Television: Wanna Buy a Slice of Sitcom?

Selling episodes on cable, online and on iPods, the networks change the face--and price--of prime time

For nearly half a century, watching network TV was like eating at a school cafeteria. You chose from the limited options that day, take 'em or leave 'em, and you ate when they were served. If you missed Taco Tuesday, you were out of luck until next time it came around.

Sure, there were VCRs and, more recently, TiVos, but most people built their evening around the prime-time schedule, watching series at their appointed time or waiting for reruns or video. But suddenly, the cafeteria workers who run network TV are loosening their hairnets and offering viewers vending machines and takeout....

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