Media Companies Turn to A La Carte Sales in Foreign Markets

Viacom, 21st Century Fox and The Walt Disney Company are among the numerous entertainment companies offering their content a la carte — in Europe, Latin America and Asia. In the U.S., these networks are still parts of more expensive bundles proffered by Comcast, DirecTV and other pay TV services. That reflects a much lower penetration of homes outside the U.S. that have a cable or satellite subscription, which makes it possible for media companies to make a la carte offers without running afoul of pay TV providers.

Bloomberg notes that these same media companies are trying to avoid abroad what Netflix did to its U.S. audiences: “take a big bite… by offering shows on-demand and on all devices.”


“One of the things that made Netflix successful was providing access to consumers on tablets and the like — something people wanted,” said Viacom International Media Networks chief executive Bob Bakish. “Traditional pay TV was very slow to do that.”

According to IHS and Bloomberg Intelligence, 84 percent of U.S. homes have a cable or satellite subscription, which makes it much harder to offer programming a la carte. Bakish says Viacom hopes to partner with mobile providers to offer MTV and Nickelodeon, among other channels, directly to smartphone owners; its Noggin kids service is available online in South America.

A la carte offerings abroad abound. DisneyLife is available to U.K. viewers for 10 pounds ($14.30 U.S.) a month, and NBCUniversal offers Hayu, a streaming reality TV service in the U.K., Ireland and Australia for between $4.50 to $5.50 per month.

Fox offers both: Fox Play allows Latin American cable and satellite subscribers to watch programs from more than a dozen Fox channels on-demand and live as well as on any device anywhere in that continent, but is also selling a la carte offerings. With the popularity of soccer in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, Fox’s top markets, the media company is selling a subscription to Copa Libertadores, the biggest club tournament in Latin America.

Viacom markets a similar product with Play Plex, apps for MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, Spike, the Paramount Channel and BET, available now in more than 40 markets. Bakish says Play Plex will be expanded through mobile providers, reporting that he met with an Indonesian carrier at the Mobile World Congress that wants Nickelodeon for 100 million subscribers.

“We are in a range of conversations,” he said. “There is a significant incremental penetration opportunity.”