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DEMAND BRINGING MORE TV ONLINE

Get ready for TV Everywhere.

Cable providers such as Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon soon will offer consumers the ability to access cable programming over the Internet, with a username and password.

The program is being tested now with a limited number of households and is expected to be rolled out nationally before the end of the year.

Not sure this is good news or not. Perhaps from a technology standpoint, this is great. But, well, we've heard aplenty about the obesity problem in our country, so giving consumers the ability to watch TV all the time probably won't help.

What's more, The Conference Board, a independent public interest research association, announced that more consumers already are watching more television online than ever, including the free site Hulu.com.

About one in four households watches TV programs online now (you might have to endure the screen freezing sometimes or your computer crashing and a lack of high definition). With Hulu.com you can catch up with The Office, Family Guy, The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, General Hospital etc.

"What we're finding is the prime driver is convenience and portability," said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center. "You can view it when you want it, where you want to. An increasing number of folks who watch online are watching less of the traditional means."

Over the last three years, the number of consumers watching TV online has risen from about one out of every 10 viewers to one in four.

Some want to catch up on missed shows, which appear online as soon as the day after they aired at the so-called "appointment" times in TV Guide. Others want to choose what they watch.

TV Everywhere will allow consumers to log onto a computer and watch shows with even more convenience.

Brian Dietz, spokesman, National Cable and Telecommunications Association, disputes Franco's claim that consumers are watching less traditional television. He says indeed consumers are watching more TV online, but he says they're also watching more TV in general.

(It would be better to hear that more consumers were exercising.)

"What you're seeing is consumers are watching more content in different places than before," Dietz said. "The introduction of the iPhone and mobile devices, mobile broadband have allowed consumers more choice.

"Providers and distributors are experimenting with different ways of offering consumers options online. It's an exciting time to be a consumer."

It's also easy to get caught up in the changing times.

Ivan Penn can be reached at ipenn@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2332. The Consumer's Edge is now on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Consumers_Edge.

Fast facts

Here's the Edge

Call your service provider. Check with your service provider about current and upcoming offerings that might save you money. Nowadays, you can cut some of your costs by deciding which services you really need based on your habits. Maybe you keep Internet service because you only watch reruns, so you drop cable service.

Research the equipment. Make sure you purchase TVs and computers that will meet your needs. You don't have to get the most space-age, but you don't want to buy something that is outdated before you take it out of the box. For example, most flat panel TVs can handle online programming directly, so you can use one product for multiple applications.

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