business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

There was a story the other day in Variety that got me thinking about the whole issue of consumer control … and how businesses simply have to accept the fact that the balance of power has forever shifted and is flowing inexorably to the shopper.

The story had to do with how cable provider Comcast is testing a trial offer of HBO as something called 'Internet Plus," essentially offering a subscription to the premium cable channel across all platforms on cable television and the internet, to people who want to pay for it a la carte, and don't want to pay for other cable channels such as Fox News, MSNBC, A&E or ESPN.

Indeed, the decision comes as HBO has to deal with the reality that Netflix now has more subscribers than it does … and cable companies have to deal with the fact that people have more alternatives than ever for viewing traditional programming in non-traditional ways.

While "bundling" has long been the approach for cable marketers - it seems like the more channels and services they offer, the more economical it is, and heaven help you if you only want one HBO channel, or one sports network, or one cable news channel - it seems to me that we're moving inevitability toward the time when this just isn;t going to be the case anymore. Consumers won't accept it. We want what we want, when we want it, how we want it, at a price that we think is acceptable. And while there will be conventional wisdom suggesting that this won't work economically, it probably is more accurate to say that it hasn't worked economically … but that doesn't mean it cannot. And won't.

The broader message, I think, is that even as consumers demand control, they want the kind of actionable information that can allow them to exercise that control responsibly.

Which is what businesses - in all venues - have to work to provide. Provide the shopper with the levers of power, and transparency of information so they know how to use them.
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