Starting Aug. 15, Fox will make new broadcast TV episodes exclusively available for eight days after air to customers of participating cable, satellite or telco TV operators -- with Dish Network the first to sign up for the authentication program.
If other broadcasters follow suit, Fox's move to a "TV Everywhere" model marks the end of the free ride for consumers who have grown accustomed to watching ad-supported TV shows the day after they air online at Hulu and the networks' own sites.
"A key part of Hulu.com's value proposition and its ability to drive huge traffic was offering next-day access to select programs from its parent broadcast networks," Will Richmond, president of consulting firm Broadband Directions, wrote in a blog post.
Hulu's owners -- including NBC Universal, News Corp. and Walt Disney Co. -- are in the process of selling the service.
Beginning with Fox's fall season, to watch new episodes of shows the following day, viewers must log in using their user name or password from Dish -- or other future participating partners -- via Fox.com, Hulu.com or Dishonline.com (or the online TV portals of any future participating distributors). Hulu Plus subscribers also will be able to access next-day episodes.
"Dish Network is proud to be the first pay-TV provider in America to give customers the opportunity to take full advantage of the new Fox.com viewing experience -- at no additional cost," Dave Shull, Dish senior vice president of programming, said in a statement. "Early access to Fox.com is a terrific addition to our expansive TV Everywhere platform, which gives Dish Network customers the ability to watch whatever they want anytime, anywhere."
Dish is the first pay-TV provider to activate the service, and "we are in active discussions with our other distribution partners," Fox Cable spokesman Brian Peterson said.
It is not immediately clear what terms and conditions Fox is asking from affiliates who participate in the authentication program. The availability of free-to-consumer next-day broadcast content online has been a significant point of contention between broadcasters and cable operators in negotiating retransmission consent deals.
"We are continually looking at opportunities to provide our pay television distributors with content and products that enhance the value of pay television to subscribers," Fox Networks president of affiliate sales and marketing Michael Hopkins said in a statement. "Our new authentication service will continue to provide next-day access to Fox broadcast shows for our viewers who subscribe to participating pay television providers."
Fox offers more information on the authentication service at www.fox.com/watchnewepisodes.