Would you pay more money to watch some TV shows without commercials — but only from one network, and only if you are already paying for cable TV?
We first posed this question in June, when AMC Networks announced a plan to offer “AMC Premiere,” a $5-a-month service it is launching with Comcast.
Now we get to ask it again. 21st Century Fox is launching “FX+”, which is very similar: Add $6 to your monthly Comcast* bill, and you can watch new shows from Fox’s FX and FXX, like “Fargo,” without commercials, when they air. And you can also watch a lot of older FX shows, like “Sons of Anarchy.”
Comcast and Fox execs say that the two services aren’t exactly the same, because the Fox version has many more episodes of older shows than AMC does. Seems to me that this like arguing for Rocky Road over Cookies and Cream, but your mileage may vary.
Another way of putting it: AMC has “The Walking Dead,” the most popular show on cable TV; FX has “Atlanta,” which is awesome but won’t air its second season until next year. And it’s quite likely you haven’t seen the first season.
Big picture: This is part of the TV Industrial Complex’s attempt to generate additional revenue (and make up for declines in its subscriber counts) by selling stuff it already owns for an additional fee — without cannibalizing its core business.
Later this year, we’re supposed to see ESPN’s attempt at this, when it launches a direct-to-consumer subscription service made up of sports it’s not showing on its conventional TV networks. (That one was originally supposed to debut last year, so 2017 isn’t a guarantee ...)
This strategy doesn’t sound like the worst idea. More like a “why not try it and see what happens” idea — if no one buys it, NBD. And if they do, extra money for Fox (or AMC) and Comcast.
On the other hand, it doesn’t take much work to find reasons not to sign up for services like this. For instance: FX+ will have full runs of great shows like “Louie” — but you can also find every old episode of “Louie” on Netflix, as well (for now). And if you’re looking for Season 2 of “Fargo,” FX+ won’t have that — but you can get it on Hulu (or pay $15 for it on iTunes, like I did this summer. It’s awesome.).
That’s not FX’s fault, necessarily. It mostly speaks to the confusing patchwork of rights and windows that surround media, period.
But it also reflects the fact that, until the last few years, TV guys were happy to sell off streaming rights to their shows, because they thought people like Netflix were overpaying for them.
Now they’re starting to think differently about that, and they’re more likely to keep these rights for themselves. Which may eventually increase the value of services like this one, one day.
* Comcast is an investor in Vox Media, which owns this site.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.