Hulu is the first truly successful attempt to bring network programming online in a convenient package. While still only available in America, the service has become a game changer for the networks who can recoup costs to some degree in online ads. Now that the general model has proven itself as viable the question remains what the future holds. For network programming like Dollhouse and The Office the solution is clear: just keep putting it out there. For Hulu the next move is to increase studio support and make all of television available at the click of a mouse.

But over in premium cable land there’s a bit of a struggle to follow suit. Right now Time Warner Cable is testing out a service to allow subscribers to stream HBO programming to their PCs at the same time the show airs on TV. The program does not include ads, and additional fees are not applied. Both Comcast and Time Warner have been holding talks with cable operators, networks, telcos, and satellite companies to see if a solution can be found.

Some would prefer to have the content available in a free-form environment, possibly through Hulu or a similar online service. The problem is that the content is provided at a cost to subscribers, who then get all of their premium cable with no ads or restrictions. To provide the same experience online would require some way to allow only paid subscribers access. A tightening of the system in place at Hulu could work, depending on how it all goes down.

Pay cable surely wants to get in on the online space, but how to do it without losing revenue remains a concern. Perhaps the first few forays will be fraught with trouble, but I see no reason for the entire cable lineup to not be online in the near future.

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