Starz announced yesterday that it was joining Comcast’s (s CMCSA) OnDemand Online trial, making content from its pay TV channels available for viewing online — if you’re a Starz subscriber.
Starz joins Time Warner (s TWX), which announced last month that its TNT and Turner networks would be part of the 5,000-person national trial of the authentication service starting this July. Other networks like Scripps (Food Network), Rainbow Media (AMC) and A&E Television are expected to join as well. As part of the deal, Starz will provide 300 movie and original TV titles including Wall-E, Hancock and Party Down, some of which will be offered in HD, an online first for the network.
Comcast’s OnDemand Online and similar authentication services like Time Warner’s TV Everywhere will put premium content online, but require a cable subscription to access it.
We wonder how the ongoing evolution of online authentication will impact not just the cable operator landscape but also Netflix’s (s NFLX) stream dreams.
Starz already shows movies and TV programming via Netflix’s Watch Instantly service, so a Netflix subscriber doesn’t have to be a Starz subscriber to access that content online. A Starz rep told Broadcasting & Cable yesterday that the Comcast trial doesn’t immediately impact its other relationships, but that the company is optimistic about where this authentication stuff is going.
Will authentication plans screw up Netflix’s ability to get cable network TV content? Netflix currently offers streaming content from cable networks like The Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and from South Park Studios, which was reportedly offered straight-up cash for episodes of South Park. Netflix at one point circulated a customer survey to see how much subscribers might pay to access content from pay TV channels like HBO. But if authentication gives you online access to content you already pay for — why would you pay Netflix to access that content again? And would Netflix be able to make a competitive enough offer to sway users from signing up with cable operators?