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A key idea behind ‘TV Everywhere’ is that subscribers will be able to watch shows not only from the websites of their cable providers but al…

Theplatform

A key idea behind ‘TV Everywhere’ is that subscribers will be able to watch shows not only from the websites of their cable providers but also elsewhere online, including the sites of the various networks in their cable packages, whether it’s the History Channel or Lifetime. White-label video service ThePlatform is now rolling out a service that provides that bridge. Doing so is more complicated than it seems because the networks need to verify that a visitor to their website is indeed a subscriber to a TV service provider and has paid for the programming they want to access.

The Comcast-owned company has been working with its parent to manage the back-end of On Demand Online, Comcast’s version of TV Everywhere, to let Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) cable subscribers watch a select number of cable shows and movies on either Comcast.net or the Fancast video portal. ThePlatform says it is introducing a series of features that let the cable networks themselves offer cable subscribers access to the content on their own websites.

ThePlatform says its new service solves the customer verification challenge by connecting with various back-end billing systems of TV service providers to “authenticate” subscribers — and then determine what content they can actually watch, something that depends on the specific package they subscribe to. (An example of the complexity involved here: Someone who subscribes to a basic cable package might have access to History Channel but not Military Channel content; that might not be completely clear to them when they visit the History Channel website).

The company is also setting up a system that lets programming networks choose whether to list on their sites the content that visitors cannot, in fact, access under their current subscription packages. That, says VP Marty Roberts, could create an additional revenue opportunity for cable networks, since they can pitch more expensive subscription packages to visitors or charge for access to individual shows.

So when could this become a big business? Roberts says the company expects momentum to increase starting next year — although most cable executives have said they don’t expect TV Everywhere to reach critical mass for about another half-decade. Comcast is currently offering trials of On Demand Online and says it will roll out the service more broadly later this year.

Customer wins: ThePlatform will also announce that over the last two months more than 20 cable networks have hired it to handle their online video. They include E! Entertainment Television, G4, Style Network, and The Travel Channel — all of which ThePlatform points out have switched over from rival Brightcove (That, however, is not as impressive as it sounds since E!, Style, and G4 are all owned by Comcast). Still, the company, which also handles the back-end video systems for big cable TV service providers, including Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) Cable (NYSE: TWC), Comcast, Cox, and Cablevision (NYSE: CVC), on their portals, says it has also added Canada’s largest cable TV operator to that roster. It says it’s working with Rogers Cable on an unspecified online video project.

  1. It is important to recognize the rich texture of competing agendas in the so-called TV Everywhere landscape. Comcast/thePlatform is aggressively pursuing their particular agenda, but there is a lot of activity and conversation going on behind the scenes among other players in the industry who share a different world view.

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out over 2010, it seems clear that more video will be coming online and customers will have (at least a few) more choices for consuming content they are paying for. That is promising indeed. But hopefully we can enter a world where audiences and content can freely and profitably associate without being distorted by the legacy of 20th century terrestrial monopolies. Time will tell.

    Thanks for pointing out that the customer "wins" are within the Comcast family. That's good journalism, and much-appreciated.

    Jeff Whatcott
    Brightcove

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