Fox has become the first broadcast network to require people who want to watch its programs, such as "House" or "Glee," online immediately after they're broadcast to prove they pay for a cable or satellite service.
And for the moment, it had better be Dish Network
The network announced late Tuesday that beginning Aug. 15, users will need a login and password proving they have a paid television subscription in order to watch its programs on Hulu, Fox.com, or the cable and satellite company's own websites. Those who don't pay to watch TV will need to wait eight days in order to watch episodes online for free.
The first paid TV service to sign onto Fox's new arrangement is Dish Network, which has 14.2 million subscribers. No other cable or satellite company is part of the offering so far.
Previously, most shows from Fox and other networks were available to watch online the day after they aired for free, with commercials.
The strategy, called "authentication" in the television industry, has been under discussion since at least last month. It's part of the television industry's attempt to preserve its lucrative cable business model, through which they receive revenue from user subscriptions and advertisements, and discourage consumers from "cutting the cord" and only watching TV shows online.
That Fox has become the first network to do so is ironic because its parent company, News Corp., was, along with NBC Universal, one of the two media conglomerates to launch Hulu in 2008 as a defensive move against Internet piracy. Its success is now seen by many as undermining billions of dollars in cable revenues.
[Update, 5:20 p.m.: Subscribers to Hulu Plus, Hulu's paid subscription offering, will also have access to new Fox programs the day after they air.]
-- Ben Fritz
Photo: Actor Hugh Laurie in the Fox TV series "House." Credit: Adam Taylor / Fox.