If you watch streaming versions of your favorite television series to stay caught up or when you have a DVR snafu, our next story won’t be good news.
According to the Associated Press, networks and studios are looking into new options for streaming content that would either reduce the episodes and shows made available to you or build in a longer wait time for shows to stream on-line.
It’s part of the response by the networks to disputes with cable companies over access and airing network programming. Groadcasters believe they can make more money from cable TV providers if they hold back some programming online.
That could mean new limits on online viewing are coming: Broadcasters might make fewer of their shows available to begin with, or delay when they become available — say, a month after an episode is broadcast, rather than the few hours it typically takes now.
It would make it tougher for viewers to drop their cable TV subscriptions and watch shows online instead. If cable and satellite TV providers can hang on to more subscribers, broadcasters can then demand more money from them to carry their stations on the lineups.
Last week, Cablevision subscribers were cut off from regular Fox programming in a dispute between the cable company and Fox. During the dispute, Fox blocked streaming episodes of its popular shows to Cablevision Internet subscribers.
At about the same time, ABC, NBC and CBS turned off access to full episodes when accessed from the new Google TV Web browser, which became available this month.
Both actions sent the message that broadcasters are demanding to be paid for their shows wherever they are seen — just as new devices are making it easier to watch those shows on regular TV sets.
“Basically, they’re trying to work hard to ensure that ‘cord-cutting’ is not an attractive option anymore,” said analyst Derek Baine of research firm SNL Kagan, referring to the phenomenon of people cutting their cable subscriptions and catching shows online to save money.
BTIG Research analyst Rich Greenfield put it more bluntly in a blog post last week:
“Consumers must be made to realize that nothing is free anymore,” he wrote.