Giganews (one of the world's largest USENET providers) recently announced their reaching of 300 days retention. For those not familiar with USENET this means that if I were to post an article to USENET today, Giganews would still have that article 300 days from now (and possibly longer, as they are constantly upgrading).
AstraWeb are also at 285 days retention, and UseNetServer are currently at 282 days. AstraWeb has plans to go to 365 days and UseNetServer to 400 days. At the current upgrade rates it seems as if they are outpacing the passing of time, i.e. retention of stuff currently being posted may effectively be available forever.
So back to the headline. There's a lot of consternation as to what the business model of TV, movies and music should be. Judging by the apparent global success of the premium USENET providers it seems clear that consumers are willing to pay for content, whether or not they realise it -- premium USENET subscribers are all paying around US$15-20/month.
As far as I understand it the appeal of USENET lies in its convenience. Why mess about with BitTorrent trackers which provide variable speeds & availability when you can pay US$15-20/month to a premium USENET provider and download stuff at the full speed of your line?
One of the earliest subscription services that I remember using was Y! Music Unlimited. For US$60/year (reasonable enough, IMHO) you got access to a vast library of music but its big problem was the DRM-ed tracks. There's no shortage of evidence that consumers want DRM-free content and USENET provides that.
The current USENET experience can be significantly improved upon with a good UI - most providers only offer a pure NNTP service so you can't easily browse or search content, and users need to learn to use a reader program or 3rd party services. Additionally, streaming services could be offered. No doubt this is where the various lounge-room-centric products are headed.
The challenge of making the service legal is I guess the accounting aspect of tracking downloads in order to apportion royalties, as well as convincing all of the relevant rights holders to partcipate... (good luck).
So who will be the first to build a (legal) subscription service with a reasonable fee, offering the same breadth of content as USENET? :)
Alternatively, I wonder if more services like Usenet Binaries will start popping up. Perhaps with an accompanying TV or media-center friendly service... it could certainly be cheaper, and better, than a traditional cable TV subscription.