Cable companies have an obnoxious way of providing channels in inflexible bundles, giving customers the channels they want with the channels they don't want for themselves or for their children. The CNET News article "Can the Internet really compete with Cable TV?" looks at the recent proposal for FCC regulations that would force cable companies to offer channels separately. The article also explores the possibility that competition from the Internet makes such legislation unnecessary. With satellite TV and seasons of TV shows on DVD, there's hardly a need to bring up Internet TV as evidence that cable has competition.
Nevertheless, TV-like Internet services have the potential to be contenders. The hardware is already in place to bring Internet television on a level playing field with cable TV. When I watch a DVD with my friends, it's as often on a widescreen computer monitor as it is on a traditional TV set. The services themselves that come along more slowly. Large, long-established networks take a few years to use the latest technology, but those who catch on most quickly will have the edge. If Hulu.com flops, someone else will do Internet TV better. Meanwhile, cable TV had better adapt to what people want, or its present and future competitors will run it over.