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Court TV, A&E Slam a la Carte

5/21/2004 9:38 AM Eastern

Laws or regulations that would require a la carte sale of cable networks would probably lead to programmers’ economic ruin, lawyers for Court TV and A&E Television Networks said a recent letter to dozens of House members.

The vast majority of cable networks are currently sold in large packages, but that business model has come under attack by some in Congress who say it leads to higher rates and the commingling of family-friendly programming with indecent content that is inappropriate for children.

Court TV and AETN said in the letter, “Without the continued use of bundling, it is possible that Court TV and/or AETN’s networks will not be able to stay in business.”

The May 11 letter -- sent to all members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee -- took issue with an amendment sponsored by Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.), which would require programmers to give cable and satellite the discretion to retail channels a la carte.

Under forced a la carte, cable networks would lose access to millions of cable customers, which would likely drain licensee-fee and advertising revenue, crippling their ability to invest in programming, the cable networks said.

The programmers added that government had no business interfering in the contractual relationships between programmers and distributors. Forcing a la carte on 150 ad-supported cable networks “could require negotiation of 20,000-30,000 contracts, all for speculative purposes,” they added.

A few days ago, Deal withdrew his amendment in exchange for congressional hearings and a Federal Communications Commission a la carte study due Nov. 18.

A la carte fan Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has not agreed to surrender.

“Pricing and packaging issues should be decided in the marketplace and not by legislators,” the cable networks said. “A la carte carriage is a solution in search of a problem.”

September