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thePlatform Plugs In 'TV Everywhere'

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner
11/18/2009
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MSOs like Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) have centered most of their forays into the world of "TV Everywhere" on their own portals and Websites, but video publishing firm thePlatform Inc. is releasing components that let programmers offer that kind of access directly from their own Websites. (See Comcast Web TV Trial: 10,000 Being Served and thePlatform Tackles 'TV Everywhere'.)

thePlatform (which happens to be owned by Comcast and counts ExtendMedia Inc. and Brightcove Inc. among its video publishing competitors) says it's allowing this capability by adding an "Authenticaton Adapter" service to its media publishing system.

Websites use authentication to see if an incoming user is a subscriber to a particular video service provider, such as Comcast, Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), or some other MSO. thePlatform is trying to go a step beyond that by validating and authorizing the playback of individual shows. The idea is to verify the links across the video title, the service provider's channel lineup, and the consumer's subscription package.

The system also enforces the tricky media rights associated with those shows, accounting for geographic restrictions, availability windows, and other business policies.

According to thePlatform, all this can be handled in milliseconds with this newfangled adapter. It serves as a proxy that can authenticate consumers for the various billing systems used by TV service providers, with thePlatform managing the mishmash of interfaces among the MSO, the programmer, and any other companies involved.

A new consensus?
What makes the Authentication Adapter potentially important is that it could shore up a dispute over how TV Everywhere customers should get access to shows.

Comcast has taken a centralized approach for its upcoming On Demand Online service. But TWC appears to be more interested in a model where customers are required to get entitlements from individual programmers. CableLabs has tried to create some level of consensus, but some in the TV industry have lamented that a lack of standards could derail TV Everywhere. (See CableLabs Issues TV Everywhere RFI, CableLabs Opens 'TV Everywhere' Info Spigot, and Lack of Standards Threatens TV Everywhere.)

If thePlatform's idea works as advertised, MSOs and programmers could support both models without reengineering everything. An important question is whether thePlatform will attract a large enough following, particularly among folks outside the cable camp, to succeed.

It's making progress. thePlatform is managing the backend for Comcast's On Demand Online trial, which will provide in-home and out-of-home access to content and is expected to launch nationwide next month.

thePlatform also claims it's handling online video management services for four of the top five U.S. MSOs and several programmers -- including Fox Sports Networks and Travel Channel, and some with corporate ties to Comcast: E!, G4, Style, and Comcast Sports Group.

But as for the Authentication Adapter itself, thePlatform has not yet announced any customers.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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