What consumers want
"We're in a position right now where no one wants to take [content off YouTube]," he said. "When you have something the public really wants, the economic value in that is to come up with a way to satisfy the rights holders and serve the consumers."
While iTunes put a legal spin on music piracy, Mr. Poltrack said TV thrives better online if users can still stream content for free from the networks' ad-supported models.
"If they're [consumers] going to steal it, give it to them anyway," he said. "But also make it easier to access and present it better than YouTube or BitTorrent or anywhere else."
With TV moving into iPods and cellphones with varying levels of features, the mobility vs. quality debate is one that is increasingly shaking up the TV business, said David Del Beccaro, president-CEO and founder of Music Choice.
High-def and high-tech
"When we survey consumers, the No. 1 technology they want is high-definition TV," he said. "So there's two things going on simultaneously -- the experience is getting more and more interactive while it expands in its distribution on small screens. But what's ideal for consumers right now is surround sound with a high-definition TV set."
Home-networking technology has always existed, added Albert Cheng, exec VP-digital media of the Disney-ABC Television Group. The big hurtle is how to make it easy. "We are proactively moving in the area of how to figure out the various means," he said.
Mr. Cheng added that the tradition of living-room TV watching is not in jeopardy of becoming obsolete in the wake of YouTube. The video-sharing site may have capitalized on the needs of the short-attention-span young adult on a widespread basis, but it's not the be-all, end-all of accessing TV-related content.
"You wouldn't want to watch 'Lost' broken into 50 pieces," Mr. Cheng said. "There's just more different use cases that are allowing users to control how they watch content."