Pay TV providers fret over penny-pinching viewers

“This time there is a real, viable alternative” to cable.

But pay TV providers are right to be alarmed. Not only has a flood of TV shows and movies become available online, but the video quality has gotten better. Netflix is expanding its service that lets subscribers stream movies and shows from the Internet at no additional cost. And more and more people have home broadband — 57 percent of American adults, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Throw in the worst economic slowdown in nearly a century and people question whether they still want to pay for cable or satellite. As of January 2008, the average monthly home cable bill was $84.59, up 21 percent from two years earlier, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

“You’ve got these factors aligning at the right time,” said Bobby Tulsiani, senior analyst at Forrester Research. “This time there is a real, viable alternative” to cable.

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