Yesterday’s announcement that Time Warner and Comcast were consummating their relationship for TV Everywhere (story here) probably wasn’t much of a surprise given that Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes has been talking up the concept for most of this year.


The phrase “free” was bandied about during the information that was provided in regard to the agreement between Time Warner and Comcast that will allow the latter’s subscribers access to content from Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting networks. In this case, “free” means you’re already paying for the content as a Comcast subscriber.


To some degree, “free” content is already available off of broadcast Web sites, from sites such as Hulu, and via smartphones and gaming consoles. And in those cases, it really is free.


Will Comcast subscribers tune in in droves for the TBS and TNT shows shortly after they are first broadcast? That’s one of the questions that next month’s national technical trial with 5,000 customers hopes to answer. The trial, which is branded under Comcast’s name of On Demand Online, also needs to iron out the authentication issues that allow Comcast subscribers access to the video content.


“The devil is going to be in the details, of which few­ – pricing, authentication restrictions, device restrictions, content availability, etc. – are available,” said In-Stat principal analyst Michael Paxton. “However, I would imagine that's what the technical trial is designed to clarify. The next step could be making this trial into an industry-wide effort/test bed for the delivery of online content to cable subscribers.”


Yesterday, Time Warner and Comcast said the shows will be initially accessible on and Comcast’s Web portal, and “will soon be available on and”


Comcast and Time Warner also agreed to a set of principles to help define their agreement, including one that said, “TV Everywhere is open and non-exclusive; cable, satellite or telco video distributors can enter into similar agreements with other programmers.”


So would a competitor to Comcast want to jump on the TV Everywhere bandwagon? Sure, if it means not being eviscerated by free services from the likes of Hulu, but the financial terms of those types of deals need to be worked out, as well.


“That's a question we've been kicking around, too,” Paxton said. “The consensus seems to be that other pay-TV service providers will likely watch the trial closely and then decide. Having said that, we also think that while it's unlikely any satellite service providers will join the effort, it's possible that the telcos, particularly Verizon and AT&T, might join in if the trial shows any measurable benefits.”


If Verizon and Comcast Spotlight can join forces on ads, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Verizon and AT&T would see value in trying to keep subscribers, particularly younger viewers who don’t watch a lot of linear TV, from wandering into the arms of an over-the-top provider, but they may have their own counterattacks in the works.


For a variety of reasons, there will be a lot of interested parties keeping a keen eye on the trial by Time Warner and Comcast. The cable industry could use a victory in the win column after the recent setback on the launch of Canoe Ventures’ first product (story here).