Now imagine Fox, NBC, and ABC with similar prices. Fox Soccer is charging 15 dollars, so now tack on regular FSN, ESPN, or NBC Sports. Don’t forget we need some basic cable channels and the average household watches 17 channels (of the 200 offered) so tack those on for 5 or 6 dollars.
Analysts are predicting that with this model you could wind up spending over $100 to get the few channels you want. For comparison sake DirecTV offers a basic package for around $30-40 that includes all of the Vue’s channels, plus around 150 more.
There are multiple reasons for this. For starters most channels are within a network, and these companies own a lot of channels. They do this so they can approach advertisers and get advertising across all their channels. They know channels like MTV or similar are slipping, so they don’t want people cutting them out. DirecTV and others have tried and this is when you get those annoyng messages during your favorite shows “call DirecTV and demand our channel!” Companies like Viacom keep increasing rates, and cable providers fight them to keep them down. When you want to offer a la carte, you are at their mercy, which leads to these prices.
Cable companies have long relationships with these companies and the price per customer is normally spread throughout the network. Decrease that network, price per channel goes up. That’s what we may be seeing here.
Now cable companies are not the good guys either. It’s also them that seem to be zoning areas and keeping Vue from spreading. Getting rights to cable services has been a thorn for Sony for a while thanks to these companies, so they too are the reasons why prices are so high.
Personally I wish Sony had a package deal that consisted of me paying $50 and I pick 50 channels I want. It’s still a bundle, but I get to choose what I want and it’s cost effective. People that have a dream of cutting the cord only dreamed it because Netflix and Hulu were so cheap, and they expected a cable service like Vue to be cheap too. So far, it’s not.