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Beyond good and evil

|Includes: Apple Inc. (AAPL), MSFT

This article about the practical limitations on web-based à la carte television reminds me about a debate I recently had with a friend of mine, who is as passionate an observer of media as I am. Like in this article, the argument was made that for all the glitz of the Apple TV dream, or any dream associated with the reduction of our cable bill that is superhuman, in which we are charged pointlessly for more or less 990 out of 1000 channels that we never watch, for all the grand hope of this dream, it will never in reality yield what we would like. I took the other side… and lost on account of a bad cell phone connection. Allegedly.

In summary, the argument was that a packaged content offering, such as we currently take for granted with our traditional cable subscription, will necessarily be less expensive than an à la carte offering, because with a package you get package pricing. Disney, for example, may offer ESPN Classic – if aggregated with two or three other ESPN channels plus ABC and Disney Channel – at a reduced price, which would not be offered if ESPN Classic were acquired alone. And so, the argument goes, be careful what you wish, because you won’t pay less, but more.

Makes sense, although not quite! Because I would not purchase the full suite of cable channels one by one, nobody would. Of course that would be more expensive than a package purchase; but the point of à la carte is that, out of all the Disney offerings which are extensive, I would only take ESPN Classic, and nothing else. No plausible volume discount could make it worth my while to take the package.

Anyway, this post isn’t to continue a tired argument, which is infinitely more nuanced and complicated than presented here. The market will always settle such arguments conclusively, and we shall see. I still believe that Apple will entertain us next week with more than a touch-screen netbook, and there will be something television related in the mix. That Microsoft displayed its tablet at CES and is now working on an Xbox television deal are both in my opinion signals of what’s to come from the one that matters. But back to the original subject:

What this debate highlights for me, is that we tend to project our own views absolutely, and we arrive at flawed conclusions as a result. I stand guilty. We think in terms of all or nothing, yes or no, new or old, square or hip, good and evil, and we are prone to overlook the degrees of variation into which reality invariably ends up falling. Philosophies, more than any truth, reflect the philosopher’s biography, or words to that effect according to Nietzsche.

More and more, this notion resonates as I keep up with the latest industry reviews and economic commentary. 

Disclosure: No positions