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Sen. Blumenthal to co-sponsor Sen. McCain's a la carte bill

Sen. Blumenthal to co-sponsor Sen. McCain's a la carte bill
Sen. Richard Blumenthal supports Sen. John McCain's a la carte bill. (Richard Messina / Hartford Courant)

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) has signed on to co-sponsor the Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013 with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The bill, introduced in May, seeks to coerce the pay-TV industry to start selling channels to consumers on an a la carte basis instead of large bundles.

"Consumers should not have to pay for programming they don't want or watch," Blumenthal said in a statement. "The current antiquated, antidemocratic system imposes all-or-nothing cable packages that give consumers no control over their cable bill, and prevent subscribers from voting with their feet when they are unhappy."

Programmers, distributors and most media analysts have argued that a la carte will actually end up costing customers more than the current system. If a network such as ESPN suddenly went from being in 100 million homes to 50 million homes, it would have to increase what it charges to distributors (who pass much of those costs on to consumers) in order to continue to afford its programming.

Also, since not every viewer has the same tastes, a la carte could force some smaller niche channels to go out of business.

"I may feel that Bravo, A&E, History Channel and Food Network justify the $70 a month fee, while my husband attributes more value to the sports channels," said Laura Martin, an analyst with Needham & Co. "In each case, the price/value relationship is intact, but predicated on different channels for each person in the household."

Blumenthal's support won't win him any new friends in Bristol, Conn., home of ESPN, which is one of the biggest companies in the state. 


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