(updated 10/22) There’s a really important article semi-buried on page B3 of the New York Times today: Internet is a Weapon in Cable Fight.
You should go read it but the short version is that the Fox network is fueding with cable provider Cablevision over payments for carrying regular TV stations on the cable system. These kinds of so-called retransmission disputes break out all the time and the usual consequence is some TV channels get pulled from cable viewers until the negotiations are done.
But this time, Fox tried something new. They also decided to block anyone using Cablevision’s INTERNET service from watching shows online via Fox.com and they forced Hulu.com, which they partly own, to do the same. The block applied to anyone who had Cablevision as their ISP, even people who didn’t subscribe to Cablevision’s video service (such as people who use DirecTV). In essence, Fox is saying Internet viewers only get to watch online because cable viewers are paying retransmission fees.
And that may be fine if you’re happy to pay those fees. But it’s murky at best for those who want to go all online and cut the cable. It’s the same urge to preserve dying revenue streams that prompts the wacky windowing of movies online because they have just hit pay-per-view. And as long as it goes on, it’s tough to escape your cable connection.
UPDATE: Now comes news that the networks ABC, CBS and NBC are locking out Google TV users from their web sites.