Programming

TV Everywhere A Hot Topic on Both Coasts

Web video players eye connected TVs 5/17/2010 12:14:00 AM Eastern

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AS CABLE operators, programmers and
technology vendors convened at The
Cable Show in Los Angeles last week to
discuss the future of the cable TV business, more
than 3,300 broadband video specialists gathered
in New York at the Streaming Media East (SME)
conference to talk about the same thing.

Technically, that’s inaccurate: The SME exhibitor
floor displayed the latest wares from more than 50
streaming video vendors, and the conference sessions
explored technical topics such as advances
in adaptive bitrate technology and the long-term
prospects of HTML5, Apple’s favored streaming
format, versus Adobe’s well-entrenched Flash technology.
But much of the conversation in New York
focused on the same topic being debated in L.A.:
the business and technical implications of making
most popular television programming available
online.

The notion of “TV Everywhere,” as narrowly defined by the cable industry, means using authentication
technology to allow pay-TV subscribers to
watch cable network programming on-demand on
their computers or mobile devices. It doesn’t mean,
however, allowing them to watch online shows on
their living-room TVs, either through a companion
connected device like a Roku set-top or broadband-
enabled Blu-ray player, or a new “connected
TV” with a built-in broadband hookup.

While such connected devices were all the rage
at January’s CES show,
cable operators are afraid
that making TV Everywhere
content available
through these devices would damage their
existing video-on-demand businesses and
speed the way to eventual “cord-cutting”—
subscribers dropping their pay-TV subscriptions
and relying solely on broadband video,
which cable operators may or may not be
selling to them. Hulu, the ad-supported Web
video portal owned by NBC, Fox and ABC,
has taken a similar stance with the broadcast
fare it offers by allowing its programming on PCs
and laptops but not on connected TVs.

The impact of broadband video and connected
devices on cable TV’s future was tackled at SME
with panels like “Cutting the Cord on TV: Will Online
Video Lead to Cable’s Demise?” The good news
for cable was that most streaming video insiders
see cable’s TV Everywhere initiative as a positive
step and don’t predict a rash of cord-cutting anytime
soon, despite the projected rapid growth of
connected TVs.

“I think the concern shouldn’t be cord-cutting,”
says Boxee CEO Avner Ronen, whose company
makes free software that allows Web video to be
viewed on a TV by connecting it to a computer
or other companion device. “It’s going to be more
competition on content aggregation.”

But others warn that rumored plans by Hulu
and Apple to launch new subscription-TV services
for connected TVs could put near-term pressure
on cable operators and perhaps force more radical
changes than TV Everywhere.

“There’s no question that Apple could change
everything in the blink of an eye,” says Richard
Bullwinkle, chief evangelist for digital navigation
firm Rovi. “They do that pretty regularly.”

E-mail comments to dickson.glen@gmail.com

3D Programs Gain Traction

Fans of nascent stereoscopic 3D TV technology got more good news last week, as several significant carriage deals were announced for early 3D programming. More.

 

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