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Major MSOs on Cusp of TV Everywhere Era

BALTIMORE -- The Independent Show -- Major cable MSOs, telcos, and satellite firms are poised to launch TV Everywhere (TVE) Websites by the end of 2010 or in early 2011, a Turner Broadcasting System executive said here Tuesday during a panel discussion dedicated to TVE.

“I feel at this point we’re in a place where we are certainly seeing from the operator side much more interest in moving beyond the testing and trialing and getting into commercial-scale deployments,” Turner vice president of business development and multiplatform distribution Michael Quigley said on a panel discussion focused on the TVE trend.

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is the only major US MSO that has gone national with a TV Everywhere site (though still in beta form), offering content through dozens of expanded basic and premium networks under the Fancast Xfinity TV banner.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) is testing a TV Everywhere site called FiOS TV Online with Turner and other networks, and it also allows its FiOS TV customers that subscribe to HBO to watch online versions of Entourage and other gripping, original series and movies from the premium network's HBO Go portal. (See Verizon Tests 'TV Everywhere' and Verizon Gets First Taste of 'HBO GO' Portal .)

But Quigley and Avail-TVN chief technology officer Michael Kazmier said additional operators are running trials on TV Everywhere sites, and testing ways to authenticate and authorize which subscribers should get access to content from networks in their pay TV subscriptions. They didn’t name any providers that would launch TVE sites.

While Turner is working to supply content to TVE portals, Quigley said that the programmer, which owns TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network, CNN, and TNT, remains focused on delivering video-on-demand (VoD) content to subscribers, and allowing cable operators to offer on-demand versions of episodes from original series such as TNT’s The Closer the day after their premieres on linear TV networks. “We think VoD is the nearest, best low-hanging fruit for operators in this TV Everywhere ecosystem.”

Quigley said Turner wants its pay TV subscribers to be able to view TVE content through MSO-owned portals such as Fancast Xfinity TV, along with TVN.tv and other sites owned by Turner. [Ed. note: Some new TVE interface specs from CableLabs intend to ease and scale that process. See CableLabs Tuning Up TV Everywhere Specs .]

It’s important for programmers and operators to be able to deliver TVE video to subscribers accessing the content on multiple devices and bit rates, the panelists agreed. Operators might also face spikes in usage if they were to offer online video from events such as a college football game from a regional sports network, said Synacor Inc. director of TV/video Jim Brandt.

“I think there are specific use cases that will present themselves as a challenge early [in TVE commercial deployments],” Brandt added.

Also worth noting from the TV Everywhere panel:


  • One of the challenges in building a good TVE authentication system is allowing pay TV subscribers that get high-speed Internet access from another provider to access video content. “People for whom you haven’t thought about reaching out to them via the Web -- you need to extend that authentication system,” Brandt said.

  • Describing the TVE business model as the “opposite of over-the-top” video distribution, Avail-TVN’s Kazmier colorfully called TVE an “under-the-bottom approach.”

  • TVE portals should allow subscribers to manage parental controls from multiple networks on a single site, Brandt said.


— Steve Donohue, Special to Light Reading Cable

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