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CableLabs Tuning Up TV Everywhere Specs

CableLabs is working on a new set of specifications to add some unification and scale to the way cable operators and their programming partners deploy "TV Everywhere" services to broadband-connected PCs, Light Reading Cable has learned.

The work is born out of a request for information (RFI) released by CableLabs last fall that looked into defining a common technical approach for providing secure broadband access to subscription video services. At the time, the RFI sought out data related to service architectures, technical interfaces, security, and customer privacy. (See CableLabs Opens 'TV Everywhere' Info Spigot.)

From the sounds of it, the initial interface spec for what's being called Online Content Access (OLCA) won't cover all the topics of the original RFI. Industry sources say the spec will instead focus on just two key TV Everywhere functions: authentication and authorization. Authentication is the process by which the MSOs and programmers would verify a subscriber's identity online. Authorization determines what content an authenticated subscriber is entitled to view (i.e., this would ensure that only HBO subscribers can view HBO content.).

Although cable has shown much interest in extending TV Everywhere services to smartphones and other broadband-connected handhelds, the first round of building-block specs will likely be limited to PCs. (See Comcast to Expand 'Xfinity' to DSL Subs and Comcast's 'Xfinity' to Go Mobile in 2010 .)

CableLabs is trying to lock down the interface specs for those functions before MSOs and programmers get too far along with one-off TV Everywhere trials. Customer sign-on, for instance, could be done by a centralized video hub (as in Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s Fancast Xfinity TV beta), or through the Websites operated by individual programmers. With a common interface for authentication and authorization, both methods should work and keep the content sufficiently protected.

Without things like common interfaces, the fear is that costs could escalate because of the massive number of customizations. Programmers and vendors alike have already lamented that deployments of TV Everywhere services could be slowed without the presence of standards and specs. (See Lack of Standards Threatens TV Everywhere and TV Everywhere Faces Standards Conundrum .)

CableLabs declined to comment on how its OLCA specs work, which hasn't been made public as it goes through the review process. However, it's believed that CableLabs intends to publish the specs within about 90 days.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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