My family turned off our TV service a few weeks ago, and we’ve been fine so far, watching things through Hulu, iTunes, or Netflix, wherever it’s cheapest. When we get it through iTunes, we’re paying for each episode, when it comes through Netflix, we’re paying a monthly subscription fee, and when it’s “brought to us by” Hulu, we sit patiently through the commercials.
Cable, satellite and phone companies are launching different versions of something called “TV Everywhere”, which will enable online streaming of many TV shows, but only for people who subscribe to their monthly services (i.e. they’re already paying too much for those TV shows). On the face of it, this is no problem. It’s just a bonus service for cable subscribers.
However, because of the way content distribution deals are made, it’d make sense for a TV network to want to deal only with one of these services, and not, for example, Hulu. According to the Washington Post:
Programmers of content — Viacom and NBC Universal, for example — are inclined to keep traditional business arrangements with cable and satellite video companies who have subscription fees and a guaranteed audience that advertisers like, according to the public interest groups. As such, they are “starving” new competitors to cable and satellite firms such as Boxee and Vuze who need access to choice shows and movies to attract viewers.
As a result, public interest watchdogs have filed for investigations by the FTC and the Justice Department. They claim that the big cable companies met in secret to launch this initiative and are colluding to edge out reasonable, à la carte methods of paying for entertainment. You know how like when you go out to a movie, you have to bring proof of your paid membership in the Regal Cinema club, which charges $100 a month whether you go to the movies or not? It’d be like that.
Just as an aside, it seems like the news these days is frequently about companies trying ridiculous and offensive things in order to maintain previous profits, even when consumers have simply moved onto the next thing. Or has it always been like that?
Public interest groups call for antitrust probe of TV Everywhere, Cecilia Kang, The Washington Post, Jan. 4 2010
Published or updated January 4, 2010.