Moreover, it's not like the cable and satellite industries don't see the writing on the wall. TV subscribers are decreasing while Internet customers are booming. More and more people are watching their favorite shows online.
Brian Dietz, a vice president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn., said cable companies are adapting to changing times.
"Compared with other sources of entertainment, cable's value is unmatched in both cost and quantity," he said. "With Americans watching more TV every year, at just 23 cents per viewing hour, the value of the cable subscription is the best of any form of entertainment."
But Dietz declined to comment when I asked whether cable and satellite companies could do more to address customers' needs — for example, by offering smaller and smarter bundles.
If Martin is correct, and it's true that people's viewing choices would be significantly limited by a la carte programming, why can't the industry chart a middle course and offer bundles that actually suit customers' viewing habits?
For example, I watch a lot of movies. I also watch news shows and local channels and some arts channels and AMC when "The Walking Dead" is on.
I don't watch sports (sorry, Dad). I don't watch foreign-language channels. I don't watch anything that even remotely could be construed as "reality TV."
As it stands, there isn't a cable package that matches my interests. No matter how aggressively I try to cut costs, I still end up paying for lots of channels I don't want just so I can get the ones that I do.
There were reports this week that cable companies may try to lower customers' bills by breaking pricey sports channels into a separate tier — that is, offering them only to those who want them. If so, this would be a prudent move.
But why stop there? The TV industry has studied people's viewing habits with rocket-science precision. They know exactly what people watch and what any given person may want to watch.
If a la carte programming is a choice killer for the industry and consumers, then it's time to introduce interest-related tiers or mini-bundles that narrowly address a viewer's TV needs. And people should be able to add or subtract such mini-bundles from their channel lineups as they see fit, without any penalty.
This would allow niche channels to continue finding an audience and provide viewers with plenty of choices, while at the same time address the core problem of requiring people to pay for unwanted programming.
If the TV industry thinks this is too daunting a prospect, I hereby volunteer to sit down with them and show them how a system of mini-bundles would look. And I'll bet you'd be happy to do the same.
In fact, let's get the ball rolling right now. Tell the cable industry's lobbyists which 12 channels you'd want in the perfect programming plan. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nobody wants a store with just 20 products to choose from. But nobody wants to have to buy 150 products when they only want maybe two or three dozen.
The pay-TV industry would be wise to accept that.