Under the current model, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said, advertisers know that a subscriber may receive as many 200 channels, but have no idea which ones are watched, Variety said.
"The sad truth, as both you and your commercial clients know, is that no one actually knows how many people are watching each channel, much less how many are watching each commercial," Martin said during an Association of National Advertisers conference.
The only accurate Nielsen measures, he said, are for channels associated or affiliated with major networks he said. Offering cable channels on an la carte, or tiered, basis would lower the uncertainty for advertisers and their clients about viewers.
The National Telecommunications and Cable Association has said it isn't economically feasible to segment its channel offerings.
"Numerous economic analyses, including the FCC's own economists, have concluded that a la carte would harm consumers by driving up prices and eliminating channels that serve minority and niche audiences," association spokesman Brian Dietz said.
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