Programmers Respond on a la Carte


Orlando, Fla. -- Defending themselves, programmers Tuesday voiced their
opposition to their cable networks being offered a la carte and warned against
anyone asking the government to step in and regulate how cable is packaged.

'The last thing anybody wants is to have the government intervene in the
business and mandate how you're going to price and how you're going to package,'
said David Zagin, senior vice president of affiliate sales for A&E
Television Networks. 'We've had that kind of intervention before . I can't see
the bright side it, of a la carte happening or legislation happening.'

Zagin made his remarks at a programmer's forum here -- the first one ever --
at this year's annual meeting of the National Cable Television Cooperative.

The a la carte issue came up here Monday, where the American Cable
Association is also holding its meeting.

Both trade groups represent small and midsized independent cable operators,
and they are suggesting that legislators, MSOs and programmers sit down and came
to an agreement about allowing cable networks to be offered a la carte so that
consumers have a choice and only have to pay for programming they want.

Panelist John Baird, senior VP of affiliate sales and marketing for Scripps
Networks, pointed out the age-old programmer argument that a change in a
network's distribution -- like a la carte -- will hurt its national ad sales,
and that lost revenue must be made up on the license-fee side.

Discovery Networks U.S. executive VP of affiliate sales and marketing Bill
Goodwyn suggested that cable operators should be able to offer expensive
networks -- those with monthly license fees of 75 cents or more -- a la carte or
on a tier.

Nonetheless, NCTC president Mike Pandzik and ACA president Matt Polka
attended the panel session and warned programmers that if cable operators and
networks don't find a way to offer consumers more flexibility in their cable
packages, the government was going to come in and do it for