I don't have cable in my apartment, but I'm still able to watch TV thanks to the miracle of the internet. Lately, one of my favourite shows has been the unfortunately-named 30 Rock from NBC. If you haven't seen it, drop what you're doing right now and download it from any number of sources. If you're in the states, you can watch full episodes on the NBC website.
I think it is great to see television networks like this offering content for free on their websites, and a recent article from Mediaweek seems to agree with me. Apparently, CBS has found that almost half (46%) of their audience watches CBS shows online and that of those, over a third (35%) are more likely to view shows on the network after seeing them first on the web.
On this topic, Mitch Joel finds that "the Web is not stealing audience away from TV, but rather helping them to build it."
And while I can't speak for CBS, I know that NBC is doing an excellent job of making use of their online audience. In the versions of 30 Rock that I've been watching, all commercials are edited out but NBC still overlays advertisements on the actual show. Some of these advertisements drive audiences back to the NBC website, such as those offering the full episodes or t-shirts for sale similar to what the characters in the show are wearing, but other ads are for upcoming movies. Either way, NBC is driving audiences back to their website where they can again promote themselves and other shows or at least please their advertisers.
In a similiar vein, Wired.com reports that The Dark Knight made a record breaking $155.3 million at the box office in its first weekend, even though it was widely available for download. I Am Legend, the appoclyptic Will Smith movie from last year experienced similiarly huge profits despite the fact that a DVD-quality screening copy of the movie could be downloaded on the same day as the theatrical release.