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Is Cable TV A Good Value for My Money?

Dollar for dollar, as a value for your hard-earned entertainment dollar, cable leads the list. Why? Try this comparison. Based on the average cost of one month´s worth of expanded basic cable service, the average consumer will pay about $30. For the same amount of money, the consumer could also receive:

  • 60 minutes of cellular phone use.
  • One daily newspaper and two weekly magazines.
  • One month of basic local telephone service (long distance calls not included).
  • Half of a popular video game cartridge.
  • One or two music CDS.
  • Two tickets for a local sporting event (parking, food, drinks, and gas not included.)
  • 1 Movie Ticket for a Family of Four


Consider too, that expanded cable TV service provides 30 days of local and national news, entertainment, educational programming and sports, delivered 24 hours a day. Your cable TV service also comes complete with all the equipment you need for a consistently high quality, crystal clear picture and sound. When you examine the facts up close, cable clearly is one of the best values for the dollar.

Why should I pay for television – aren´t the airwaves free?

The airwaves are free; the content is not. The people who create your favorite cable TV shows spend millions of dollars on equipment, production and satellite distribution costs, talent salaries, licensing fees, etc. Without a steady revenue source to support these expensive programs, new, high-quality programs could not continually be produced.

Why do I have to pay in advance for cable?

Like other entertainment services, such as movie theaters, concerts and sporting events, cable customers pay for the service they will receive. Advance payment ensures cable companies have the cash on-hand to pay for both up-front and ongoing programming costs, as well as to help defray the significant costs of bringing the service direct to your home.

Why do cable companies charge late fees?

Like other providers of ongoing service to the home, such as telephone, electric and gas companies, and now, Internet providers, cable systems charge late fees for overdue payments. It costs cable companies´ accounting departments money to send out late notices and track customers who have not paid their bill.

Why isn´t channel “XYZ” carried on my cable system?

Cable operators are sensitive to viewer interests, and often invest a great deal of time, money and effort in surveying customers to determine what programs they want to view. Often, the programming networks selected to appear on a cable system line-up are chosen as a result of market surveys, the system´s channel capacity, the cost of programming, and other contractual obligations negotiated with programmers in return for carriage agreements.

How come I end up paying for new program services I don´t watch?

As stated previously, cable operators take into account the viewing preferences of their customers. Extensive market surveys and program previews allow operators to determine the programs their customers want to watch. Sometimes, features are added that don´t appeal to everyone, much like a Sunday newspaper provides readers with news, comics, real estate, automotive and sports sections. While all readers may not take advantage of each section, they pay the same price as those who do.

How can I get my cable company to add the networks I want?

Call, write or respond to your cable company´s surveys. Cable operators keep track of customer requests and often use that information when deciding what channels to add. That is why new, emerging program networks often produce commercials that urge cable TV viewers to call their local cable operator to ask the network be added.

How many cable networks are there?

According to the National Cable Television Association, there are 175 cable networks with programming that ranges from arts and entertainment to sports and movies. Most cable systems have the capacity to carry between 36 and 54 channels, so obviously, not every available network can be offered on every system.

Why are certain programs pre-empted?

Local broadcasters have the right to require cable operators to black out syndicated programming on distant stations if they own the exclusive local programming rights. For example, a local broadcaster purchases the exclusive local rights to M*A*S*H. The local broadcaster can then force the cable operator to black out M*A*S*H on a broadcast station from outside the market. This regulation, called syndicated exclusivity, is not popular with customers, but cable operators are forced to comply with federal rules.

Why are some sporting events blacked out?

Most often, contracts with team owners, program producers or the leagues themselves require these blackouts. The purpose is to ensure the actual event is attended. For example, if a customer can view a sporting event on television, he or she may be less likely to attend the game. Generally, the team owner, program producer or league lifts the blackout when the stadium or arena is filled.

Why do cable companies carry duplicate broadcast channels?

Many cable customers appreciate having more than one channel of each of the major network affiliates for several reasons:

* If one network affiliate decides to carry a local sporting event or a charity telethon instead of the network feed, customers might miss the network programming.

* Local broadcast news programs develop extremely loyal viewers.

* Network affiliates often offer very different sports schedules, appealing to different segments of the viewing audience.

A federal regulation called Must Carry/Retransmission Consent also affects a cable company´s channel line-up. If a local broadcaster exercises his or her right under the Must Carry rules, then the cable operator is required to carry the station. If a local broadcaster requests Retransmission Consent instead, the cable operator must negotiate with the broadcaster for the rights to carry that station.

What is considered a “local broadcaster?”

A local broadcaster isn’t always the broadcast station that´s closest to the cable company geographically. The Federal Communications Commission defines a local broadcaster as one located in the same market (or “Area of Dominant Influence”) as the cable system. The demarcation line may seem somewhat arbitrary.

Who regulates cable?

Cable operators generally enter into a franchise agreement with each municipality they serve. As part of this agreement, the municipality may require up to five percent of revenues as a franchise fee. The municipality may choose to regulate the price of the lowest tier of cable service and related equipment and installation fees. Municipalities also may enforce customer service standards and require public access channels.

Isn´t cable a monopoly?

Most communities only have one “hard-wired” cable television system for simple economic reasons. A cable system requires millions of dollars of up-front investment and the marketplace in any given community usually can´t support two cable systems. But, video programming is available from a variety of other sources, including direct broadcast satellite (DBS), wireless, and over-the-air broadcast providers.

Why can´t some people get cable?

Unlike electric and telephone companies which were provided subsidies by the federal government to serve sparsely populated areas, cable companies receive no such incentives. Cable companies, supported by private investors, not public funding, can only serve areas where they can expect a reasonable return on their investment. It costs a more than $12,000, on average, to construct one mile of above ground fiber optic and coaxial cable plant. So, whenever a cable operator evaluates whether or not to extend this delivery plant – each project must stand on its own economic merit. Most cable operators expand their plant whenever and wherever possible and are generally willing to work with residents interested in receiving cable service.

More questions we didn´t cover above? Contact the ACTA, we’re happy to help you!

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Little Rock, Arkansas 72201

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