Cable is having a major problem. There’s a large chunk of people who simply don’t want to pay for a wildly high cable bill, even if it means losing out on sports and HBO and kids channels like Disney and Nickelodeon. However, in Canada, many companies are set to unbundle their channels in the hopes that if it gives cable subscribers more choice with what channels they pay for, bills will go down and customers won’t choose to switch to streaming services. May the great unbundling of 2016 begin.
Here’s what’s happening. Companies like Blue Ant Media have started rebranding to allow consumers in Canada and elsewhere in the world to unbundle their company’s channels. THR says the content producer has rebranded some of its channels and reworked others so that they will be more appealing for consumers in different niches. Elsewhere in the Canadian sphere, Bell Media worked with HBO and Showtime to gain their content so that its channels would look more attractive as cable packages become unbundled.
In short, customers will be able to buy a much thinner base cable package that will be capped at just $25. Then, after that first initial purchase, they will be able to add onto their original package, one channel at a time for a clearly defined flat rate per channel. Each offering will vary based on the popularity of the channel, and in theory, customers will be happier because they'll only be paying for exactly the content they're looking for.
The fact that Showtime and HBO’s content is now part of this Canadian sphere of unbundled channels is very telling. If it can work in Canada, it could very well work in the United States, and it likely has companies like Time Warner and Comcast shaking in their boots. The latter company has already increased prices and has started to charge extra for large amounts of Internet usage in homes in the attempt to recoup some of the money the company has lost from people dropping cable and picking up the likes of Hulu and Netflix.
Unbundling sounds great, but in some ways it could be bad news for both content companies and cable companies. If half of the people who currently subscribe to AMC decide not to include it as as part of their customized bundle, then AMC will either need to charge twice as much to the customers who do choose it, or they'll need to figure out another way to cut costs. In the long run, those prices should stabilize and more people should get cable since it will suddenly be so affordable, but in the meantime, however, it could get really messy for the channels and the cable companies, who will suddenly be making way less money off of the subscribers it has.
All of this becomes available in March. Expect consumers and large companies in the United States to watch what happens very closely. It could change the way we watch and pay for television around the world.