The Pay-TV Window Is A Drafty One

What happens to old pay-TV channel bread-and-butter programming that runs on HBO and Showtime in the digital age? Not much in the near term. But ten years from now, the guess is we'll be seeing a different picture.

Netflix continues to make deals with mid-size film companies -- most recently Film District, and Relativity Media before that -- that effectively removes the traditional cable pay-TV window.

There isn't too much surprise here -- for the cablers or the film studios. Studios have been focusing on bigger revenue businesses -- especially the slipping sell-through revenue from DVDs. Cable networks, as well as studios are worried about all sorts of content moving to the digital spectrum.

A recent proposed agenda from the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission laid down the law for a more solid rule concerning net neutrality -- which essentially restricts broadband service owners from playing business favorites with one content owner over the other.



Consumers may still get hurt in the crossfire -- especially if usage-fee-based monthly agreements replace unlimited-monthly-fee broadband services.

HBO and Showtime have seen the writing on the wall for a few years -- thus their push for a stronger identity for their original series and movie programming. But a lot of what still fills in for their respective 24-hour services comes from theatrical movies -- in the so-called "pay-TV" window.

The pay-TV window for a theatrical movie is still a big revenue generator. But it keeps moving to a lower profile, eclipsed in history by the VHS rental, the DVD rental, the DVD sale, the iTunes download, and now the video-streaming film release.

Windows are shrinking -- or seemingly getting eliminated -- all the time. Netflix has done many studio film deals, for example, where viewers can rent movies 28 days after a movie is released for DVD sale.

Modern TV consumers aren't interested in, or more likely don't understand, any TV business "windows." As media executives have repeatedly said, consumers want their movies and television shows everywhere -- whenever they want it.

That means pretty much immediately -- which boils down to opening more windows and letting in more entertainment air.

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