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Charter sends up trial balloon on TV Everywhere

Tue, 08/03/2010 - 12:46pm
Mike Robuck

Charter Communications, the nation's fourth-largest cable operator, is testing the TV Everywhere waters with last week's trial launch.

Charter first dipped its toe into TV Everywhere when it worked with Synacor and NBC Universal earlier this year to offer online Winter Olympic coverage through its Charter.net Web portal.

Yesterday, Multichannel News reported that Charter launched a nationwide trial of its TV Everywhere service. The trial is across Charter's entire footprint, with between 7,500 and 10,000 of the cable operator's subscribers who opted in to e-mail invitations.

Content-wise, Graham Williams, Charter's director of product management, said the cable operator is working with TNT and TBS, as well as Style, E!, G4 and The Weather Channel.

On the back end, Charter has again teamed up with Synacor for authentication of the TV Everywhere service, which entails each user logging in via their Charter e-mail address and a password. (Charter is also using Synacor as its authentication engine for its service with Epix that launched last week.)

"When an asset is requested, [Synacor will] be making calls to us to our internal identification systems via SAML (Security Assertion Markup Langue), and then we'll send back either a 'yes' or 'no' answer on whether that user is entitled to that specific content asset, and then they'll authenticate on our behalf," Williams said.

As for digital rights management (DRM) and video formats, Williams said Charter has taken a more "syndicated" approach that leverages existing decisions that the programmers have already made with their content delivery network providers. The video content is then available to Charter's customers through an embedded player in Synacor's environment.

"Our general approach is to be more on the agnostic side to create a platform that can leverage decisions that have already been made without having to replicate the capabilities needlessly," Williams said. "We wanted to make the trial simple and not create any sort of precedence around the model."

In addition to being available on Charter.net, content can also be accessed via programmers' Web portals. While Charter hasn't said which programmers have their content available to its subscribers on their Web portals, it's worth noting that TBS and TNT currently have a similar arrangement with Time Warner Cable's TV Everywhere service.

The TV Everywhere content is available to Charter's subscribers anywhere in the United States with a broadband connection. Some cable operators, such as Shaw, have initially launched their TV Everywhere services only within their own footprints.

"We know there are multiple models out there, and obviously these things evolve, but it was important to us that our customers could access it anywhere they want within the United States," Williams said. "That's part of the value of offering this type of enhancement. It's been important for us to get the trial up and running because one of the primary objectives was to make sure that the service would enhance our customers' daily lives."

The trial is slated to run until the end of this year, but based on customers' experiences, it could change going forward.

"Our immediate focus for this trial is to make sure we're providing a service that our customers will use and value," Williams said. "That's what we wake up everyday thinking about. We want our customers to understand that we don't take their business for granted, so if we can create that value with this sort of service, then we'll pursue it. If our customers say, 'This is interesting but I don't use it that much,' we'll go to something else."


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