Malone slates networks on line

John Malone, Liberty chairman, warned that moves by television networks to make programmes available for free on the internet were doomed to fail and such moves could undermine more promising ways of making money from broadband and other new technologies, he said.

Malone told the FT: “I think the idea that they're going to put television shows and movies on the internet, bypass their traditional distribution and have no way of collecting [revenues] is absurd.”

US networks are making more programmes available on their own sites or through closely controlled ventures such as Hulu.com, a partnership between NBC and Fox. The networks insert advertisements similar to those on regular television, but the spots are shorter and less numerous, and therefore less profitable.

“Very expensive events – expensive to buy and expensive to produce – are not going to have adequate underwriting through advertising. At worst attempts to mimic the free-to-air model of traditional television on the internet could end up hurting networks' ability to move to subscription or pay-per-view models in the future, by entrenching consumer expectations for free online viewing. You've got to be very careful what you promise to the public on the internet,” he said. “They're going to have a very hard time getting anyone to pay them for their content.”

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