Hundreds Of TV Channels, But How Many TV Choices?

Back in the old days, you used to have three channels to choose from – NBC, ABC and CBS. Well, now you have LOTS of channels. Hundreds. You might think you have more choices – but you don’t.

See, 7 giant companies control more than 70% of the cable channels on TV. Disney, Time Warner, News Corp., the Comcast NBC Universal conglomerate, Viacom, CBS and Discovery. What’s left? Not much.

And these companies rely heavily on their cable channels too – 60-90% of profits for these 6 companies come from their cable TV properties.

But it’s not just the channels. It’s also the companies that control the TV channel line-ups. 68% of the 100 million households with cable are controlled by 4 companies: Comcast, again (21 million), Direct TV (20 million), DISH Network (14 million), and Time Warner Cable (13 million).

If you add in the next five biggest cable providers, Charter (5 million), Cox (5 million), AT&T U-Verse (5 million), Verizon Fios (5 million) and Cablevision (3 million), you have 9 corporations making 91% of the decisions when it comes to what YOU see.

So – so what? Well, when one of the giant content companies has a new channel they want added to the pay TV channel line-ups, they can threaten to take all their other channels off as a way to force their way on. Which means consumers don’t really have a say in what is on – and more importantly, NOT on – your channel line up.

Or, let’s say your giant TV provider decides they don’t want to carry a channel that you want and would happily pay for. Since there are so few choices among TV providers, you might not be able to find another outlet to turn to that carries the channel you want, or you’ll have to pay big termination fees.

You have a few giant content companies and a few giant TV providers making giant amounts of money – and what YOU actually want barely plays into the process.

So – how does a little channel – independent – not affiliated with a giant corporation, break through?


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  • Sam Fisher

    I don’t see some of those guys moving the Blaze onto their lineup because many of them are controlled my liberal media and they will not make the same mistake as they did with putting fox news up. The blazes gets in their than they lose.

  • Anonymous

    Two hunting and one – Fox News, the rest SUCK

    • Helen J. Johnson


      ✇✇✇ୣ✇ ✇✇✇ ✇✇✇✇ ✇ଭ✇✇✇ ✇✇✇Which means consumers don’t really have a say in what is on – and more importantly, NOT on – your channel line up.

  • Anonymous

    Uhh… how ’bout just don’t pay for TV?

    If you can’t get it over the air or on the internets, you go without.

  • landofaahs

    You have a choice between liberal 1 through liberal 543,200. I for one am gathering names in my area.

  • Fat Lip

    Its always been like this the only difference is we used to get crap choices for free on analog , BBUUUTTT now we get a whole lot of crap and we have to pay to get a couple good one’s love that digital freedom either way Crap seems to be my point you all know what i’m mean IT SUCKS

    • Anonymous

      It wasn’t all crap because the big three networks (after Dumont folded) still wanted and needed viewers of ALL kinds. That is why back in 70’s and earlier one could see classical music and (gasp!) religious programming on Sundays. PBS had “Firing Line” (William F. Buckley Jr.) for almost twenty years (gasp!!!!). The news between the networks was more balanced then than today.

      The “diversity” of cable presented “choices” but no one can watch hundreds of stations so viewers now tend to break up in groups of what they regularly watch. Back then we had news integration and with cable it has now devolved into news segregation. The same is true for general programming.

      Is it any wonder that the nation is becoming polarized?

      • Fat Lip

        You know Tony you are absolutely correct I stand corrected

  • Anonymous

    Want to scare the Dickens out of cable and content providers? Demand “a-la-carte”.

  • Anonymous

    On another thread I complimented my TV, telephone, and internet cable provider – Cablevision. They do carry The Blaze, btw. The problem is not one of breaking through as a channel – you are not technically a channel, although the term is used.

    Cable is a physical thing in the “last mile”. Broadcast is in the atmosphere for all right to the home antenna (if you still have one on your roof). Broadcast is still channels 2 through 13 in the sense of the bands – and if you remember the old days you didn’t get them all if you were away from a metropolitan area. These are analog broadcasts from “earth stations”, just as most radio still is. The band width is limited.

    Cable is a physical connection, even if it is a community cable that carries only “broadcast channels”. Early cable was analog with limited band width, modern cable is digital with a wider band width – but it still depends on what the local cable takes from the satelites and puts on the cable.

    In some places the local cable (the last mile, as the telephone company used to call it) is owned by a single company. They have the right as they laid the cable. In others the cable was laid by a consortium or by a municipality – I am lucky enough to live in one of those. I can subscribe to Cablevision, Comcast, or Verizon without them laying new lines. In NYC some places are exclusively Time Warner or Comcast.

    The “public airways” are the frequency bands for broadcast, they are controlled by the FCC. That is legitimate, someone has to franchise them so they don’t interfere with each other. But they are of limited range. I can get 1010 WINS where I am, fifty miles south of NYC – but if I drive to Philly I’ll pick up another station on frequency 1010 as I come into its area. Analog RF only goes so far, and the same applies to TV stations.

    Once we move to cable we are dependent on the company that gives us our local connection. It is good old capitalism, some companies spent the bucks some years ago to create the infrastructure to bring cable to the area homes, others dis it with a consortium and an open access using broadband digital channels. My home has had buried optical cables for over twenty years, but only got Cablevision/Optimum for about 13. The cable is very broadband as it can’t interfere with broadcasts over the airwaves. A local transmitter (five miles from me) has a satellite antenna that takes (and sends) beamed satellite signals and translates them to (and from) my home over the shared cable. Were I to shift to Verizon FIOS or Comcast (which I won’t do) they would use the same cable, the “last mile” be re-routed.

    Back to Glenn’s question, the little “channel” breaks through by convincing the owners of the physical cables who have an infrastructure with a satellite receiver and ownership of local physical cables to carry his “channel”. The number of households doesn’t reflect the choice of the households, it reflects the infrastructure. The majority of the geography (in contrast to households) is not covered by cable – hence the dish type corporations. The rest of us, with cable, are divided between those with only a monopoly cable company or a choice as the local transmitters cooperate. I am lucky to be within the latter. It is usually a function of the municipality, in permitting the cable laying, to decide whether the cable is a local “public good” or an exclusive asset for the original cable laying company. This is not socialism, they can make a contract with the company that lays the cable that says that they are obligated to allow others to use the bandwidth only if they are compensated directly by the new network. That is what happened in my area.

    Unless you can raise the capital to run your own cables you can only break in by convincing a cable corporation to carry you.

    I would prefer it, even though I”m not for government regulations, if the cable provider had to be at arms length from the content providers.It is a complicated problem – a local magnate could pay to dig in the cables and select to only send out TV that agrees with him I don’t want eminent domain for cable, but I also want a freedom of what I want

  • Anonymous

    Many of the additional channels are for the hispanic population. I don’t pay for cable because they won’t allow a person to pick and choose; they want people to pay for the shows that wouldn’t survive without the support of those who are not interested in their shows.

  • Dopple Gang

    Ironically, those advocating a fleeting majority’s unlimited power also tend to claim that we must trust appointed “experts” for direction.

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