Cable-Led Web TV Deals Still Forming
"We think there is a great opportunity to get consumers content on-demand and online so they can watch it whenever and wherever they want to," Jennifer Khoury, a Comcast spokeswoman says. "We're working with programmers today to enable consumers to do that."
One issue on the table, sources say, is whether those rights will involve on-demand access to shows via the Web as well as "place-shifted" access to the linear feeds of programming networks, a technique that Sling Media Inc. has popularized with the standalone Slingbox.
EchoStar Corp. LLC (Nasdaq: SATS) (Sling's parent) has already baked that capability into some new receivers for corporate cousin Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) and expects to do the same in some upcoming cable boxes that use the tru2way platform. (See Dish Box Bakes In Sling and EchoStar Blazing Way to Tru2way .)
Comcast says it has a project underway that carries the internal moniker of "On Demand Online." The product, expected to be launched sometime later this year, will likely take on a different brand name. The MSO isn't providing much detail on it yet, but it will likely extend into other initiatives already underway, including "Project Infinity" and Comcast's Fancast Internet video hub, which today offers a menu of more than 44,000 video titles. (See Fancast Does Downloads, Comcast Fires Up Fancast, and Comcast Launches 'Project Infinity'.)
Time Warner Cable, which is also playing a key role in these discussions, was not available for comment Friday. However, the MSO has been very vocal on the topic, warning programmers to be careful with their Internet initiatives because their business models rely on a dual revenue stream that incorporates both advertising revenues and affiliate fees.
Moreover, Time Warner Cable has long held the belief that its video customers should have to only pay once for access to content, and be able to view that content "on any screen at any time," as opposed to having to pay separate subscriptions or fees for that right. (See Is Broadband TV a Cable Killer?)
Among recent examples, TWC is rapidly expanding the availability of HBO on Broadband, a service that gives existing HBO subs access to about 1,000 hours of content from the programmer via PCs with high-speed Internet connections. The MSO is supporting that with an "entitlement" system that taps into the TWC billing system to authenticate and authorize the broadband offering. Presumably, this system would apply if TWC's Web video initiatives extend beyond HBO. (See TWC Scaling Up 'HBO on Broadband'.) To Page 2