Charter Chief Sees À La Carte Looming

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Charter Communications President Neil Smit says he believes some form of à la carte service is coming, so he advises the industry, rather than Washington, to come up with a plan.

"Something will happen," he told an audience of cable marketers at a Cable Television Public Affairs Association convention panel session in Washington Monday. He didn't know whether it would come from Washington or the industry, but said he preferred the latter.

He pointed to the fact that the industry was getting it from the right and left on the issue of unbundling its service and selling individual channels to consumers, with indecency driving calls from conservatives for more content control, and from liberals calling for more value and choice.

David Zaslav, president of NBC Universal Cable, called indecency the "elephant in the room," saying that he was surprised with how aggressive Washington was on the issue. He pointed out that pressure had driven the creation of family tiers on cable, but that they had not satisfied the critics. He agreed with Smit that the industry needed to figure out the next course of action themselves.

Time Warner Cable COO Landel Hobbs said that he sure hoped nothing happened on the à la carte front, saying that the result would be less choice and higher prices. Diversity would be driven out he said. He agreed that indecency was behind the push, as did Abbe Raven, President of A&E, who also said that diversity would be "knocked out of the box" in an à la carte world.

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