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Al Jazeera's Cable Takeover Reveals Anti-Web Access Policies of Cable Providers

Having failed to gain access to mainstream cable operator's menu of channels - which is a bit embarrassing, seeing as you can get four channels for "extreme logging," - Al Jazeera is purchasing Current TV, what was originally supposed to be Al Gore's answer to FOX. This gives Al Jazeera potential access across many DMAs, but comes at a cost. In the absence of cable access, Al Jazeera has built up a strong web following for its online video channel. Cable operators don't like to include content that their markets can view for free (or without interrupting ads) online, so Al Jazeera may have to take down its online channel to play with the cable industry.

It should be pointed out that buying Current TV for its distribution network is a little like buying a newspaper for its stable of paperboys. It's a pretty expensive way to get distribution, and if you're selling a different product (say, arm chairs) the paperboys are likely to not play along. In fact, some of the largest cable networks have already made noises about refusing to carry Al Jazeera, although in the cable world, that could very well be just a starting negotiating position.

One large network pays Current TV 12 cents per subscriber, and may see little need to continue doing so. In the past, new networks, such as FOX News, have even paid cable operators to carry the channel.

Other media have had less problematic relations with their web counterparts. The print industry generally does not see a conflict in having paid magazine content also appear online for free. In cases where there were perceived conflicts (or opportunities), the companies have erected paywalls to charge for the content in like manner.

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