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Battles heat for the future of Internet television

By Cecilia Kang

AT&T's television customers couldn't watch Rachael Ray or episodes of "House Hunters" last weekend in yet another programming fight that has darkened channels for American households in the past year.

But this program dispute was about more than just money. It featured an increasingly common fight: television on the Internet.

Scripps, which owns the Food Network and HGTV, worked out a deal on Sunday with AT&T, and its shows flickered back to life for the telecommunications giant's 2.7 million television customers. Officials from the two firms declined to divulge details about their deal, but they said transmitting shows over new Internet platforms such as the iPad and cellphones played center stage in marathon negotiations.

AT&T had "demanded unreasonably broad video rights for emerging media where business models have not even been established," said John Lansing, president of Scripps Networks in a statement over the weekend.

Media industry analysts say programming battles over the past year increasingly highlight the frantic race to capture the eyeballs and wallets of consumers who are rethinking the way they watch television as more of their favorite shows appear on the Web and as the television begins to act more like a big-screen computer.

In the recent dispute between Fox and Cablevision, Web versions of Fox shows were blocked for Cablevision Internet users. Google's push into Internet television hit a road bump when networks prevented its Web viewers from seeing their programs. And AT&T and Apple rejected the iPhone application Slingplayer, which shows TV series and movies.

"When people try to take online television content and put it on the living room TV, broadcasters and cable companies try to resist that and try to get the cut and control they once had," said Marvin Ammori, a communications law professor at the University of Nebraska. "Consumers and innovators want the freedom to. . . choose whatever content they want to watch whenever they want."

Some of that is happening.

Read here for the full story.

By Cecilia Kang  | November 9, 2010; 1:47 PM ET
Categories:  AT&T, Apple, Broadband, Comcast, Consumers, DOJ, FCC, Google, Media, Net Neutrality, Online Video, Verizon  
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