Dave over at Blogography.com has written a brilliant piece about TV and how these days it isn't really serving its customers in the best way. It was inspired by an article from Reuters entitled : '24' Makes Britain a Hotbed for Illicit TV Downloads. Go read them both now and be better informed.
I agree with what Dave writes wholeheartedly. I don't download TV shows because I want to pirate them (I'm still buying CSI and Alias DVDs when they are released and am currently waiting for WaT to come down in price). I download them because it's more convienient for me. I'm a fan of these shows and want to watch them. It's as simple as that. I know I can watch them eventually on some TV channel over here but I'm impatient. C5 in the UK is over 8 weeks behind with CSI and CSI NY. Why should I have to wait months and months for my favourite TV shows to air over here if I've got the ability to download them? It's only stupidity on the behalf of the TV companies that stops them from offering their own download service. I can say in all honesty that if CBS.com offered their own download service, even with a few ads (but just a few) I would use that instead as I could have 'official' copies of the show on CD. Yes it would cost but as long as it was cheaper than DVD I'd use it. IT would have to be cheaper than DVD too as I'm buying the CDRs myself, therefore a team isn't needed to design packaging etc.
It's also just occured to me that I watch a show (Joan Of Arcadia) that, whilst S1 did air over here for a little while on Living on Cable, will probably never get another airing. So if I didn't download, I would have never seen this excellent show.
So, the message is simple, TV companies - get all the legal issues sorted, get the hardware up and running, and let viewers download the eps using your own download service. It'd be easy to work out fees - you could pay more on an ep by ep basis or you could buy a whole season package that would allow you to download all the eps of a season (so all the eps of 24 for example). As long as it was cheaper than a DVD (like I said above) it would still be value for money and worth doing.