Disney (NYSE: DIS) CEO Bob Iger used his street cred as the man who put Disney on iTunes and gave the go-ahead for streaming full episodes on ABC.com to send a simple message to cable operators and programmers at The Cable Show: we’ll look at anything that helps cable, including streaming full networks online, but we aren’t interested in putting all of our programming behind a subscription wall. Translation: ABC isn’t going to be part of any subscription-only plan and isn’t going to make it harder for consumers to get that content. That would be “anti-consumer,” Iger warned, adding that “we don’t believe in adding restrictions on the ABC content.” He came at that point again later, stressing that he would be concerned about the “fallout” if limits or complications were added.
At the same time, he was very clear about ESPN: the sports group will use free video widely but full live streaming of sports will be limited to the linear channels and broadband network ESPN360.com. No direct mention of the YouTube short-form deal (and none of any possible long-form deals deals with YouTube or Hulu) but Iger explained that ESPN’s free online activity is about driving interest.
But, Iger said “streaming full networks online would be an interesting and potentially compelling feature to consumers.” Carefully avoiding any of the specific plans being touted — Time Warner’s TV Everywhere, Comcast’s OnDemand Online or the variations — Iger spoke instead of authentication, the idea that technology can be used to verify that someone is paying for TV and should have access to it from anywhere. “We