As more networks put crazier and crazier limitations on internet accessible television, customers will continue to adapt. And that’s bad. At least if you like watching television legally without cable or satellite.
Fox, as mentioned previously, is going to implement a delay on their Hulu content—where previously, you could watch their programs on the internet the day after they aired, delays will now last eight days unless you create a TV Everywhere account with your cable or satellite provider and login. This isn’t new—the USA network has some legendary air-to-web delays for their programs (seriously, a whole month?!), and HBO and ESPN won’t even let you view their long form content without a login through a licensed cable provider.
What is new about this is that Fox is ostensibly an over-the-air network—in most places in the US, a cable subscription isn’t necessary to watch their content during airtime. And, frankly, the content can still be gotten for free on the web: legally, a week after air, or illegally, whenever it becomes available on a fileshare service.
One of the big consumerist arguments in this fight are that customers are likely to increase piracy of content as networks treat them as their enemies. And that’s probably true, but that’s unlikely to affect TV as it has music, because networks make lots of money from providers, and little directly from consumers. As long as the cable and satellite people need certain networks (like Fox) in order to turn a profit, there’s no incentive to play nice with viewers.
And don’t think that it will end with a week delay. Expect more content providers to increase their air-to-web delays, up to and beyond USA’s month. Then, be assured that as the networks see that they are still unable to control their own markets, they will continue to restrict internet access to their video until the only digital copies are: pay-per-download or illegal.