Last updated: October 20, 2010 - 8:18am
In disputes between television programmers and distributors, the new battleground is the Internet. Entrenched media companies hope to replicate their walled gardens in a new medium, the Internet.
In a widely read investors' note on Monday, Richard Greenfield, an analyst for BTIG Research, wrote of the broadcasters, "If you want to be paid like cable nets, start acting like cable nets on the Web." In other words, stop giving away so much content online.
The blockade is potentially bad news for users of Internet TV, because it suggests that online access should be contingent upon a monthly payment to the cable or satellite TV company that also supplies Internet access. That mirrors the TV Everywhere concept, which says customers can pay once and watch anywhere -- but so far that effort has focused on cable channels like ESPN and TNT, not broadcast networks like Fox and CBS. The TV Everywhere concept is complicated, and it has been carried out slowly by distributors, causing frustration on the part of programmers like the News Corporation. But there are scattered examples of progress; on Monday, Time Warner Cable will start allowing subscribers to watch ESPN from any computer, as long as they sign in to authenticate their TV subscription.
For the News Corporation, cutting off Web programming "is just a card that you need to play," said Jason Hirschhorn, a former executive at MTV, Sling Media, and the News Corporation's MySpace. "I think it showed how serious Fox was about retransmission," he added.
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