Fox has finally rolled out its authentication scheme for online videos on Fox.com and Hulu, requiring viewers to prove they’re paying TV subscribers for access. But since Dish Network (s DISH) is the only provider actually on board, the vast majority of viewers — whether they pay for cable or not — will have to wait eight days to view new shows.
A few weeks ago we asked the hypothetical question: If you’re a cable provider, what do you do when Fox comes to re-negotiate its retrans deals, asking for more money now that it’s put its shows behind a pay wall?
Do you pay up? Or do you risk disenfranchising your subscribers, who were once able to watch shows on Hulu the day after they’ve aired but can no longer do so because their cable provider isn’t a part of Fox’s exclusive next-day club?
That question is no longer a hypothetical, as Fox has begun urging its viewers to contact their service providers and ask them to bring back next-day access to shows on Hulu and Fox.com. As pointed out by Multichannel News, Fox has created a new landing page for disenfranchised viewers at www.fox.com/watchnewepisodes/.
In addition to a FAQ, which answers such questions as, “Why do I need a cable or satellite subscription to watch online episodes I used to watch for free?” and “What is a ‘TV provider?,'” the site also gives users the option to contact their cable company to request access. That contact form comes with the following statement from Fox up top:
“Frustrated? Join your fellow subscribers and let your TV provider know that you want access to all full episodes on FOX.com. We will send an email when your provider’s status changes.”
As for the message sent to your pay TV provider? Here’s what Comcast, (s CMCSA) Time Warner Cable (s TWC) and all the other non-participating operators reportedly will have sent to them:
I want to continue watching full episodes on FOX.com but you are not one of the participating providers. As a customer of [Provider] I want you to know that I expect to have access to these episodes included in my subscription.
As we wrote yesterday, the Hulu experience is frustrating for anyone who is not a Dish subscriber — which currently is about 85 percent of people who pay for cable or satellite services. The good news is that there’s still some time left before the fall TV season begins.
The summer TV months generally mean reruns and less-popular programming from the broadcasters, which means most users probably won’t even notice the change, unless they’re big Hell’s Kitchen or MasterChef fans. Fox’s most popular shows won’t be affected until late September, when new seasons of Glee, Family Guy, Bones and The Simpsons kick off.
In the meantime, Fox is reportedly in active discussions with other providers to ensure that their subscribers won’t be frustrated when the new TV season begins. For the sake of consumers, let’s hope some more operators get on board — and soon. Then again, knowing that those deals will likely include higher retrans fees, which will eventually get passed on to subscribers, maybe that’s not such a good thing after all.