Why are there so many shopping channels on cable and satellite?

Because pay-TV providers actually get paid for them. (There, we ruined the surprise. Show your support for the blog and click through to read the article anyway.)

If you look at your cable or satellite guide you will find a boatload of shopping channels. Joining QVC and HSN (which you’ve probably at least heard of) are channels like GEMS, CASH, EVINE, and others that probably never enter your consciousness when you’re not flipping past them. On DIRECTV systems, these are all grouped together in the range from 70-99. That at least makes it easy to skip past them if you want to.

How much does it bother you?

If you’re like me you might get irked every time you see them, thinking you’re paying good money for pay TV and you’d just as soon see these shopfests booted off your TV in favor of the few favorite channels that you don’t get. In fact, that’s been a common mantra for years. If only some of these shopping channels were gone, then the pay-TV company could focus on “whatever channel I’m desperate for.”

Problem is, it doesn’t work like that.

Most content providers get paid a fee for every subscriber. That’s been the problem of course lately… the content providers want more money and pay-TV services like DIRECTV and DISH don’t want to pony up any more cash. Those fees range from a few pennies to a few dollars, and those costs get passed on to you. Then there are other channels, notably all those shopping channels and most of the religious ones, that are actually profit centers for the pay-TV companies.

That’s right, back the truck up, DIRECTV and DISH actually make money by putting GEMS in front of you. You don’t pay for it at all. They collect enough money to pay for all the costs of putting up the channel and then some. (The exact amount is confidential.) So, even if you don’t watch these channels, DIRECTV makes money, and that’s a very good thing. If it weren’t for these profit centers, your bill might be even higher!

Here’s the fix

If you don’t like shopping channels popping up in your channel lists, there’s a very simple solution for DIRECTV users: Create a favorites list. We have a whole tutorial that shows how to do it including a video. It’s a very easy process and when you’re done you’ll have a list that shows just the channels you care about and doesn’t show you a bunch of channels you don’t get. Once you have the list, it’s easy to edit and it stays on the receiver for as long as you have it. (Unfortunately you do have to go through the process again if you get a new receiver, but at least you can copy favorites lists from one Genie Client to another, or from Genie DVR to Genie Client.)

All of this brings up a very interesting question. What if DIRECTV and DISH tried to pull the same nonsense on the shopping channels that the other content providers pull on them? In other words, triple those coverage fees and see if the shopping channels go for it? Threaten a blackout if they don’t! Imagine that… a taste of their own medicine. It probably wouldn’t work terribly well, but it might be entertaining anyway.

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.