Comcast and Time Warner Talk TV Everywhere, But Don’t Say Much

Here’s what we learned on joint Time Warner/Comcast press call this morning: “Authenication is great and it will be easy to implement. Hooray!” OK, I’m being a little sarcastic, but the call was more about introducing broad principles for the “TV Everywhere” model, and less about the nitty-gritty as to how it will actually work.

While most of the call was in general terms, we did get a few details as to what the two companies are doing. Comcast will begin national technical trials of its “OnDemand Online” authentication system in July. The two cable networks participating in the trial are Time Warner’s TNT and TBS. Comcast subscribers will be able to access shows like The Closer, Saving Grace, Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns and My Boys on Comcast.net, Fancast.com and soon after TNT.tv and TBS.com. Both companies anticipate announcing more content and distribution partners in the coming weeks.

Beyond that, most of the call was around the principles for TV Everywhere, which are:

  • Bring more TV content, more easily, to more people across platforms.
  • Video subscribers can watch programming from their favorite TV networks online for no additional charge.
  • Video subscribers can access this content using any broadband connection.
  • Programmers should make their best and highest-rated programming available online.
  • Both networks and video distributors should provide high-quality, consumer-friendly sites for viewing broadband content with easy authentication.
  • A new process should be created to measure ratings for online viewing. The goal should be to extend the current viewer measurement system to include advertiser ratings for TV content viewed on all platforms.
  • TV Everywhere is open and non-exclusive; cable, satellite or telco video distributors can enter into similar agreements with other programmers.

Exactly how much more content will be available isn’t clear, considering the VOD rights for programming varies. Shows will supposedly be online within “hours” after airing on TV, but the window in which that content will remain available is unclear.

I actually don’t mind the idea of authentication. Someone’s got to pay for the content, and if expanded access to cable programming online means I have to have a cable subscription, so be it. What concerns me more is the implementation of any authentication system. How will it work, especially if it’s broadened to multiple outlets and mobile? Both Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes and Comcast CEO Brian Roberts brushed aside concerns, which seems a bit naive, given all the variables.

Om asked a good question about whether or not this video consumption online would count towards Comcast’s bandwidth cap. Roberts said users weren’t going to get close enough to the cap for it to be an issue. This might be fine today, but what happens when HD delivery online becomes more prevalent?

Unfortunately, we aren’t that much closer to understanding how authentication will really impact what we can watch online. But the first trials will be rolling out next month, so we’ll start getting glimpses then.

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