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Broadcasters rethink immediate access to TV shows on the Internet

Last week the Fox network began to limit Internet access to its television content until eight days after a show has been aired on its broadcast affiliates.

Fox’s new procedure makes a couple of exceptions, however. Dish Network and Hulu Plus subscribers can watch new episodes online shortly after they are broadcast. Subscribers can also watch new episodes on by authenticating with their Hulu or Dish Network account credentials.

Fox essentially backed away from its free, quickly available TV online content model. ABC has indicated it’s ready to do the same, according to a post on AllThingsD, a web blog.

“We’ll basically push the window back or make access to the programming more difficult or later, except if customers are authenticated as a subscriber,” said Robert Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Company, in a recent earnings call. Iger cited a desire to preserve the company’s existing relationships with traditional content distributors.

These moves from Fox and Disney come as no surprise as content providers have sought to maximize the profits made from television content. This has been difficult as viewers increasingly shift to the Internet to watch programming.

Hulu is expected to earn as much as $500 million in revenue this year. Even so, the revenue seen by content providers from Internet streaming services like Hulu doesn’t come close to what they’ve made from their more traditional content distribution relationships.

“The challenges experienced by television networks are somewhat akin to those faced by newspapers and magazines in recent years,” wrote ReadWriteWeb, the online service. “While it provides a more timely and interactive mode of distributing content, the web is slower to offer a business model that compares to these businesses’ traditional models, which tend to erode more quickly than the new ones can take shape.”