Legislation has often been touted as the answer to media’s many problems. It was supposed to fix agency pricing, but e-book prices are still at trade paperback levels. It was supposed to let people be ‘forgotten’ online, but that law in Europe has been a disaster.
And now, cable television. Recently, the Canadian telecommunications regulatory body ruled that all cable companies must be required to offer a ‘skinny’ bundle of basic channels for $25 a month. As predicted, the cable television industry has found all sorts of loopholes to get around this.
Some of the issues Techdirt reported:
- Making the bundle available but not listing it or advertising it anywhere. The customer must know to specifically ask for it when they call.
- Making the bundle available, and priced at $25, but then charging extra for ancillary costs such as DVR rental fees and installation surcharges.
- Pricing the add-on channel bundles so high that it would be cheaper for the customer to simply buy the ‘regular’ non-skinny bundle in the first place.
I can’t say I find any of this surprising. But what it does tell me is that there is a clear lesson here for publishers, and other media vendors. They should not reply on governments to legislate a more competitive marketplace for them. Publishers still have a lot of work to do. They need to price competitively, get over DRM, and offer a good customer experience. If they want there to be an alternative to Amazon, legislation is not going to create it for them.
Image credit: Here.