CableLabs Opens 'TV Everywhere' Info Spigot

Looking to get ahead of the "TV Everywhere" train before MSOs head off too far in different directions, CableLabs has issued a request for information (RFI) that aims to define a "common technical approach" for providing secure broadband access to subscription video services.

CableLabs said it wants an architecture that would enable access to online video for use across multiple programmers and cable operators. Ideally, CableLabs and its members want to use existing standards and specs as they pursue data on items such as service architectures, technical interfaces, security, and customer privacy. CableLabs will also pore over models that enable online access to ad-supported and paid subscription online video services. (See CableLabs Issues TV Everywhere RFI.)

The RFI is coming into play as Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), and other MSOs begin to dip their toes into TV Everywhere. Some have already begun small technical trials of authentication and authorization systems that would determine if the customer is already a video cable subscriber and which programming he or she is authorized to access via broadband.

Comcast already expects to launch its first product in this category, On Demand Online, nationally, and has recently started up a somewhat underground team to focus on IPTV and cross-platform convergence. (See Comcast Web TV Trial: 10,000 Being Served and Comcast Forges 'Excalibur' for IPTV.)

Although such efforts are in the early going, programmers have already lamented that a lack of standards and general consensus on how TV Everywhere should be implemented pose a significant threat. (See Lack of Standards Threatens TV Everywhere.)

"We are issuing this RFI at the strong urging of our members," CableLabs president and CEO Dr. Paul Liao said, in a statement.

"Our intention is to make this technology open and non-exclusive," added TWC president and CEO Glenn Britt.

Britt's statement suggests that an RFI marks the start of something bigger.

CableLabs, which develops specs for projects like Docsis and PacketCable, isn't yet saying if it will do the same for this effort as well.

The deadline for responses to the RFI is Dec. 11. It'll likely be the first quarter of 2010 before CableLabs decides how it will proceed, CableLabs spokesman Mike Schwartz told Cable Digital News.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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