But Only to Rent, Not to Own, Which May Rankle Consumers

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NEW YORK ( -- CBS is renting streaming episodes of one of its most popular shows, "Survivor," on for $1.99 the day after they’re broadcast. Anyone renting an episode will have 24 hours to view it from the time it is ordered, an increasingly popular model for current TV shows that is starting to draw some consumer fire.

CBS CEO Les Moonves noted the offering was part of the company’s strategy to “exploit content across as many platforms as possible” and would drive traffic to and create a revenue stream. But first, consumers will have to get used to renting TV shows.

Consumer backlash
While TV has made a successful move into the DVD business, there are already rumblings of consumer backlash against the renting model. The theory is, if a viewer pays for a TV episode, he or she will want to not only keep it but also be able to move it among multiple platforms. (Consumers, of course, have been trained to rent movies.)

At last week’s National Association of Television Programming Executives meeting, for example, consumer advocates said that paying for a TV program should give them ownership and the right to move it across multiple platforms. If content creators don’t provide such a solution, consumers will find ways to do it themselves, using tools such as BitTorrent or the coming SlingPlayer Mobile from Slingbox, a set-top box that lets consumers watch TV programming from any computer or mobile phone connected to the Internet.

"For consumers, this is a market correction in action," warned Molly Wood, executive editor of consumer-electronics-review site CNet.

Early trials
But networks contend these early digital on-demand offerings are trials, a way to learn about the spaces. In addition to offering "Survivor" on, the network is also offering episodes through Comcast’s video-on-demand systems for 99 cents an episode with a 24-hour rental window and on a similar download-to-rent basis through Google Video for $1.99. The network is offering classic shows on a download-to-own basis through Google Video.

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