On August 15 before the fall television season begins, Fox Broadcasting is shifting to an 8-day exclusivity window and preventing consumers from watching the latest episode of House or The Simpsons for free. According to the Wall Street Journal, consumers will be forced to wait for a bit over a week to catch up via online video on services like Fox.com and Hulu. However, subscribers of Hulu Plus and Dish Network will be able to see the latest episode 24 hours after the broadcast airs on Fox. These two companies are currently the only participants in Fox’s new authentication plan. Dish Network brings about 14 million people to the table while Hulu has about 2 million Hulu Plus subscribers.
Fox is currently in negotiations with other video distributors, but remains tight-lipped on potential partners. This is the first attempt of a major broadcast network to institute timed access to programming. However, cable networks like USA have used the times release window to limit access to popular shows like Pysch and Burn Notice. Other channels like HBO, ESPN, CNN and AMC are moving in the direction of online authentication. HBO limits access to its programming through the HBO GO portal and ESPN limits access to ESPN3 in the same fashion. Users have to verify providers through the website to gain access to the programming.
Moving to an authentication platform is designed to provide extra incentive for consumers with cable or satellite service and encourage them to keep paying monthly fees for programming access. Fox is worried that consumers are drifting away from cable and cutting off service due to the vast amount of free, online video options. It’s unclear if Fox will design a pricing model for online access to content without a subscription to a video provider. It’s likely Hulu will continue to be their portal for subscription revenue as Fox owns 31 percent of the company.