Sen. John McCain wants to let customers buy their pay channels on an a la carte basis — an idea that would fundamentally alter the TV landscape and threaten one of the major revenue sources for media companies.
The Arizona Republican is preparing legislation that would let cable customers buy channels individually, according to a report in The Hill. A spokesman for McCain did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Under the current system, cable companies charge customers for bundles of channels. In turn, media companies package their content to cable providers so that they are forced to pay for less popular channels in order to get access to more desirable ones like ESPN or AMC.
Expect a furious backlash from the industry if McCain's bill picks up steam and popular support. A spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters, the television business' main lobbying arm, declined to comment, saying the organization has yet to see the legislation.
The Los Angeles Times reports that McCain's bill includes a provision that could bolster Aereo, the internet start-up that provides customers with online access to broadcast programming.
Aereo is locked in a legal battle with several broadcasting networks and some have threatened to move their programming to cable as a means of thwarting the company. McCain's bill would reportedly allow the Federal Communications Commission to pull broadcasters' licenses if they move their programming to cable.