Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? It's an old rhetorical question being applied to a new situation in this, the Internet age.
The nation's largest cable operators are trying to find a way to get customers to watch cable TV shows online, but to pony up some money for the privilege.
That may run into a problem because a growing number of consumers are able to watch TV shows online for free. Companies like Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and Cablevision are considering teaming up with content providers like HBO, MTV, TLC and other companies to find a way to get computer users to pay for programs that are made available online.
Currently, cable TV operators pay networks a per-subscriber fee each month for the right to carry channels. But cable firms have been complaining recently that they are paying for content that programmers are giving away for free on the Web.