Cable TV’s Big Worry: Taming the Web

Like newspaper owners, media moguls are looking for new ways to protect their investment from the ravages of the Internet. And, as with the newspaper industry, the answer remains elusive.

What is at stake is perhaps the last remaining pillar of the old media business that has not been severely affected by the Internet: cable television. Aware of how print, music and broadcast television have suffered severe business erosion, the chief executives of the major media conglomerates like Time Warner, Viacom and NBC Universal have made protecting cable TV from the ravages of the Internet perhaps their top priority.

“The majority of profits for the big entertainment companies is from cable programming,” said Stephen B. Burke, the president of Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company.

The major worry is that if cable networks do not protect the fees from paying subscribers, and offer most programming online at no cost — as newspapers have done — then customers may eventually cancel their cable subscriptions.

One idea, advanced most vocally by Jeffrey L. Bewkes, the chairman of Time Warner, and embraced by many executives, would be to offer cable shows online for no extra charge, provided a viewer is first authenticated as a cable or satellite subscriber.

Mr. Bewkes has called the idea “TV Everywhere,” but others in the industry refer to it by other names: “authentication,” “entitlement,” and Comcast has called its coming service “OnDemand Online.”

“If you look at TV viewing, it’s up, even though the questions and stories are all about the role of video games and Internet usage and other uses of time,” Mr. Bewkes said.

The first test of the new system, which will authenticate cable subscribers online and make available programs on the Web for no additional charge, will be announced Wednesday, between Comcast and Time Warner. The trial will involve about 5,000 Comcast subscribers, and television shows from the Time Warner networks TNT and TBS.

“We’re talking about taking the TV industry to a new era,” Mr. Bewkes said.

Because of antitrust concerns, the companies that create cable programming are reluctant to…

continue reading from source by TIM ARANGO

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