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Television Industry in Uncertain Transition

According to a New York Times report, for five decades or so, the television industry's main mission has been to come up with hit programs, get them on screens, and hope people will stop and watch. Now, that is just the starting point.

As an era of ordering TV shows at the push of a button gets underway, new challenges are clouding the landscape in the year ahead: What business models are going to work and who is going to get paid what?

These questions loom behind attention-grabbing announcements in recent weeks from some of the biggest TV networks, cable operators, satellite companies, gadget-makers and Internet players, including Apple, Disney, NBC Universal and Comcast, offering what is expected to be the first of many new video-on-demand and downloading services.

"The video segment of the content industry is trying to be out ahead and not have happen to them what happened in the music industry," said Saul Berman, a partner specializing in media with I.B.M. Consulting, referring to the widespread illegal downloading of music in the absence of appealing legal ways to buy online music.

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