Fox Switches To Authentication For New Shows Online; Dish, Hulu Plus Get First Crack

Glee performs "Loser Like Me"

Counting on keeping up with Glee next season through next-day visits to Hulu.com or Fox.com? Count again — unless you subscribe through a video distributor with the right deal. *Fox* Networks is changing the window for online viewing: effective Aug. 15, there will be an 8-day exclusive window for those with subscriber logins that can be authenticated. For now, that’s limited to Dish Network (NSDQ: DISH), the only multichannel distributor signed so far, and paidContent has confirmed, Hulu premium service Hulu Plus. Hulu is the online video joint venture of News Corp. (NSDQ: NWS), Disney (NYSE: DIS) and NBCUniversal (NSDQ: CMCSA).

Authenticated subs will be able to log in at Fox.com, Hulu.com or Dishonline.com, while friends without those benefits can’t. Eventually, they should be able to log in through the online portal of any future participating distributors. (We’ve checked and Hulu Plus subs will not be able to log in at other sites.It’s not yet clear whether the same holds true for Hulu Plus subs.) Fox says it is in negotiations with other major multichannel distributors; while Fox wouldn’t confirm, the satellite provider’s participation appears to be part of the agreement Fox and Dish reached after a public battle over retransmission rights.

As part of the existing deal with Hulu, and one that I’m told would carry into the next agreement, Hulu gets the same access to the programming its content equity partners provide on their network site. If Fox.com has a 24-hour window, so does Hulu. Ditto for 8-day window — or for no access.

Fox and other broadcasters are in a delicate situation. They want payment for the broadcast networks a la cable but they are available over the air and, until now, have been accessible online without pay. (There have been exceptions, usually caused by rights complications over a show, and some experimentation with various windows other than the next-day version pioneered by ABC.) But paying for retrans rights when the networks are making their own content widely available rankled the pay TV operators. At the same time, the push for “TV Everywhere” — ubiquitous access through authentication to channels a subscriber pays for via cable or satellite to dissuade so-called cordcutting — gave the programmers and the distributors a new bargaining point.

Pay window: I’ve seen this described as Fox putting up a paywall and I can see why. People who didn’t have to pay before will have to pay for instant gratification. But it really is a pay window. Anyone with patience and a broadband connection will be able to watch new shows on their time after the eight-day delay. Anyone who wants it sooner will have to pay or — and this is one of the risks for Fox and others considering this route — watching through illegal routes may be more appealing.

Fox’s News Corp. sibling WSJ was the first to report the new policy. (I saw it after I started to write.)

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