Peter Suderman on the Unbundling of Cable Services


Credit: jot.punkt / photo on flickr

Here's what the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) thought of cable television under the Bush administration: It was too expensive, too vulgar, and too limited in terms of service and choice—and the only solution was to change the way its product was sold, forcibly, if necessary.

From 2005 through 2009, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin waged a small war against the cable industry, arguing that increasingly expensive channel bundles restricted consumer choice and made it difficult for parents to police their kids' viewing habits. Cable TV packages were growing more expensive every year, and consumers had no options except to buy the whole bundle or nothing at all. Parents, meanwhile, had to either decline cable altogether or allow the increasingly violent and smutty cable lineup into their homes.

Martin's efforts accomplished very little. But years later, the Internet has made it possible for individual channels to break away from the cable bundle, and for smaller, less expensive packages of channels and programming to be offered over the web. Peter Suderman explores how it all changed without government intervention.