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NCTA, Disney Fire Back on À La Carte

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the Walt Disney CO. unveiled their own independent à la carte studies Wednesday refuting FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's à la carte study released last month.

"We've been to à la carte, we know it doesn't work," said Preston Padden, executive VP, government relations, for Disney.

Martin's study was itself a refutation of an earlier FCC à la carte study concluding that mandating à la carte, or per-channel cable service, would upset cable's economic model without resulting in the purported benefits. The Martin-commissioned study concluded, instead, that the original study was flawed and that à la carte was workable.

Martin has been pushing for family friendly cable tiers and à la carte offerings to allow parents to better control the programming that comes into their home, particularly the "indecent" content activist groups have been complaining loudly about, as well as the price of that programming.

Padden pointed to a banner behind him--at a press conference at the National Press Club releasing the studies--that read: "À La Carte: Consumers Pay More for Less."

He said that Disney had been there, done that, launching Disney Channel essentially as an à la carte service (a premium channel) that cost $12-$14 per month and could not top 30% penetration. As an expanded basic service, he said, the channel now reaches 87 million homes and has been able to boost investment in programming.

The NCTA/Disney reports essentially conclude that the Martin-backed report is not a cost-benefit analysis, or an effective rebuttal of the orignal report's well-substantiated conclusions and, given that, is not a basis for regulatory or statutory action.

The Martin study--or "further report"--got it wrong "time after time after time," said NCTA's Daniel Brenner.
The Disney/NCTA reports were "respectfully" submitted as comments to the FCC.