Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) Friday urged the
country's largest cable companies to follow the lead of Cablevision Systems
Corp. by creating more sports-programming tiers and expanding a la carte
McCain, who applauded Thursday's deal between Cablevision and Yankees
Entertainment & Sports Network, sent letters to the leaders of Comcast
Corp., Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications Inc., Cox Communications Inc.
and Adelphia Communications Corp. to appeal for wider consumer choices than just
massive programming tiers offered on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.
"I applaud the courage of Cablevision to reach an agreement with the YES
Network that provides its customers with an option not to pay for programming
they do not want. I challenge you to provide your customers with similar
choices, especially with respect to the most expensive programming, like sports,
that continues to drive up cable rates," McCain's one-page letter said.
McCain has asked the General Accounting Office to investigate recent
cable-rate increases. He has complained that cable companies use large
programming tiers to force consumers to buy channels they don't want.
But cable operators countered that powerful programming suppliers like The
Walt Disney Co. refused to retail ESPN, for example, as an a la carte
Cablevision agreed to place YES -- home of Major League Baseball's New York
Yankees -- on tiers reaching 1 million of the company's nearly 3 million New
York-area subscribers. All Cablevision subscribers can purchase YES separately
for $1.95 per month or in a sports-programming packing for $4.95.
"Although not a complete solution to the problem of skyrocketing rates, this
agreement seems to be an important first step to lowering cable rates by
providing consumers with more choice," McCain said.