A la carte TV channel choice is coming to the Internet

Watching TV over the Internet is messy these days, but media providers may be offering inexpensive a la carte Internet TV selections someday soon.

Watching TV on the Internet is cheaper than watching it by cable or satellite, but it's also messier. Some shows aren't available at all. Many sporting events, like football, come with costly restrictions. And, often programs are available on one Internet TV network, but not on another. Some shows, for example, are available on Hulu on your PC, but not on Hulu Plus on your TV. However, your Internet TV choices may be improving soon.

For the first time anywhere, HBO will be offering its programming to TV watchers in Scandinavia without requiring that they subscribe to HBO on satellite or cable. In the US, HBO makes some of its programming available over the Internet on HBO GO, but you have to be a conventional HBO subscriber to get it. In Denmark,  Finland, Norway, and Sweden, HBO Nordic AB will be available for just under 10 euros a month.

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I, for one, would be more than happy to pay $13 a month, the U.S. equivalent of 10 euros, to get HBO over the Internet. HBO, which makes the bulk of its money from its cable and satellite partners, isn't going to offer HBO as a separate service anytime soon in the U.S. On the other hand, Time Warner, which owns HBO, hasn't dismissed the idea of offering HBO as a separate service to Internet TV viewers in the States, either. At the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said, "If in the long run, there's a clear development of enough people that need an a la carte offering of HBO, we'll look at it. It's not the main opportunity now."

Well, Time-Warner may not think it's time to seize the main chance of making TV more easily available on the Internet, but Roku founder and CEO Anthony Wood does. Wood told Todd Spangler of Multichannel News, that “In the next 12 months in the U.S. you’ll start to see a virtual MSO [multiple system operator], a pay-TV package distributed over the Internet through devices like Roku. Companies are trying to figure out how to reach a different class of customer, maybe who don’t have cable TV.”

With backing from News Corp. and partnerships with Sky, a UK satellite TV provider, and Dish Networks, Wood isn't just dreaming. Indeed, Sky, will be rolling out Roku devices to deliver Now TV, its recently launched UK movie on-demand service, to its customers.

What I see happening here is that TV media owners are finally waking up to the fact that Internet TV watchers are a significant market in themselves, I mean, come on, Netflix alone takes up more Internet bandwidth than any other single service

Slowly, but surely, the TV business is waking up to the fact that Internet TV watchers fled cable and satellite not just because of price, but because we were sick of paying big bucks for shows and networks we'd never watch. The future of Internet TV will go to the first providers that let us choose what shows and networks we want to watch when we want to watch them. And, yes, for that freedom of choice, we're willing to pay.

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