Well, at least that’s what Walt Disney Co.‘s two big TV networks, ABC and ESPN, are telling TV viewers. According the the Wall Street Journal, this week they struck a deal with cable operator Cox Communications Inc. to offer hit shows and football games on demand — but with the unusual condition that Cox disables a TiVo like fast-forward feature that allows viewers to skip ads.
The agreement only applies to programs available on Cox’s video-on-demand menu, so it doesn’t affect viewers using digital video recorders to fast forward through ads. Nevertheless, it sets a valuable precedent for broadcasters. TV networks have been struggling as audiences erode and ad sales drop because new technology — including rapidly growing video-on-demand services — allows viewers to avoid commercials altogether.
The deal, expected to be announced today at the National Cable Television Association‘s annual convention in Las Vegas, could make it easier for the major networks to make their most popular shows available on demand free. Because networks have found it difficult to sell advertising for on-demand broadcasts, most offered only a few shows — and viewers usually have had to pay a fee of $0.99 per episode to watch those.