Comcast, Time Warner Perchance to Stream

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) kicked its TV Everywhere (TVE) plans up a notch after inking a new, long-term deal with Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX) that will give the MSO the okay to offer live streaming from the Turner Broadcasting System stable of networks.

The deal, which brings together two companies that forged a TVE-related pact in 2009, covers eight full-time cable programming properties: TNT, TBS, CNN, HLN, truTV, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim. (See Time Warner, Comcast Team Up for TV Everywhere.)

Baked in are provisions that will let Comcast offer next-day VoD access to "top shows" and movies from Turner across a range of platforms, including TVs, tablets, PCs and smart phones, via Comcast's XfinityTV.com video portal, the MSO's traditional set-top-based VoD service and websites operated by Turner.

An important, additional provision will allow live streaming starting "later this year."

Why this matters
It's all about the content rights. For cable's TVE strategy to work and fend off feisty over-the-top rivals, MSOs will need to obtain cross-platform rights not just for on-demand shows, but to live, linear feeds as well.

In fact, several programmers have privately said that Comcast currently lacks the rights to offer live streaming to tablets and other broadband-connected devices, which would obviously slow down those efforts. Charter Communications Inc. recently pulled back its trial efforts until it can secure the necessary rights. (See Comcast, Networks Spar Over iPad App and Charter's TV Everywhere Rollout on Hold.)

Financial terms of this deal weren't disclosed, but MSOs are expected to pay a premium for that added access.

Another concern is how TVE shows are rated. Turner and Comcast will address that by using Nielsen C3 ratings on programming viewed on TV or online starting mid-year. Ratings for smart phones and tablets will be factored in later.

But more deals like this are needed. By comparison, cable rival Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) is taking a much different route. Rather than negotiating those rights, it's fueling the linear component of its TVE efforts by employing Sling Media Inc. 's place-shifting tech in set-tops or via adapters that are paired with the receivers using USB connections. (See TelcoTV 2010: Dish Ready to Serve 'Sling Adapter' .)

For more
For more on cable's TVE evolution, please check out these stories:

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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