Why do we hate the cable bundle but not other content bundles?

Many Americans seem to dislike cable TV quite a bit: in 2014 21% of people said they would probably or definitely cancel, up from 17% a year earlier (although very few people follow through). Pay TV companies are perennially at the bottom of customer satisfaction ratings. I would guess that the cable bundle is a big reason for this. I commonly hear the argument that people pay for a ton of channels they don't watch, but I don't hear the same argument for other bundles of content. I don't hear many people complaining about all of the Netflix titles they don't watch or songs on Spotify they don't listen to. I also don't recall my parents' generation complaining about paying for sections of the newspaper they didn't read.

To be fair, there are some major differences between these bundles. The average pay TV service costs $85 per month, while Netflix is only $9. People may feel 'forced' into paying for cable, because it is the only way to watch live sports, the local news, HBO, etc. Everything on Netflix but a few original shows is available elsewhere (and earlier). Furthermore, most Americans only have a choice of 2-3 pay TV providers in their area. Other content bundles tend to have greater choice of providers and little to no popular exclusive content. Sure, the local newspaper's content may have been 'exclusive' but there were other ways of getting the daily news, seeing sports scores, and other sources of classified ads.

Pay TV has done a wonderful job of growing the number of channels in the base bundle and passing increases in programming costs onto consumers. Also, there is essentially no choice between a basic package with a dozen or so local channels and a bundle with hundreds of channels. Netflix and Spotify are perceived as great values now, but their natural instinct is to grow their subscriber base by appealing to a broader and broader audience by acquiring or creating a wider variety of content. (For example, Netflix could add nightly news shows or live sports and Spotify could add comedy or talk radio programming.) If the existing audience doesn't find this new content compelling but is still forced to pay for it, Netflix and Spotify could find themselves where the pay TV industry is right now.

Questions about the future of television and where the Apple TV fits in

Television is changing. It wasn't too long ago that the structure of the industry was pretty straightforward: TV studios and networks created the content, which was distributed by cable companies or broadcast over the air to antennas. Viewing was typically live on television sets in the home. But viewer preferences started to change enabled by new products and services such as the DVR, cable boxes with on-demand features, YouTube, and Netflix. Americans, especially younger ones, are replacing and supplementing live television with streaming and on-demand options. A recent study by Forrester reports that only 40% of Americans aged 18-34 watch live linear TV in a typical month (although live viewing may still command a higher share of total hours viewed). To meet these evolving needs, new services are emerging. A new breed of 'cable company' is forming, one that owns no infrastructure but licenses content to distribute over the internet. Dish's Sling TV and Sony's Playstation Vue will launch in the US this year with a focus on smaller bundles of live and on-demand content. Netflix and Amazon Prime focus on licensing large libraries of back-catalog content in addition to some first-run movies and financing and producing exclusive content. Hulu aggregates current-season and back catalog TV programming and also finances exclusive content. Meanwhile, several TV networks are or will soon be offering their own programming over the web for a monthly subscription (CBS All Access, HBO, Showtime, Nickelodeon, and likely more to follow).

What's interesting about all of these services are they change the idea of what TV is: no channel numbers, no clunky remote controls, no special equipment needed, no installation appointments, and painless cancellation.

For now, each of these offerings has major holes when compared to the traditional cable TV bundle, but that may not matter to an individual viewer. Question is, how many of those viewers are out there. Some viewers may combine multiple services, but then the question becomes whether or not they'd be better off with a cable TV subscription.

So how do the Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, etc fit into this world? The market for these products has been growing, likely due to the popularity of streaming services and the desire to occasionally/frequently watch content on a big screen. Other devices typically connected to a TV are building in streaming services, such as game consoles, DVR's, and blu-ray players, as have the TV sets themselves. The Xbox One has perhaps the most advanced set of features, but in their review The Verge says: 'The TV integration is an awkward hodgepodge of menus and overlays and dead ends' and published another article with the subtitle: 'Microsoft learns nothing from Google TV's mistakes'.

Apple has never been hesitant about introducing forward-looking products. For example, they were early to introduce laptops without optical drives, completely skipping over blu-ray drives. If Apple does radically redesign the Apple TV, it would seem the time has passed for it to hook up to (or replace) a cable box or include a hard drive for a DVR.

So what will be at the center of the TV experience in the future - a set top box, a TV set, a smartphone? I believe content and convenience will be the driving factors of how the TV landscape evolves. Viewers clearly prefer to consume their content when it is convenient for them on whatever screen they choose, just as they do with Netflix and Hulu today. For some people these apps are already the center of their experience. But as more of these services proliferate how will viewers find something to watch? This may not be a problem for the Netflix subscriber today, but I can see a future where I subscribe to Netflix, HBO, and Sling TV (for ESPN), in addition to free options and a la carte movie and TV purchases. What will become my 'TV guide' or replace channel-surfing?

In his biography, Steve Jobs was famously quoted speaking about television:

'It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.'

That was over three years ago, and it seems very fitting today. He could have been referring to a service that Apple was building, or building a better interface for the apps already on the Apple TV.

When thinking about Apple's plans I try to think product-first. A full TV set from Apple still doesn't make sense to me from a financial point of view, but perhaps it does from a user experience point of view. If they think in order to make the best product it needs to be a TV set then they will, regardless of the market size or how much it might cost. However, it would seem a disservice to make that interface Steve Jobs was referring to exclusive to a TV set or set top box. Is the future of TV just an app or collection of apps or is it something more?

Survey says HBO will spur cord-cutting - a huge problem for the pay TV industry

Re/Code, reporting on a new survey from Parks Associates claims that the coming HBO streaming service could lead to 6.8 million Americans ditching pay TV. For the moment, let's excuse the fact that pricing or other details of the HBO service have yet to be announced (the survey appears to have assumed a $15/month price tag). This survey highlights a problem for the pay TV providers and TV networks. According to my own research, the average pay TV bill in the US is about $85 per month. That means for every 1 million people that cut the cord the cable industry loses about $1 billion in revenue per year, a large portion of which will go straight to the bottom line. Cable operators run a very capital-intensive business with a lot of fixed costs. Said another way, if someone on your block cancels their TV the cable company still has to maintain the lines running to all of the other houses. The cable company is making less money to do essentially the same amount of work. (The TV networks face the same problem since they will make less money from advertising and future subscriber fees.)

The pay TV system in the US has been on an unsustainable course. The average bill has gone up 63% in the last decade, but consumers are given no choice between a full-priced bundle and a basic package of a dozen or so channels. The whole system may be one big house of cards ready to come tumbling down when the pillars such as HBO and ESPN are liberated from the bundle. It will be very interesting to see how Dish's Sling TV, Playstation Vue, HBO, and other standalone or 'skinny bundle' services perform.

The cable TV industry by the numbers 3Q14

I wanted to take a look at what's going on in the pay TV industry in the US, so I charted out some data from the top providers over the past ten years. A few caveats before we get to the data... I looked at the 13 biggest providers as of today, which represent approximately 93 million of the 101 million total pay TV subscribers. These were not the 13 largest 10 years ago (in fact some did not exist), so some of the older data may be a bit misleading, especially as it pertains to cable providers (as opposed to satellite or teleco providers). Unless otherwise noted, all data was taken from SEC filings. Pay TV Subscribers by Type

The total number of pay TV subscribers is roughly holding steady as a percentage of total households over the past few years. It seems pretty clear that satellite and telco (AT&T and Verizon) providers have been taking share away from cable providers. Again, the older data under-represents the total number of cable subscribers, and therefore total pay TV subscribers. Total household data is from the US Census.

Total Pay TV Subscribers

We can clearly see the growth of the individual satellite and telco providers here. Some of the sharpness in changes to Comcast's and Time Warner's subscriber numbers are due to acquisitions and to a lesser extent divestitures. The smaller cable companies all seem to be slowly losing share to the larger companies.


ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) is the average revenue providers receive from video services alone, and does not include internet or voice revenue. I was only able to calculate ARPU for companies that reported revenue from video services separate from other services. AT&T, Verizon, and Cox do not report this, along with a few of the smaller cable providers, but over 80% of the total subscribers represented in the previous chart are included in the ARPU calculation.

I've seen many news articles that mention rising monthly pay TV bills, but the dramatic rise in prices over just ten years was still a surprise to me. Over the past ten years rising prices can be partially attributed first to the analog-to-digital cable TV transition, and then more recently additional fees for HD boxes and DVR's. The pay TV providers have also passed along higher costs from the TV networks, in part due to higher prices for premium programming such as live sports and high-budget original content. This explains why many providers are reporting record revenues even as their subscriber growth slows or turns slightly negative.

Service Subscribers

Finally, I wanted to see how the number of subscribers to various video services compares to pay TV subscribers. HBO/Cinemax and Netflix numbers are both reported in SEC filings. Hulu is a privately held company, but they occasionally report paid subscriber numbers on their blog. Although it is not a fair comparison, Netflix and HBO/Cinemax now have more subscribers than Comcast, the largest pay TV provider. However, their ARPU is a fraction of the pay TV providers'.

I plan to regularly publish updates to these charts as more numbers are released and provide some insights into what is going on in the industry. If you'd like access to the raw data I used or have any questions or comments feel free to email me.

PlayStation Vue feels like the future of cable

PlayStation has revealed the first details of its upcoming streaming TV service. It will include about 75 channels and features live broadcasts, popular content will be available on-demand for 3 days, and a cloud-based DVR where content can be stored for 28 days. It will initially be available on the PS3 and PS4 before rolling out to the iPad and other devices. See the full press release. The service is missing a few key channels (ESPN, ABC, Disney, AMC, TNT, CNN) and no pricing info has been released. It is essentially a cable TV bundle (minus a few channels) delivered over the internet to devices consumers already own. Yet it still feels like the future of cable TV to me.

Sign-up and cancelation

This service should be incredibly easy to sign up for and begin using compared to cable TV. No scheduling an appointment, waiting around for hours, installation fees, or new equipment to hook up and learn how to use. Vue will be another app on the PlayStation or iPad, just like Netflix or Hulu. They could even offer free trials if they wanted to. There are no contracts so you can cancel at any time, which Sony pledges to make an easy process. There won't even be any equipment to return. This should break down the barriers for customers wanting to try the service or switch to competitive services.

User interface

It's about time the TV interface gets a makeover. Time will tell, but it looks like Sony is moving in the right direction. Vue will group your favorite channels and shows on the startup screen for easy access. There won't be any channel numbers to memorize. Hopefully no more lists of channels that you may or may not receive, terrible on-demand menus, and remotes with hundreds of buttons.

Live vs time-shifted content

The service provides access to about 75 live streaming channels, but recognizes that many viewers prefer to watch time-shifted content. Popular content will be available on-demand for 3 days without any need to schedule DVR recordings. A cloud-based DVR is also included in the service, but content can only be stored for 28 days due to agreements with the TV networks.

It would be nice if the on-demand content was available much longer essentially making the DVR useless. This should still be an improvement over the cable companies' terrible on-demand user interfaces. A cloud-based DVR is another welcome addition, no word on storage limits though. Hopefully Sony can work with the TV networks on these issues for a better user experience in the future.

TV as an app

I like that the service will essentially be another app on existing hardware. No need for an extra box hooked up to the TV or clunky remote. Hopefully the user interface is similar across devices so there's no learning curve when moving from a PS4 to an iPad.

One thing to note is that some shows won't be available on mobile devices. I believe this is at least partly due to existing agreements the TV networks have in place with cable companies and other video services.

Competition for the regional monopoly

Vue will be delivered over the internet, so anyone in the country with broadband internet is a potential customer. This may bring competition to cable providers who have a regional monopoly or near-monopoly. If Sony is able to deliver this product at a competitive price (and they should since it doesn't include the highest-cost cable channel - ESPN), it may finally push the cable and telco companies into actually competing for business.


This feels like the future of TV to me: an app that delivers live and on-demand content in a modern interface across all of my devices. Even better that it is available without a contract and can be canceled at any time. I can't wait to try it out. Hopefully lots of people do and it pushes the cable industry forward.

The US will have streaming a la carte cable in 2015 (almost)

By the end of 2015 the US will effectively have streaming a la carte cable, with one huge exception - sports and other live events. Let me explain. HBO announced it will launch a streaming service available without cable in 2015, and Showtime and Starz said they would do the same. Assuming those announcements pan out, US TV viewers will have access to every major TV network without a cable TV subscription. All of the broadcast and basic cable networks already sell individual episodes of their shows online the day after they air through iTunes, Amazon, and other online stores. The premium cable networks (HBO, Showtime, etc) previously resisted this, but now appear ready to change course with subscription streaming services. Most shows from broadcast networks are also available free online with ads, with an antenna, or on Hulu Plus. CBS has also launched a streaming service with access to all of their current shows.

This means that programming from every major TV network will be available within one day of airing without a cable TV subscription. The huge lone exception is live programming, such as sports, news, awards shows, and other live events. Some of this programming is available through the aforementioned methods, but most of it is locked behind the cable TV paywall.

We will be able to get our programming a la carte if we want it, and the reasons to keep cable are slowly evaporating. However, there are still several strong reasons not to cut the cable cord:  sports and other live events, same-day access to shows, and it’s still a great value for people that watch a lot of TV. Sports will be the last type of programming to break free from the cable TV bundle because they are the most valuable and benefit the most from the economics of the bundle model.

It remains to be seen how much these standalone streaming services will cost. It may be very easy to spend $50 or more per month on Hulu Plus, HBO, and buying a few shows on iTunes, but it will be possible next year.

Why HBO and CBS are launching standalone streaming services

Today, CBS launched a new standalone streaming service that includes live streaming in some markets.  Yesterday, HBO announced their intention to offer some type of streaming product in 2015.  As I've written before, the major cable companies have no incentive to break apart the bundle.  So why are HBO and CBS apparently doing so? First of all, I'm highly skeptical that HBO will offer the full HBO GO product without a cable subscription.  My hunch is that new content will be delayed, or it may not include any movies, or it will be very expensive ($20+ per month).

As far as CBS goes, they probably have less invested in the cable bundle than any other major TV network.  The only other major channels they own are CW and Showtime, with some other smaller ones such as CBS Sports, FLIX, TMC, and the TV Guide Channel.  Showtime produces some nice premium content, and CW targets younger viewers with shows such as The Flash and Vampire Diaries.  Perhaps they have similar plans to launch streaming services for those networks or to make that content available without cable in other ways (similar to the deal they did with Amazon Prime to make episodes of Under the Dome available shortly after they aired).  College sports from non-major conferences makes up the majority of the programming on CBS Sports, and they already have a college sports streaming service.

CBS doesn't have much to lose by breaking apart the bundle, certainly much less than the other big networks.  It makes sense for them to make their content available in all sorts of ways.  I doubt any of the other major networks will follow suit, but perhaps some of the smaller independent networks will (AMC, Discovery, etc).

Netflix and Hulu aren't disrupting cable TV

I’ve already discussed why unbundling cable won’t actually unbundle cable.  Now, I’d like to discuss how simply moving shows from cable and satellite TV operators to streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu isn’t disrupting the cable TV industry.  A few cable networks may go out of business, but the industry won’t truly be disrupted, and consumers may or may not end up better off than they are today.  What should be much more worrisome for the incumbents in the industry is highly relevant, short-form, (semi) professional content delivered to users on the devices they choose through a superior user interface. Clay Christensen’s theory of disruption states:

'a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors'

This is typically accomplished with lower cost structures and/or alternative business models that are dismissed by incumbents at first, but move up-market until they are ‘good enough’.  Moving distribution of music albums to the internet did not disrupt the industry - piracy, the fall of the album, and the rise of the single did.  I believe the same thing will play out with television.  Presently, Netflix, Hulu+, and Amazon Prime are large bundles of professionally produced long-form content sold for a monthly subscription fee.  This is essentially the same model the cable TV industry uses, with the important distinction of focusing on live/first-run vs on-demand archived content.

The movie studios and TV networks and their production arms still produce the vast majority of content available on the streaming services.  Furthermore, other than the original content the streaming services produce, everything in their libraries is made available first elsewhere.  Several companies have tried, but none have been able to strike content deals to deliver a cable TV package over the internet other than cable companies themselves, and a product still hasn't been brought to market.  Although some content, investment dollars, and creative talent are moving to streaming services, this is clearly not disrupting the industry.

Even if more content is distributed first over the internet, much of it will still be produced and financed by the traditional players, and it will likely be sold to consumers as part of a large subscription bundle. This may lessen the need for TV channels that primarily air reruns of popular shows or old movies, but again isn't disruptive to the industry.

Consumers may actually be worse off in some ways during this transition.  Imagine having to continue paying a cable TV bill to watch live sports, the news, and some high-budget shows, while also subscribing to one or more streaming services for their original/exclusive content and on-demand library.  In some ways, this is already happening.  Hopefully, the streaming services do a better job of making their content available on all devices without complicated authentication procedures and time windows, and that makes up for the increased cost.

In the unlikely scenario that everything is shifted to the internet and delivery through cable/satellite completely goes away, the industry is just swapping one service provider for another.  The structure remains mostly the same, just delivered through different cables in the ground. The TV networks and studios would finance and produce shows, then likely sell them as a bundle to the video providers, and consumers pay Comcast online or Netflix instead of Comcast cable.*  This situation has the potential to be much worse for consumers.  Internet delivery could enable a single company to have a monopoly, or a situation could arise where every TV network wants their own subscription service (just like in the early days of online music where every record label wanted to operate their own store).  Hopefully, things would play out like they ultimately did with music and there would be multiple providers with mostly the same content, but the streaming industry isn't going down that path right now.

What does have the potential to disrupt the incumbents in the industry are platforms like YouTube and their huge base of content creators.  There is so much free ad-supported content available on-demand, some of which is very well done.  I already subscribe to several amateur or short-form YouTube channels related to my favorite sports teams and hobbies.  Now, an entire generation of people are growing up with the tools to create entertaining content in their pockets.  It will be interesting to see how storytelling, reporting, and entertainment evolve on these platforms in the future.  The biggest challenge may be content discovery, not the type of quality of content being produced.

However, this doesn’t mean there is no need for professional long-form content.  I have no desire to watch an NFL game streamed over the internet from someone’s shaky smartphone camera, nor do I want to watch breaking news coverage from bystanders with a camcorder and microphone.  Even in today’s world of free blogs there is still a need and a market for publications like the New York Times and Wall St Journal.

It will be interesting to see how all of this evolves, and what type of content will end up on what platform.  I’m not looking forward to a world where I need to subscribe to four different bundles to access all of the content I want.  However, I don’t want a single company to rule everything and slow the pace of innovation either.  I think there will be a long transition phase before all of the dust settles and the major players emerge.

*One dynamic that has the potential to change which I haven't touched on is advertising.  Will content delivered over the internet have typical advertising breaks?  Will it only be for live programs or pre/post-roll?  Will some platforms have advertising, while others will be subscription-only?  This will be very interesting to monitor.

Redbox Instant streaming service shutting down - were DVDs or a poor streaming library to blame?

From Redbox Instant via GigaOm:

'The service is shutting down because it was not as successful as we hoped it would be. We apologize for any inconvenience and we thank you for giving us the opportunity to entertain you.'

The service came to market with an interesting hybrid model:  $8 got you 4 DVD rentals and unlimited streaming each month.  It launched with a very weak catalog of streaming titles, and although the catalog improved it apparently never really caught on with consumers.  I wonder if this is more about consumers' preference for Netflix's catalog and Amazon Prime's benefits, or a general shift away from DVD rentals.

According to Redbox's parent company financial filings (Link 1, Link 2), the DVD rental business had been growing in terms of rentals, credit cards used, number of kiosks, and overall revenue until this summer, when things started to slow down.  Meanwhile, Netflix's DVD by mail service has been declining for years.  It seems natural that consumers would slowly shift away from DVDs (both rentals and purchases), just as we have with music CDs.

One piece of anecdotal evidence from the analytics on my streaming post on CordCutting.tips shows that consumers are more interested in Netflix and Amazon Prime than Redbox Instant.  Content may be king, but convenience may be just as important.  Redbox kiosks have a lot of great content at great prices, but it's much easier to rent a movie online or just stream something from Netflix.  Tying the Redbox Instant service to DVD rentals may have ultimately doomed it from the start.

Why unbundling cable won't unbundle cable

Wouldn't it be nice if cable subscriptions weren't sold as expensive bundles, and instead we could pick the channels we actually watch and pay for them a la carte?  I might pick a few channels with live sports, high-budget dramas, and my favorite comedies.  If I could pay a few dollars for each of these channels per month I'd have an affordable cable package that included the majority of programming I'd want to watch. The unbundling discussions seem to have some major underlying assumptions:  everyone will pick the channels they want, the bad channels nobody is willing to pay for will go away, the TV networks will continue business as usual, and accept lower revenues and profits in the process.  There's a major problem with that line of thinking.  If cable TV is unbundled due to consumer demand or new regulations the TV networks and cable companies won't stand by idly.  Bundling will take on a new form, prices will rise, and only time will tell if consumers will be better off than they are today.

ESPN started to take off as a paid cable channel in the 1980's after they acquired exclusive rights to broadcast some college basketball games, notably the Big East conference tournament.  There wasn't enough airtime on the big national networks to broadcast all of these games live, and many consumers across the northeast were willing to pay for it.  After achieving some success broadcasting Big East games, one might think they'd purchase more college basketball rights to expand their geographical footprint while making their product more valuable to current customers.  ESPN had another idea, which has proved extremely successful.  ESPN knew if they only aired college basketball games they would only attract one segment of sports fans, but if they aired a variety of live sports they could conceivably get all sports fans.  So they moved into completely different categories such as auto racing, thus expanding their potential subscriber base far beyond college basketball fans in the northeast and eventually making ESPN a must-have channel for most sports fans across the country.

The reason I bring this up is because I see the same thing happening in an unbundled world.  If every consumer has the ability to subscribe to only the channels which he or she likes, each channel needs to appeal to the largest possible number of customers.  Thus, ESPN would like to broadcast a little of everything rather than all of one or two things, and other channels would take the same approach.  For example, an NFL fan might have to subscribe to ESPN, NBC, FOX, CBS, and NFL Network to watch every game, and that NFL fan would be subsidizing college sports, auto racing, poker, and everything else ESPN broadcasts.  If we take this up a level, ESPN could split content across multiple channels to attract even more subscribers.  For example, ESPN could put some high-profile college football games on ESPN2 or ESPNU in a bid to attract more subscribers to those channels.  Heck, they could even create channels for specific teams or conferences with large dedicated audiences.  Oh wait, they already did that with the Longhorn Network and SEC Network.  The sports leagues also like this model, because they can maximize the revenue they get from broadcasting rights and it reduces the risk of relying on a single powerful partner.

ESPN could also go the complete opposite route and buy up everything, creating a mini monopoly on live sports broadcasting.  Then they could conceivably charge whatever they wanted.  This would be much more worrisome for consumers, but I think much less likely, both from a competitive and regulatory perspective.

We can take this line of thinking up another level to ESPN's parent company, Disney.  As I've written about before in an article titled 'why a la carte cable won't happen', there are five large media companies that own the majority of TV channels in the US:

  • Disney: ABC, ESPN, Disney, A&E, History
  • Comcast: NBC, USA, Bravo, E!, The Weather Channel
  • News Corp: FOX, MyTV, FX, Fox Sports
  • CBS: CBS, CW, Showtime
  • Time Warner Inc: HBO, Cinemax, TNT, TBS, CNN

A sixth company, Viacom, owns several mid-tier cable channels: MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Spike, BET, etc.  There are also two notable independent networks: AMC and Discovery.  Then there is PBS, which is a non-profit.

These large media companies could either sell all of their channels together as a mini-bundle, or split their best programming across various channels to encourage people to subscribe to multiple channels.  For example, Disney could sell all of their family programming as part of one package, or split it up across several different channels like they do today.  Time Warner might split up their best dramas across TNT and TBS, then only sell subscriptions to HBO and Cinemax to people who also subscribe to TNT or TBS. (Or they could offer discounts such that it only makes sense to also subscribe to TNT or TBS, much like cable companies do with triple-play bundles today.)

Then, there is the issue of a la carte pricing.  It's easy to look at the affiliate fees a channel earns today and assume they'd sell it at a similar price a la carte.  For example, ESPN reportedly gets about $5.75 per month from each of the 100 million subscribers that have a cable package with ESPN (just the main ESPN channel, not ESPN2/U/news/etc).  In an unbundled world, far fewer than 100 million people would subscribe to ESPN, and they would have to raise rates to keep paying the astronomical sports rights fees.  Ben Thompson has a very detailed breakdown on Stratechery of what this would look like and concluded ESPN would charge about $15 per month a la carte (again, just for the main ESPN channel).

So, even if cable TV packages are unbundled, we may be forced to buy several more channels than we think we'll need at higher prices than we'd expect.  Depending on what you select, you may end up paying the same or more than you do today - and receive far fewer channels.  The only people who really benefit in this scenario are the TV networks, because they'll be able to discontinue all the programming that nobody watches without losing any revenue.  At least that's what I would do if I were running a TV network in an unbundled world.  Let's be careful what we wish for.