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Verizon, TWC launching Internet TV trials

Thu, 08/27/2009 - 8:30am
Mike Robuck

Verizon and Time Warner Cable have joined Comcast by launching trials to serve up programming over the Internet to their subscribers.

Time Warner is taking part in Comcast’s On Demand Online trial, which is currently underway with 5,000 subscribers, so it’s no surprise that Time Warner Cable is getting into the act with its “TV Everywhere” offering.

Time Warner Cable will launch its TV Everywhere trials in select, unnamed markets over the next few months. Like Comcast, Time Warner Cable is initially targeting 5,000 customers.

Time Warner Cable’s subscribers will have free access to content from Turner Networks’ TBS and TNT networks, HBO, CBS, Syfy, BBC America, AMC, WE tv, IFC, Sundance Channel, which is owned by Cablevision, Discovery Communications and the Smithsonian Channel. Time Warner Cable said it’s working to add more networks and said it expects to expand TV Everywhere to more customers at a fast clip.

Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon are offering a “walled garden” approach to providing their subscribers video content over the Internet in order to offset the threat of over-the-top providers such as Hulu. But Time Warner Cable’s inclusion of the Syfy channel is worth noting because it’s owned by NBC Universal. News Corp. and NBC Universal launched Hulu in 2007.

Earlier this year, Walt Disney, through a subsidiary of ABC Enterprises, bought into Hulu, which gave Hulu access to ABC shows. While NBC has been the missing piece in Comcast and Time Warner Cable’s Internet video trials, Hulu has been unable to land programming from CBS, which is taking part in both of the cable operators’ trials.

“I'd argue that if anybody is going to make online video work for both consumers and for the content owners, it will probably be the incumbent service providers,” said Kurt Scherf, principal analyst for Dallas-based research firm Parks Associates. “Online video offerings are a nice complement to core subscription services (Netflix), and one advantage I think that the Comcast's and Time Warner Cable's are going to have is their ability to take measurement and analytics of their online audiences and report it back to the content owners and advertisers in a consistent manner that is not happening today.

“I think a ton of ad dollars are still being wasted with online video efforts because of a lack of good quantifiable data about the audience. These are areas where I think the service providers can excel.”

Hulu is an ad-supported site that has been raking in the views despite ads that are shown at the beginning or during shows.

“I suppose there will be moaning and complaining from some consumers about how online video is not going to be free, and they'll still have to watch ads,” Scherf said. “Well, 80 percent plus of America already does this with their pay-TV services, and it's a model that I think has to exist in order to pay for the high-quality content and for its delivery. The pure ad model is not going to support high-quality online video – I think it'll take subscriptions, plus ad revenues, plus transactional revenues to make it happen.”

Through TV Everywhere, Time Warner Cable video subscribers will be able to access content online via the networks’ Web sites and on Time Warner Cable’s Web properties. By making the content available on the networks’ Web sites, Time Warner Cable is taking a different approach than Comcast. Comcast is initially offering On Demand Online content through its Comcast.net and Fancast Web portals, but a spokeswoman said today the programming would be available on programmers’ Web sites in the near future.

Like Comcast, authentication will also be key for Time Warner Cable’s TV Everywhere trial. Time Warner Cable subscribers will need to fill out short surveys the first time they access the content from the cable provider’s or programmers’ Web portals.

Time Warner Cable said the programming offered through the TV Everywhere trials will include many shows currently unavailable online and others that will be made available on the Internet more quickly following their original airdates than they are currently.

“TV Everywhere is an all-around win for those of us who love television,” said Time Warner Cable chairman, president and CEO Glenn Britt. “It will give our customers more control over content and allow them greater access to programs they are already paying for, while enhancing the distributors’ and networks’ robust business model that encourages the creation of great content.”

So far details on Comcast’s trial have been in short supply – a spokeswoman said earlier this week that Comcast wouldn’t be ready to comment on the technical until late September – but The Dallas Morning News reported in a story yesterday that all 5,000 slots filled up in less than 24 hours.

As for Verizon, it has taken Time Warner up on the offer of taking part in TV Everywhere. Verizon’s trial will also include programming from Time Warner-owned Turner Networks, including TNT and TBS, with more programmer announcements to follow.  Comcast currently has 24 channels for its On Demand Online service.

While Verizon didn’t say how many subscribers are taking part in its trial, it said that the content would be available through the programmers’ Web sites, which are TNT.tv and TBS.com.

"As an industry, it's critical that we get the TV Everywhere user experience and value proposition right," said Shawn Strickland, vice president of FiOS product management for Verizon. "Our FiOS TV trial will enable us to integrate feedback from our customers to help deliver a service that is consistent with the ultimate entertainment experience that FiOS TV customers have come to expect."

Earlier this month, DirecTV was reported to be in talks with Time Warner in regard to taking part in its own version of TV Everywhere.

More Broadband Direct 08/27/09:
•  Verizon, TWC launching Internet TV trials
•  TiVo posts Q2 loss on subscriber churn
•  TiVo Inc. sues AT&T, Verizon over DVR patents
•  Cox brings new interface to New England systems
•  Videotron gets millionth digital sub
•  ABI: Carriers warming up to Wi-Fi
•  Broadband Briefs for 08/27/09

 

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