First, we heard that Capitol Hill has been backed away from a la carte regulation. Now, we hear that consumers don’t like it either. Oh, they like the idea of a la carte. But once they find out what it actually looks like (less channels; more equipment), their interest goes way down, according to a Leichtman Research missive that will be released today. The study finds that 40% of adults are "very interested" in a la carte; but only 17% remain "very interested" when told about channel limitations of equipment requirements. The Dismal Clients: Cable doesn’t think a la carte has a lot of support on the Hill beyond Sen John McCain (R-AZ), but it’s determined that Kevin Martin’s pro-a la carte study not be the last word. To that end NCTA and Walt Disney Co each commissioned economists to study Martin’s so-called "Further" report (Cfax 02/10). Not surprisingly, MI State prof Steve Wildman and former OMB economist Jeffrey Eisenach gave chmn Martin’s term paper an "F" for faulty economics. Providing new meaning to "cable in the classroom," Viacom’s also shelled out for an independent economist to review Martin’s figures. A draft of that assessment "strongly supports" the other economists’ view, Viacom evp Carole Robinson says. — Lending support to the NCTA-Disney academicians at a press session in DC Wed were the Congressional Black Caucus and Natl Hispanic Media Coalition, noting a la carte would destroy TV diversity. Learned sporting concerns (the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NCAA and NASCAR) dispatched a Mar15 letter to Sens Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Dan Inouye (D-HI) echoing the day’s theme: a la carte means consumers pay more for less. Also supporting were Starz and NBCU Cable’s David Zaslav, whose message termed Martin’s thinking a "troubling flip-flop." — Judging by the hilariously snarky questions from the trade press, the wild card lurking beneath a la carte continues to be indecency. "Isn’t bundling the most economic way to deliver cable’s smut programming?" one asked. But the disciplined responders from NCTA and Disney refused to enter that arena. — For the record, the Concerned Women of America sent out a release supporting a la carte yesterday.

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