Cable starts to look at smaller programming bundles

The words a la carte (if they're words or just a word, it's hard to tell with those foreign phrases) will never leave the lips of a cable executive except accompanied by a sneer and a spittle-laced raspberry. On the other hand, with pressure mounting from Internet sources and subscribers supposedly either leaving or preparing to leave in droves, there is some talk about reducing the size of the basic cable TV package.

"It would be a good thing if we could all figure out a way to have one or more smaller packages that would be attractive to people who can't afford bigger ones, especially if we could do it in a way that the entertainment companies are still able to finance the product," said Glenn Britt, CEO of Time Warner Cable, speaking off-the-cuff during a break at the Allen & Company Mogulfest in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Cable's argument has always been that the packages help support smaller start-up programming channels by mixing their weaker offerings with powerhouse plays like ESPN, CNN and USA Network. A struggling economy and outside competition, however, along with constant niggling pressure from regulators and others, could cause the industry to rethink the way it puts together its products.

"Talks are happening at some level, not too seriously," Britt added.

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