Why are there commercials on channels that you pay for?

So… you’re watching The Walking Dead and your spouse says to you, “How come there are commercials on this channel? We pay to get these channels. Does that sound fair to you?” And you think about it, and it really begins to get you angry. You know your spouse is right and you begin to wonder how this injustice has come about.

In the early days of cable television, most channels were free to the cable company. These channels were known as “advertiser-supported” or “ad-sup” channels and they got all their revenue from commercials. In those days they were trying to get on as many cablesystems as possible to get as much commercial money as possible.

As the years went on, these content providers got greedier and greedier. In fairness, the programs usually got better and better (the current crop of reality shows notwithstanding.) In order to line their pockets and improve their programming, channels like AMC and TLC started charging a small amount, like a penny per subscriber. That number kept growing, and now retransmission and carriage fees are a big part of every channel’s budget.

Somehow, though, that didn’t stop them from including commercials in every hour of programming. There’s nothing wrong with a little greed, of course, but if you’re thinking that they’re playing both sides of the field, you’re right. In a perfect world you wouldn’t have commercials in programming that you pay for. Of course, at this point if they cut out commercials your bill would probably double and if they relied only on commercials they would run 40 minutes of commercials an hour.

So, at the end of the day, your spouse is right, but it doesn’t make a difference, those commercials aren’t going away.

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 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.