When I thought “A La Carte” was the answer

Ah, the early 2010s. A simpler time. A time when streaming video on your phone or TV seemed impossible, or at least novel. A time when home theater enthusiasts argued about pay-TV and Hulu was free.

Back in 2012, I wrote an innocent little article called A la Carte – Has the Time Finally Come? where I talked about the idea of a la carte programming. Let me get you up to speed.

In those days we paid one bill for TV. Usually it was to a cable company or satellite TV company. Especially in the case of satellite, our TVs were filled with many, many channels we did not actually watch. Shopping channels, religious channels, infomercial channels. People said, “if only I could pay for the 9 channels I watch, I’d be saving money.”

That math didn’t hold up, but it didn’t matter. The world was about to change.

Streaming was a whole new world

In the years right after I wrote that article we all started paying for Netflix streaming which used to be included when we had a disc subscription. We started paying for Hulu, then HBO, then Showtime and Starz, all separately.

Then, many folks started to ditch cable altogether in favor of slimmer packages from Sling and DIRECTV NOW. These streaming services launched largely without those shopping, religious, and infomercial channels so greatly reviled by the technorati, and thanks to new deals and sharp lawyers, prices actually went down not up.

We started subscribing to more niche channels too, but we never really embraced paying for shows one at a time (unless you count Star Trek: Discovery for which one needed a CBS All Access subscription.)

And people stopped talking about a la carte.

Today I’d wager that the average cord cutter doesn’t pay less than he or she did ten years ago, but at least the entertainment packages make more sense. With automatic billing you just don’t think about how you’re paying six companies when you used to pay one, and you still get all the content you want.

All of that makes my 2012 article seem hopelessly dated and quaint. The fight over “a la carte” programming is over and no one even uses the term anymore.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 9,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.