Has a la carte’s time finally come? Operators have alluded to “soon” for some time (much akin to the late George Carlin’s definition of “soon”), but Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has decided to push the issue. His just-introduced, three-pronged Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013 tackles wholesale and retail unbundling of programming by distributors and programmers, what happens if broadcasters “downgrade” their over-the-air services, and the elimination of the sports blackout rule for events held in publicly financed stadiums. One way McCain aims to bust bundles is through a provision “that would create a ‘wholesale’ a la carte market by allowing programmers to bundle their services in a package only if they also offer those services for (operators) to purchase on an individual channel basis,” allowing the cableco to buy and carry only the channels consumers want. What this could mean for new software sales is unknown at this point, but it seems like changes would need to be made for this advanced kind of individualized content management. And then the big one: “Finally, the bill provides that if the parties cannot agree to the terms of a carriage agreement, the final offer made by each side must be disclosed to the FCC,” McCain says. Of course, the NCTA has come out swinging, commenting, In a thriving marketplace that is constantly providing consumers with new services and features, a government-mandated a la carte system is a lose–lose proposition…Attempting to force retail models on private providers is unnecessary and counterproductive.”

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