Cable TV Networks Encourage New Subscribers

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Cable TV providers were panicked initially by the popularity of Hulu.com, an online video viewing service that allows consumers to watch the same TV shows they get on cable, anytime, for free.

Why would viewers continue to pay for their cable membership, the logic goes, if they can get those shows online? Comcast Corp. recently tried to get in on the action by launching a test program that will ask current subscribers to use their account information to access the same shows they enjoy on the boob tube on the Internet instead.

They will not be offering those shows online for free at all; only subscribers will be able to view them. They’re hoping this will incentivize more people to sign up for subscriptions, instead of the current trend in which online options seem to be encouraging current subscribers to cut one more item from their budget.

The eventual goal is for cable networks not to provide their shows for free anymore on channels like Hulu, ad revenue or no ad revenue, though executives say that it’s possible the two can learn to co-exist in some way.

Old shows that are no longer shown on cable may still be available, for example, or cable networks may agree to allow old seasons of current shows to be posted in hopes that viewers will get hooked and start subscribing to see the latest aired show.

If the networks all band together, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to get a lock on online TV show viewers and make illegal uploading of TV shows as dangerous as music sharing became after Napster.

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