How Much Would It Cost You to Get Your Favorite Channels If They All Went a la Carte?

Jan 29, 2016  •  Post A Comment

A new report examines the monthly prices cable channels would charge on an a la carte basis for each channel to make as much as it does under the current system. Not that it’s likely to happen anytime soon, as the results of the study, by MoffettNathanson, led Re/code to conclude: “Short answer: You’ll pay a lot more for the TV you want [under a la carte].”

It’s no surprise that ESPN comes in with the highest “implied a la carte price” at $36.30 a month. But the gap between ESPN and the rest of the channels is striking, with TNT — another channel with significant sports rights — second on the list at $8.95. Rounding out the top 5: Disney at No. 3, $8.25; USA Network at No. 4, $5.45; Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite at No. 5, $4.99.

The report focuses on basic cable channels and skips broadcast, which “technically” remains free via over-the-air transmission — even though broadcasters have become a key ingredient in the current pay-TV bundling model.

Click on the link near the top of this story to go to the Re/code report to see the chart breaking down pricing for 20 of the top cable channels.


  1. $5.45 for USA network? are you kidding me? all they show is reruns of law&order and ncis!

  2. Since I don’t watch any of the top 5, seems I’d do OK under a la Carte! And $36.30/month for ESPN? Really?

  3. Eventually ala carte will prevail and then we’ll see the demise of 50% of the lower half. Even with the rates above, which I believe will shrink as well, my cable bill will be cut in half.

    Bring it on…

  4. These cost estimates are based on the assumption that in an a la carte world, the cost structures of these networks would be otherwise unchanged. That’s not a realistic assumption — since we can be pretty sure that few viewers would pay $36/month for ESPN, the end result would be that networks would lower their future bids for sports and programming rights. No more of things like ESPN paying 3x what ABC paid for MNF, even though ABC was breaking even at best at the price that they were paying.

  5. I see this as a huge savings as I wouldn’t need to pay for any of the ESPN channels or Disney any longer.

    These prices remind me more of the glory days of C-Band satellite when you could buy channels ala carte.

  6. I get my TV over the air, and granted that I live in a top 5 market, there are almost 100 channels available. Even discounting the foreign, religious or Spanish stations that I’ll never watch, there is still more than I want to see than I can watch. I’ve also hooked up a computer to the antenna and TV through a TV tuner card, so I have a DVR and can stream almost anything that I can’t see on broadcast. Total monthly cost: $0.

  7. How much money would I save under an ala carte model? A whopping $0. Why? Because I don’t have cable or satellite. Haven’t had it for years, and quite frankly, don’t need it.

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