After threatening to blackout college bowl games, and even the NFL playoffs and American Idol, Newscorporation seems to have gotten Time Warner Cable to roll over and agree to charge a $1 monthly per-subscriber fee for the privilege of watching Fox programming. This showdown has indeed been a wake up call for broadcast TV, which continues to see ad revenue and viewership shrink. The news also comes as paywalls are being installed to resuscitate print giants like the New York Times and several Newscorp papers (Murdoch even seems ready for a cold war with Google over copyright infringement).
Now, PBS’ fiscal model is as anemic and archaic as they get, but, in a sense, it may be ahead of the curve in this dawning era of subscription media. After all, what is a pledge drive if not a tedious, low-tech paywall? Why not pass the cost of “membership” onto the viewer as a modest monthly subscription fee, bundled into basic cable service? Not only could PBS be fiscally viable for a change, it could afford to become a real and relevant national network at long last; a network for which paying a dollar each month would seem a bargain.
Very soon, free broadcasters and daily newspapers alike may all be forced to pass the subscription hat to stay solvent, and if PBS can’t follow suit, this trend could very well hasten its looming demise.