Some day in the not-too-distant future, some company, hopefully Apple, will find a way to make a la carte television programming (paying only for the channels you want, not a "bundle" as determined by your cable or satellite provider) a reality. A Needham & Company 2014 report showed why this should happen sooner rather than later.
According to the research group's data between a third and half of your cable bill goes directly to pay for channels like ESPN. Though you'd never see it listed on your monthly cable bill, nearly every channel you get has a secret price.
Industry analyst SNL Kagan estimates that, whether you watch it or not, you're paying something like 6 cents a month to the Hallmark Channel, 60 cents a month for CNN, and $5.54 a month for ESPN, the most expensive channel around
However, these prices are hidden. They get rolled into the price of your bundle of channels. Needham & Co. estimates that ESPN rakes in $7 billion from cable customers, even though many never even watch the channel.
Okay, let's say that one of my must-have channels, TCM, costs substantially more than the Hallmark Channel -- say, $3 per month. There are about 20 channels my family watches regularly (and about 200 we never watch). With a la carte programming, hat would be $60 per month -- about $35 less than I'm paying Dish TV now. I'd love to have those 20 channels available as apps on my Apple TV screen (as well as my Mac and iPad).
Howard Homonoff, a cable industry consultant, told NPR that he thinks the current cable/satellite bundling system -- which actually subsidizes channels that aren't too popular is good for customers. And Needham & Company thinks that only about 20 channels would survive in an unbundled world.
It would be sad for some channels to go under. However, this is a free enterprise market. Channels, like businesses, that can't turn a profit don't need to be subsidized by customers who have no need/desire for them.
As for the future, as NPR points out, "all sides know cable can only get so much more expensive before customers cut the cord completely."