I recently covered a Ninth Circuit decision that denied consumers the opportunity to insist upon unbundled cable TV channels. See this post.
Is this the end of the road for unbundling efforts? Maybe not. As this recent article suggests, the much-rumored next generation Apple TV may be a truly disruptive technology that enables consumers to unbundle channels and bypass the cable TV companies — or at least bypass them as content providers. (They still would provide bandwidth.)
I have no idea whether there really is a new Apple TV in the works, or if so, when it might appear. Nor do I know whether it will be the holy grail of new TV technology. However, the article does illustrate an important principle: today’s dominant or entrenched market players can be reduced to empty shells by disruptive technology that no one (or almost no one) can foresee. Remember Kodak and RIM? In not many more years, they may be nothing more than historical footnotes. These possibilities must be kept in mind when analyzing antitrust markets and market power issues. Exactly how to do that is a non-trivial problem.
In the meantime, maybe cable TV companies should learn more about these potential threats; at least some may be caught off guard.