Still, any rumpus is likely to be tempered by licensing agreements and technological protection, such as digital watermarks, that would help prevent illegal duplication of downloaded content.

One network source says the networks "aren't particularly exercised" because the overwhelming majority of people are going to continue to watch shows on their full-screen televisions, not on small mobile devices. This person adds that "while we may see incremental usage, it won't amount to a sea change in viewership patterns."

Ultimately, the question may boil down to how or if licensing fees are allocated.

While the TiVo TV download play appears to be legal as long as individual users don't share files and proper protections are in place, the idea could face objections from producers and TV production companies, for example, which often enjoy rights across different formats.

"It is a legal issue," says a media consultant who didn't want to be named. "The question is who owns the file, and the Supreme Court ruled essentially that you can copy it for personal use but not for performance or licensing purposes." That source says that TiVoing a program, much like taping a show with your VCR and then playing the tape on your other VCR/TV, is legal and that the iPod is essentially just another screen.

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