Peter Kafka

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Fox Starts Its Web Pullback, and ABC Gets Ready to Follow

Fox has formally kicked off the The Great Free TV Web Pullback of 2011. Now get ready for ABC to do the same.

Yesterday Fox followed through with its previously announced plans to keep its new shows off the Web for eight days, except for Hulu Plus and Dish Network subscribers. (Fox is owned by News Corp., as is this Web site.) Disney’s ABC is now set to do the same thing, according to people familiar with the company’s plans.

Disney hasn’t formally commented on its plans for “authentication” for ABC broadcast shows on and Hulu, but CEO Bob Iger pretty much spelled it out last week during his company’s earnings call.

Asked repeatedly about his Web and digital video strategy, Iger said he was all for distributing his stuff via nontraditional outlets like Hulu and Netflix — as long as it didn’t disrupt his existing relationships with the cable guys who are paying him big money for his shows. And that’s the main point of authentication — keep the cable guys happy.

Some Iger quotes from his call, via Seeking Alpha:

“The relationship that we have with the distributors is a very valuable one, and it’s one that we aim to respect by both protecting what we currently have and determining or figuring out ways that we can expand on it.”

“Our overall approach of late has been to make deals that increase revenue, while at the same time, protect and respect basically the multichannel or the channel distribution value that we see today. So, we’re looking at deals that are largely library in nature, meaning very little if any content that would be in season, mostly prior season. But also, trying to build into at least some of these deals, some form of authentication, [that] … will allow access to our programming faster or in a more aggressive window, if the customer is a multichannel subscriber.”

“You are right in your assessment that we’ll basically push the window back or make access to the programming more difficult or later, except if customers are authenticated as a subscriber.”

You won’t hear much carping about the pullback yet, but that’s because there’s barely any new programming going up in August. Right now, this only affects folks who want to catch up on “Hell’s Kitchen” and “MasterChef” (Team Adrien!). You’ll hear plenty more griping once the new fall shows go up next month.

On the other hand, this is good news for “Modern Family” creator Steve Levitan, who is going to get his wish.

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