Content a la Carte by Mark Stone

November 2016. In the Netflix era, the broadcast network no longer has any value as a brand. Viewers cherry pick their content from a variety of sources that are increasingly disconnected from the originating network. Yet media companies still cling to the notions of channels, content aggregation, and bundling as the way to monetize content. Market forces alone will ultimately erode this model beyond viability.

Media companies need to stop trying to sell us "channels", which is an archaic and essentially non-existent product. I don't care about HBO; I do care about "Game of Thrones". I could care less about ESPN; I do care about NFL football. CBS means nothing to me, but I do like "Madam Secretary". And so on. So stop trying to sell me "channels" that:

  • are 95% full of content I don't care about, and
  • have no inherent brand value because they offer no guarantee of quality above and beyond the writers, producers, directors, and actors who could appear on any show on any network/channel.

Part of the problem is media company greed. Sling TV, for example, is trying to survive on a model that starts with a basic bundle at $20/month and layers on value adds that can total $60/month or more. That looks suspiciously like the old basic versus premium cable pricing, and I'm not interesting in paying for either the basic or premium versions of that model. It's simply more money than I'm going to pay.

The greater problem is the presumption that content must be aggregated in a bundled offering rather than an a la carte offering. That's the wrong model. So here's my message to media companies: get your content from wherever. It could be from 100 channels, or 500 channels, or picking and choosing individual shows from wherever. The bottom line is give me a library of your available content, let me pick which shows I want to consume from that library, and charge me based on how many shows at a time I've selected.

Here's what I would pay money for: From your library, let me pick any 3 shows that I want to watch for $10 a month. Let me pick any 6 for $18 a month. Let me pick any 10 for $25 a month. More than 10? Surely you jest; who has that kind of time?

That's true a la carte. It's what I, and I think most cord cutters want. And if you look closely, you'll recognize it as the old Netflix disc subscription model. When will media companies figure out that this needs to be the streaming model as well?

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