In the wake of many subscription MMOs going to a Free to Play model, it got me to thinking. Why can’t Cable TV do the same thing?
Instead of charging me $150 a month for 300 channels, most of which I’ll never watch, how about letting me have “free” cable, where I can watch PBS and other local stations in real time with commercials, and have everything, and I mean everything, available on demand as a pay per episode/pay per season service? The infrastructure is there. They already do sell programs on demand, they even ofter free on demand for many network and cable shows. They already provide Internet service and have the bandwidth. Just expand it. Sure, some people might just watch the free stuff, just like some gamers only play the free parts of free to play games, but the people who pay and buy the extras will far outweigh them in the long run.
As an added bonus to this sort of design, TV execs can stop trying to guesstimate viewers and DVR watchers and whatnot and actually get hard purchaser numbers. Even better, shows can stop competing against each other. Many shows have tried to go up against juggernauts like American Idol or Dancing with the Stars or even some scripted shows, and even if they get a few million viewers, it isn’t enough to keep the show on the air. Even when there are lower rated shows on the network, because sometimes it isn’t how good your show is but only how well it did versus someone else’s show. What if, instead of seeing your show get a paltry 2 million viewers while 28 million tune in to some other network, you could see that within a two week period 18 million people watched your show, 16 million of whom, if forced, would choose another show but when given the freedom to watch whenever they want without being forced to choose will happily watch and enjoy your program? Wouldn’t that be better?
And really, they don’t even need to go so far… I’d gladly watch the commercials during programs or special “sponsored by” spots before an episode if I could just watch all the shows I want when I want to watch them. I’d settle for having everything, with commercials, available on demand, and having the cable company charge me for the channels I want to select from a la carte. Rather than $150 a month for 300 channels, 282 of which I will never ever watch, ever; charge me $20 bucks a month and let me pick 20 or so channels I want to have. Make it a dollar a channel, with discounts the more I select.
Anyway… those of the rambling thoughts that are rumbling around in my brain today.