Cord cutters have long dreamed of a future in which they can pick and choose the programming they want, instead of getting 135 mostly useless channels in the cable bundle—but that future has a high cost. Cable companies have for just as long argued for the value of the bundle over the cord-cutter's dream. "The cable package presents an undeniable value and the consumer would pay more and get less with a la carte," an ESPN spokesperson told The Philadelphia Inquirer recently. Getting "less," of course, is the point. People watch an average of 16 channels per month, according to Variety's Andrew Wallenstein, yet typically pay for something like 124, per numbers from the FCC. But, paying for all 16 of your favorite channels separately would add up quickly.
ESPN, for example, if sold on its own, would cost somewhere in the $20 to $30 dollar range, according to various analyses. HBO, another valuable property, would cost more than the $15 or $20 per month it gets in the cable bundle. Then add in AMC for Mad Men, Bravo for Top Chef, the FX for Louie, and other sports channels for lesser sporting events, and you're nearing that average $73.44 Americans pay for cable TV. Plus, you might feel compelled to add on more channels just in case of special programming events, like Sharknado on SyFy. Even if each one of those cost less than the $10 per month, as the TV industry says they would, that's still nearly a $100 per month bill.