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Charter Seeks Buy-In for Piracy Plan

Jeff Baumgartner
9/12/2019

Piracy mitigation is a key component of a new distribution deal between Charter Communications and The Walt Disney Co., but Charter has even grander ambitions as it attempts to squelch content piracy and password sharing.

"Ultimately our goal is that we can get an alliance of [a] large enough group of programmers and operators to protect the value of the content that people produce and the content that we distribute and we pay for," Charter CFO Chris Winfrey said Thursday at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2019 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Charter has not yet revealed a technical path to achieve this goal, but the general plan is to agree on a common set of "authentication principles," Winfrey said of the as-yet unformed alliance. The allies then could apply these rules uniformly rather than requiring one programmer or one operator to go about combating password-sharing individually.

Educating programmers about "what we think is happening to their product" from piracy and password sharing" also is part of this initiative, Winfrey said.

Charter and CEO Tom Rutledge have stressed the pay-TV industry under-appreciates the financial impact password sharing has on the bottom line.

"It's our firm belief that we'd be growing [video subscribers] and growing significantly [without password-sharing]," Winfrey said, adding it's a problem affecting both traditional and virtual MVPDs.

Programmers must not turn a blind eye, Charter's top finance exec cautioned.

"It's insane" to ignore the problem or downplay it just because piracy or password sharing gets their content in front of more eyeballs, he said.

That value is hollow. "To think that it doesn't impact the way [programmers] get paid, it does," Winfrey said. "And it conditions the entire marketplace to think that content should be devalued, it should be free, and that's the way it is and I shouldn't have to pay for it."

Earlier in the discussion, Winfrey said video and pay-TV "still matters to us," even as some cable operators are de-emphasizing those products to focus more heavily on higher-margin broadband services.

On the product side, Charter continues to roll out its cloud-based Spectrum Guide on IP-capable devices, and is making plans to launch a voice remote. Voice navigation is a priority now at Charter, but that product won't be coming out this year, he said.

Charter, by the way, has held talks about syndicating Comcast's X1 platform, and industry sources have indicated that Charter could be interested in licensing certain pieces of X1, such as its voice navigation platform.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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ernieJohnston
ernieJohnston
9/16/2019 | 12:33:50 PM
Careful What You Wish For
If programmers become more stringent in the way they authenicate content, then not only does its value to the consumer decline, but also the need for better broadband. Everyone might make less overall.
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