The days of being able to buy all the cable channels you want via an Internet TV box are still far off in the future, despite one network announcing a partnership this week to offer just that.Yesterday, a network called “WealthTV” announced it would become available via the Roku Internet set-top box for $3 per month. WealthTV describes itself as a “high definition cable television network devoted to taking viewers on a journey of how wealth is achieved, used and enjoyed.”
We must admit we had never heard of WealthTV before, but it is apparently available from 100 distribution partners, such as Verizon FiOS, AT&T U-Verse, and Charter Communications, reaching about 10 million households, according to a company rep.
But just because one obscure cable network is going “over-the-top,” don’t assume the ones you actually want to watch will follow.
Big-time cable networks like ESPN, Discovery Channel, FX, TNT, MTV, and Food Network will probably be among the last video content available for 24×7 subscription over the Internet.
Why? Because they still get a MASSIVE percentage of their revenue from cable affiliate fees, paid in huge checks by the likes of Comcast and Time Warner Cable. The money that networks can make from Internet subscriptions and advertising isn’t even in the same universe as what they’re already making from cable partners.
Until the Internet can generate nearly as much revenue as cable — not for many years, if ever — most big networks won’t mess around trying to compete with cable via a service like Roku.
They’d be much more likely to experiment with complementary on-demand web video services, such as Hulu; bonus services such as ESPN3 (paid for by the service provider); or try to participate in subscriber-only video sites like Comcast’s Xfinity/Fancast portal. But not full, à-la-carte channel streaming.