Why Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and online streaming are threatening cable companies


Comedy Central said last week that it will stream the comedy triumvirate of “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report,” and “South Park,” in their entirety, on Fancast.com. (Silly name, but whatever.) Beyond the “wow, neat” reaction, there’s something else going on here that we already hinted at a few days ago: what if people, seeing all there favorite shows move online—”The Daily Show” was required viewing in my college—refuse to pay for cable TV? Looking closer, you see that some cable companies may be hurt more than others.

Take Comcast, the ISP everyone online hates. It won’t be hurt too much, especially by this particular Comedy Central deal, because it owns Fancast.com. Either it will make money from dealing with Viacom (which owns Comedy Central) and showing its programming on TV, or from Fancast.com. Comcast gets paid either way.

Not so with Time Warner, my cable company. Once viewers realize that they can watch Stephen Colbert say “truthiness” 500 times a week and still laugh for free online, what sense does it make to subscribe to Time Warner? And from TW’s perspective, what sense does it make for it to pay full price—”top dollar,” as the kids might say—for Stewart, Colbert and Cartman when not as many eyeballs will be watching?

Says Time Warner:

They can’t have it both ways. If they put content they ask cable companies to pay for online for free, they are making it less valuable and we should be expected to pay less for it

Or, more succinctly:

Guess what? We do mind [that more and more content is going online].

Keep in mind that I’m not even talking about pirated content, since that’s a while different topic, and one that I know a thing or two about. We’re talking legitimately free TV content online possibly being at the expense of the cable companies.

Isn’t the Internet exciting?