NEW YORK Time Warner today said it has partnered with Comcast to develop a cohesive strategy for its "TV Everywhere" initiative, which looks to reinforce the subscription TV model by allowing subscribers to access cable network programming on-demand, via broadband and mobile platforms.
The first stage of the TV Everywhere model will go live in July, enabling Comcast subscribers to access content from Turner's TNT and TBS properties online and through the cable operator's video-on-demand service. When the consumer trial begins, Turner programming will be accessible on Comcast.net, Fancast.com and via Time Warner's TNT.tv and TBS.com.
Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes introduced the TV Everywhere concept in March, telling investors that the plan signaled a slight semantic shift away from the subscription TV model to a platform-agnostic service. He reiterated that philosophy during this morning's conference call with analysts.
"We don't think it's particularly beneficial for the consumer to have to think about what screen they want to watch their favorite content on," Bewkes said. "If you're an MTV subscriber, you've already paid for that content. It shouldn't matter how you want to access it."
Full deployment of TV Everywhere will hinge on whether the networks and other cable and satellite operators will sign on to offer the service as an incentive to their subscribers. Comcast's decision to test the service is a significant breakthrough; together, Time Warner and Comcast account for some 37.3 million TV subs, or roughly a third of the consumer base served by the country's top 10 cable operators.
"Over 92 percent of Americans already qualify for this service, as they already pay [subscription TV fees]," Bewkes said. "Programmers will be able to give consumers even more for their money ... And the Internet model simply augments the appeal of the content, because it gives consumers more choice and more convenience."
DirecTV also has indicated it would be willing to participate in the initiative.
Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said the operator would roll out architecture improvements later this year that will enable "nearly unlimited" options, making the on-demand menu as searchable as online content. "This takes the smarts of the PC and applies it to all the choices of television," Roberts said.
Both operators will beef up their TV Everywhere offerings sometime in the fourth quarter.
"This is an evolution for us, but our general view is we allow consumers to get the content right away for no additional charges on multiple platforms," Roberts said. "That set of principles may allow us to really break this open."
Bewkes noted that the adoption of TV Everywhere would bring up a number of pointed questions about how advertising will work in the brave new world of universal on-demand. "We don't really know what the optimal choice for consumers watching VOD five days after a show [debuts on TV]," Bewkes said. "We'll see what will happen [with the advertising model] as this evolves."
To access the on-demand content, Comcast and Time Warner subs will have to log in with credentials that would be verified to ensure that they actually subscribe to one of the two pay-TV services. Bewkes noted that this kind of authentication model is more simple and efficient than the sort of billing activation system used by iTunes.
The trial will test the initiative's authentication technology to ensure that it will work on a national level. It will also give customers an opportunity to kick the tires on the service and provide feedback that will help to shape TV Everywhere.
Comcast said it anticipates that other networks will come aboard as the nationwide trial expands. Meanwhile, Time Warner expects to announce similar trials with other distributors.
Nielsen Business Media