Streaming Full-Length Cable Shows: Are Cable Operators Partners?

It is time for cable networks to cut cable operators into their online video endeavors?

Broadcast networks have been sharing the online spoils with their TV affiliates when it comes to streaming full-length TV shows. But for the most part, few cable networks have constructed similar deals with their cable system operator partners.

Perhaps financial models are too different. Cable systems obviously have a business model that includes scores of cable networks. But, for TV stations, it typically is just one network, a broadcast network, providing the bulk of its prime-time programming.

Broadcast network affiliates get a percentage of the take -- as well as typically a spot or two in a streaming video episode.

In the past, cable networks might offer clips of their shows online. Now some networks like TBS and MTV have begun to stream entire shows on their Internet sites -- much to the chagrin of some MSOs like Time Warner.

Cable operators feel full episodes online might tempt viewers to eventually leave cable and watch online. Of course, Time Warner is not completely out of the mix. For example, Time Warner has DSL businesses such as Road Runner, in which many of Time Warner's cable viewers also pay a monthly fee for Internet access.

Should cable networks play like the broadcast networks, and give the MSO a piece of the upside? Yes, even if it doesn't amount to much right now.

Cable networks might argue that their programming production businesses are still a bit tenuous - even with having a duel revenue stream (national advertising and monthly license cable license fees).

Why isn't there more of an outrage? Considering the millions of hours of viewing on cable TV, the number of shows streaming online is just crumbs in cable's big bread basket. Then consider that those shows will garner - at least initially -- even smaller crumbs when it comes to national advertising dollar for those full-length episodes.

At least in the near future, cable networks also might not benefit from three or four shows streamed on their own site -- or syndicated to another Internet video distributor.  All this might just get lost in the big sea of streaming Internet choices -- as well as possibly hurting their own traditional cable airings.

Perhaps that's why MTV or Bravo, for the most part, would rather just give you a clip of a episode. If you are a fan of MTV's "The Paper," for example, do you need to see all 30 minutes, when a crucial 5-minute video clip will do?



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