For Charleston cable television watchers sick of paying for dozens of channels only to regularly watch a handful, Comcast is offering something of a solution.
Starting this week, Lowcountry viewers can buy MyTV Choice, a hybrid of the buffet and a la carte models that the cable giant claims will better allow people to pay just for what they watch.
Charleston, home to approximately 120,000 Comcast cable customers, is the second of three trial regions for the new service. Philadelphia-based Comcast introduced MyTV Choice in parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont in June and will offer it in Seattle soon.
Charleston was picked for size and geographical reasons, according to a Comcast spokesman in Jacksonville.
The trials are not a response to competition posed by Internet TV services or other outlets, spokesman Bill Ferry said Tuesday.
"It's more or less responding to feedback from customers that they want more choice," Ferry said.
While Ferry and others argue the pay-per-channel is not economically feasible, Christopher C. King, a telecom analyst for Stifel Nicolaus in Baltimore, said that's the trend.
"Certainly the industry's moving more toward an a la carte model,"
Here's how MyTV Choice works:
Customers must first pick a platform, "Get Started" or "Get Started Plus," which are $24.95 and $44.95, respectively. "Get Started" comes with 50-odd channels; "Get Started Plus" includes additional popular channels like ESPN.
Only then does the "Choice" come into play, in the form of four theme packages, each of which costs an additional $10: 19-channel News & Info, 31-channel Entertainment & Lifestyle, 16-channel Movies and 11-channel Kids.
"Getting Started" is a prerequisite for themes, but customers are not obligated to buy any themes. And whereas MyTV Choice is only available as a bundled service elsewhere, Charleston customers can buy the service without phone or Internet, Ferry said.
MyTV Choice also is available in high definition for an additional cost.
Alternatively, customers could buy "Limited Basic" cable for $10.95 or a "Digital" package starting at $59.95. The general manager of Knology, a Comcast competitor in Charleston, did not respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.
Ferry said themes have been sold in Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada. Whether it becomes available around the United States depends on its popularity in places like Charleston.
"We will trial it and then we will look at our results and see whether it's something that may be worth pursuing," he said.
Reach Brendan Kearney at 937-5906 and follow him at twitter.com/kearney_brendan.