Fox Network announced late today that it will begin delaying Web access to many of its popular TV shows to give cable and satellite TV providers greater exclusivity with programming, essentially putting up a de facto pay wall around its content.
Beginning August 15, only those people who subscribe to a participating video distributor will be able to view TV shows on an Internet portal the day after shows air on the network, the company said in a press release. All other viewers who are used to seeing episodes of "The Simpsons," "Bones," and "Glee" for free the next day on sites such as Hulu or Fox.com will now have to wait eight days to catch their shows.
"We are continually looking at opportunities to provide our pay television distributors with content and products that enhance the value of pay television to subscribers," Michael Hopkins, president of affiliate sales and marketing for Fox Networks, said in a statement. "Our new authentication service will continue to provide next-day access to Fox broadcast shows for our viewers who subscribe to participating pay television providers."
Fox said Dish Network will be the first to offer the authentication service, which allows subscribers access to TV programs after they enter their subscriber user name and password. Hulu Plus subscribers will have the same next-day access.
Cable channels such as ESPN and CNN offer similar services, but Fox is the first TV broadcast network to implement an authentication service--though other broadcast networks are reportedly pursuing similar arrangements.
The authentication service is seen as a defensive move designed to preserve advertising rates and subscription levels in the face of mass defections to free Web-based video services. Market researcher SNL Kagan reported last week that as many as 4.5 million U.S. households could choose to abandon their cable service this year.
The move is also a big blow to online video service Hulu, which earlier this year put itself up for sale. Hulu, which is owned jointly by Fox parent News Corp., Walt Disney, Comcast, and equity firm Providence Equity Partners, has reportedly garnered interest from a slew of companies, including Apple, Google, Amazon, and Yahoo.