May 7, 2015 / 7:29 PM / 2 years ago

Americans prefer picking TV channels to buying bundles: Reuters/Ipsos

(Reuters) - A vast majority of Americans would prefer to assemble their own pay TV channels rather than subscribe to packages that include dozens or hundreds of networks, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll found in a challenge to traditional television distribution.

Seventy-seven percent of U.S. adults said they would like "a la carte pricing" which would allow consumers to pick their own channels. Only 23 percent said they would prefer bundles. (For a graphic see reut.rs/1H4mLdK).

Media companies and distributors that provide satellite, broadband and cable services are struggling to find ways to keep viewers from ditching traditional subscriptions and attract a younger generation, which sees less need for a cable subscription and watches on computers and mobile devices.

“I pay for a lot of channels that are not of interest to me,” said poll respondent Charles Bourque, 63, who lives in Manchester, New Hampshire.

He does not want the Russian and Spanish networks that he gets as a Comcast subscriber, paying north of $200 a month. He does not speak either language.

Verizon tested the waters for a product offering more customization last month when it rolled out a Custom TV plan with 36 fixed channels and the choice of adding small bundles related to sports, children or news. That was seen as a step toward a la carte.

Twenty-First Century Fox and Comcast’s NBC Universal both said the offer violates the terms of their contracts that allow Verizon to carry their programming.

Walt Disney’s ESPN took the same stance and launched a lawsuit against Verizon, claiming the distributor breached the terms of their deal.

A Verizon spokeswoman declined to share details on subscriber numbers and the type of users signing up for FiOS Custom TV, which is aimed at millennials and cord cutters. She said that the Reuters/Ipsos poll results validated the rationale for launching Custom TV.

ESPN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The survey found few willing to pay more than about $10 per channel. The poll found 40 percent would pay up to $10 a month for sports network ESPN, while 46 percent are willing to do the same with news networks such as CNN, MSNBC or Fox News.

The percentage of people who will pay up to $30 a month for either ESPN or news networks was 4 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

A 54 percent majority do not want ESPN, while 47 percent said they do not want cable news networks.

Adam Smith, a 27-year-old who lives in Ludington, Michigan, said he would prefer to choose channels and pay $70 a month or less per month. He pays over $100 a month for his Dish Network subscription.

The online poll was conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Reuters from May 1 through May 6 with a sample of 1,680 Americans age 18 or older. The Reuters/Ipsos poll’s accuracy is gauged using a statistical measure called a credibility interval. In this case, the poll results are accurate within plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

Additional reporting by Malathi Nayak; Editing by Peter Henderson and Bernard Orr

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