Links: South Park & Digital Distribution
If you're at all familiar with the Internet, you know that modern technology makes it really easy to infringe copyrights. The MPAA and the RIAA have taken a hardline stance in the past, but a more recent trend has been to harness the power of the Web to distribute television shows for free. The best example of this is probably the official website for "South Park," the irreverent (and libertarian-leaning) Comedy Central cartoon.
Sure, there's some ads (in the form of banners and brief commercials), but, like in regular TV, they're few and far between compared to how much programming you're receiving. More importantly, it takes more effort to download an episode than to stream it from the official site. This is key - when you can make ad-supported content more convenient than the illegal stuff, you're virtually ensuring that you'll be successful (at least if the show is any good).
South Park is just one example of a growing trend. Episodic shows like Battlestar Galactica and "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" have also been released this way, making it much easier for new viewers to catch up on a series. You don't often find win-win situations in life, but I think this is one of them.