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Fox Erects Pay Wall for New Episodes; Is this the Future?

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Are the days of free catch-up programming online over just as soon as they'd begun? The Wall Street Journal uncovered plans by Fox Broadcasting to limit online access to just-aired programs to paying subscribers. For the first eight days after programs are aired, online access will be limited to participating cable or satellite subscribers or Hulu Plus subscribers. This arrangement will begin in mid-August, and will include popular shows like Glee and Family Guy.

The Journal notes that Dish satellite is the only pay TV operator that currently has a streaming agreement with Fox. Fox execs told the paper that they're working on signing up other pay TV services now, and hope to have deals in place for the start of the fall television season.

This protectionist move, designed to bolster pay TV services, could end up souring viewers to online streaming just as it's taking off. It looks to be unnecessary, as most research on cord cutting shows that it's an extremely minor trend. It could even hurt Fox more than it helps, as easy access to catch-up programs helps viewers get hooked on a series and actually increases TV viewing.

"We're concerned that cord-cutting is going to be a problem," the Journal quotes Mike Hopkins, Fox's president of affiliate sales, as saying. "The more you enable it by putting content out there for free without any tether to a pay-TV subscription, the bigger that danger becomes."

Viewers will have to wait and see if other networks follow suit and delay online access to new shows.

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