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TWC: No timetable for ESPN3 launch

Thu, 09/16/2010 - 10:51am
Mike Robuck

One of the more intriguing provisions of the recent carriage agreement between Walt Disney and Time Warner Cable, as well as Bright House Networks, was the inclusion of Disney’s ESPN3.

With the deal in hand, Time Warner Cable said all of its customers that subscribe to ESPN will eventually have access to ESPN3’s online content, which includes full-game videos of sports such as this summer’s World Cup action. Time Warner Cable and Bright House also have the rights to feature additional ESPN3.com content on their linear sports tiers.

While Time Warner Cable sports fanatics were able to break out the "We're No. 1" foam fingers after learning they were finally getting ESPN3, a blog posting on Time Warner Cable's website said it might be a while before the content is accessible as the nation's second-largest cable operator works out authentication issues with ESPN.

Time Warner Cable has experience with authentication from its TV Everywhere service that has launched on Turner Web portals, but the blog posting said "an authenticated video offering of this size and scope is unprecedented in our industry."

At its most basic level, authentication is logging onto a site with a name, password or other personal information to show that a subscriber has the "rights" to view a particular show or event based on his or her cable subscription.

Marty Roberts, vice president of sales and marketing for thePlatform, mentioned in a recent CED Open Mic column that users don't mind the authentication process. In fact, instead of being cumbersome for users, it's largely a seamless experience.  Roberts does a good job of explaining the authentication process in a nutshell in the column.

Comcast-owned thePlatform has acknowledged that it provides authentication for Comcast and Rogers Communications' TV Everywhere services. It does have a video publishing agreement in place with Time Warner Cable for the cable operator's Road Runner Web portal, but no word on whether thePlatform provides authentication services for Time Warner Cable.

While Time Warner Cable and ESPN wrestle with the "handshake" of authentication, Roberts previously said it was no longer an issue for thePlatform.

"Overall, what we find is that whether you're a programmer putting up a TV Everywhere-enabled website or you are a cable operator that is enhancing your video portal for your customers, the authentication question has really been solved so far," Roberts said earlier this year. "We're in a good position there."

In the meantime, Time Warner Cable subscribers are itching for the live games that are carried on ESPN3. Time Warner Cable's blog post said the company is working on alternate ways for customers to see those games but didn't offer specifics.

One piece of good news out of the blog post was that once authentication has been enabled, Time Warner Cable subscribers will be able to see the linear feeds of ESPN1, ESPN2 and ESPNU online, which is certainly something to cheer about.


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