DirecTV open to subscriber-only online shows

Wed, 03/04/2009 - 7:35am
Deborah Yao, AP Business Writer

(AP) – DirecTV Group Inc. said Tuesday that it's open to giving subscribers exclusive online access to television shows such as HBO's "Entourage" that are normally not available for free over the Internet, agreeing with a growing consortium of cable companies and networks.

Web content should be an extension of a customer's satellite TV viewing experience, not a competing platform, Chief Executive Chase Carey said at the Deutsche Bank Securities Media and Telecommunications Conference.

The rising popularity of online video should be embraced instead of rejected, he said.

"In the past, when a company tries to stop or block something from happening, it's usually failed," Carey said.

El Segundo, Calif.-based DirecTV joins Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable Inc., Cox Communications Inc., Cablevision Systems Corp., Time Warner Inc., General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal, Viacom Inc., News Corp. and others considering exclusive access to cable TV shows online.

Cable companies have complained that they are paying programmers a monthly fee per subscriber for content that is available for free over the Internet. They're also concerned that over time, viewers could bypass them in favor of watching shows online.

Meanwhile, networks don't want to jeopardize the steady stream of cable TV programming fees they get from cable, satellite and phone companies.

The talks center around shows that are available only to subscribers of TV services from cable, satellite or phone companies – such as those on the Sundance or Discovery channels – instead of free, over-the-air broadcast shows like "Lost."

The solution both sides currently are backing: Give people access to cable TV shows online as long as they can prove they're paying subscribers.

Time Warner Inc. is testing the service through its HBO network and cable spin-off, Time Warner Cable, in the Milwaukee area, calling it "TV Everywhere." HBO has plans to expand the trial to more markets.

Comcast named its effort "On Demand Online." One idea is for shows from cable TV networks such as Showtime and Comedy Central to be bundled into a subscriber-only area on, its free site for viewing TV shows and movies.

Other cable operators could steer subscribers to exclusive areas on Web sites run by the cable networks.

But plans are preliminary, and the whole model could change.

The current consensus is to give subscribers access without an extra fee. That means no additional charge to about 90 percent of U.S. households - those who buy TV from a cable or satellite company, a figure released by the Nielsen research firm last week.

"Everything on television should become available to you on broadband for free," Time Warner Inc. CEO Jeff Bewkes said at the Deustche Bank conference on Monday. "You can take it with you on a mobile device. You can see it on a PC. You can watch it on your television."

More Broadband Direct 03/04/09:
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•  Cablevision draws a bead on targeted advertising
•  TV blocking is back; FCC requests comments
•  DirecTV open to subscriber-only online shows
•  BigBand Networks bows new product to bypass CMTS
•  ZillionTV to offer free Internet TV content
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