Municipalities chase a moving target

Today my inner couch potato has been rewarded! Soon I’ll never have to worry about missing an episode of my favorite TV show again. In separate agreements, CBS and NBC will allow Comcast and DirecTV, respectively, to make shows off their nightly primetime schedule available for on-demand viewing. That means if you go all thumbs programming your digital video recorder (DVR), or, as I was a few weeks ago, you are hit by a power outage, you can order a missed episode of “CSI” or “Survivor” off an on-demand menu. Ditto for NBC programs and DirecTV. “I think the floodgates have opened,” Brian Roberts, Comcast CEO, told the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), which reported the story this morning. On-demand episodes will be available after they air in their regular time slot, the Journal reports. NBC and DirecTV are shooting for a cost of 99 cent per episode. The decision by the networks to go off the long-sacred primetime programming grid demonstrates their recognition of how content delivery is changing. Notably, the deals come just three weeks after ABC began making episodes of “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” available for Internet download on Apple’s iTunes Podcasting service. So what will they make of this in Lafayette, La., which this spring voted to leverage itself to the tune of $125 million to create a fiber optic-based competitive cable TV, phone and Internet service? What does this mean for municipalities such as Ashland, Ore.; Bristol, Va.; and Lebanon, Ohio, which continue to struggle financially against a growing number of competitors with growing menus of differentiated services?