And you thought Simon Cowell was mean: American Idol head honcho Tony Cohen wants to cut off your Internet access if you’re downloading his show. Cohen, CEO of the UK-based Idol production company FremantleMedia, told the audience of the Changing Media Summit in London today that he supports so-called “three strikes” plans to disconnect repeat infringers from the Net, according to PaidContent UK.
The three strikes approach has many proponents within the music industry, and it fits in nicely with FremantleMedia’s approach to date. The company has been pretty stingy with licensing Idol videos online, forcing sites like YouTube (s goog) to remove or mute videos of Idol performances. Even Hulu, which is partially owned by the American Idol TV network FOX (s nws), has been left in the cold. Cohen apparently has other plans for the “Idol” franchise: He told his audience in London that users should pay up to watch streams of the show.
Cohen envisions an online TV ecosystem in which catching up on your favorite shows costs you a few cents per episode. “We must look afresh at the potential of micropayments per-view,” PaidContent UK quoted him as saying, adding that micropayments could stimulate demand and make up for falling revenues.
Mircopayments would be the carrot to a stick that has been getting more and more popular with rights holders across the globe. The music industry has been championing a plan that would see ISPs forward warning notices to subscribes that download content through P2P networks. Get caught three times, and your ISP cuts off your Internet access. Said Cohen: “There needs to be an effective intermediate stage that will limit, suspend or cut off offenders’ access to broadband capacity.”
However, three strikes hasn’t exactly been the success story that people like Cohen would want it to be. French ISPs and rights holders initially agreed to cooperate against P2P infringement using such a plan back in 2007, but a law that would formalize this process is only now up for debate in the French parliament.
One Irish ISP has agreed to a three strikes-like policy, but its counterparts from the UK have successfully resisted any similar measure. The German Secretary of Justice recently called three strikes a “completely unreasonable punishment,” and first steps by the U.S. music industry forge alliances with ISPs seem to have gone nowhere.
Meanwhile, Idol fans are still waiting for a legal way to watch full episodes of the show online. FOX only shows small take-outs on its Americanidol.com, to which Hulu is linking out of pure desperation because it doesn’t have any licenses of its own. FremantleMedia, which owns the rights to American Idol as well as its UK sibling, Pop Idol, and similar shows around the globe, has instead forged a licensing agreement with Apple’s (s aapl) iTunes, where videos of single performances cost $1.50.