Today, thePlatform announced a new suite of features that were designed to reduce the complexities of programmers offering their own “TV Everywhere” services on their Web sites.
thePlatform, which is a subsidiary of Comcast, is working with Comcast on its On Demand Online trial that is set to go live next month. thePlatform also announced today that it was working with Rogers Cable on its Web portal that is set to launch sometime this month to serve up TV shows and movies to its subscribers, but thePlatform didn’t say what role it’s playing with Rogers.
At last month’s SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, Dermot O’Carroll, Rogers’ senior vice president of engineering and network operations, said his company will authenticate users through their cable modems. Marty Roberts, thePlatform’s vice president of marketing, said thePlatform offers “smart things,” such as letting users log in through their broadband modems or other registered devices instead of logging on with user names and passwords.
While Comcast, for example, only has to figure out how to work with its own back office system and Web sites when it comes to authenticating a subscriber, programmers have to be able to work with telco, cable and satellite video service providers in order to authenticate users and map out the specific tiers of service for each viewer on their Web sites.
“What we’ve done, based on conversations we’ve had with our programming customers, as well as our service provider customers, is we’ve introduced a new product called the Authentication Adapter,” Roberts said. “Basically what this does is it simplifies the authentication process for programmers. They only have to deploy one set of user credentials. For example, your user name and password code are entered on their Web site, and then our Authentication Adapters will translate that into whatever authentication standard the service provider has chosen to use.
“So we’ll be building Authentication Adapters for each one of the service providers and basically handling that for them. It’s basically taking a lot of the complexity off of the programmers’ Web sites.”
In addition to Time Warner Cable and Comcast, Verizon and DirecTV are also working on their own versions of TV Everywhere.
thePlatform’s Authentication Adapter would need to work with each service provider’s back office system in order to verify the rights of each show and the subscribers’ level of service with a service provider.
“So now if a Web site has to think about six or 10 authentication standards to validate different customers from different service providers, things start to get pretty complex on their Web sites,” Roberts explained of the problem it was solving with its new features.
The model Roberts is referring to is actually the one that Time Warner Cable is using in its trial, which is in the process of expanding from 300 testers to 6,000 consumers, because Time Warner Cable is offering TV Everywhere through Turner’s TBS and TNT Web sites, while Comcast uses its own Comcast.net and Fancast Web sites. A spokeswoman for thePlatform said the company was managing the back end for Comcast's On Demand Online, which includes using thePlatform's system to publish video to Comcast's subscribers.
While Comcast is downloading authentication devices into users’ set-top boxes, Roberts said thePlatform’s new features work with existing technology “that you probably already have on your desktop today, like a Flash player and a browser.”
thePlatform's new authorization service addresses the media rights associated with the movies and shows, including air dates, geographic restrictions and other business policies. While the current iteration of TV Everywhere focuses on delivering content to PCs or Apple computers, Roberts said there was nothing technically that would preclude delivering the same services to other devices down the road.
Other features for thePlatform include an option that lets the programmers personalize their Web sites based on business agreements with the various video service providers. One example would be to show all of the available content, regardless of the customer’s service provider tier, and if they see tagged premium content that is part of a premium video package, they can be directed to upsell opportunities for the more advanced tiers.
The flipside is only showing the video content that is available to subscribers based on the tiers they actually subscribe to.
thePlatform also announced that several individual networks within Comcast Entertainment Group have become customers, including E!, Style Network, G4 and others, as well as 12 other individual programming networks that have yet to be named.
With the addition of Rogers, thePlatform’s roster of cable operator customers includes Cablevision, Cox, Comcast and Time Warner Cable.