Hooray! Cable's 'TV Everywhere' Initiative Would Alienate Eight Million People!

Last Updated Oct 30, 2009 2:48 PM EDT

As a conglomeration of cable industry players, including Time Warner and Comcast, ramp up TV Everywhere, the initiative in which only cable subscribers would be able to watch the consortium's content online, the studies on the impact the program will have are flying. One that caught my eye this week is a study by Interpret LLC saying that 7.7 million people who stream online video -- or 11 percent of the streaming audience -- doesn't subscribe to cable and therefore wouldn't be able watch "TV Everywhere" selections without at least paying a pay-per-play fee.

Most of the headlines I've seen about this this week are of the hand-wringing variety, ones like "'TV Everywhere' Services May Alienate Online-Only Consumers: Survey."

Doesn't anyone understand that in this case, alienation is a good thing?

I've no idea whether TV Everywhere will be popular or not, but it doesn't matter, as long as cable operators protect their revenue streams, which TV Everywhere is designed to do. Making online video a value-add for cable subscribers is essential if cable is to continue to be a robust business, which it has been despite the recession. That's a particularly impressive performance when one considers how it has crippled other media which have had to confront the double-whammy of a dismal advertising climate and digital plays that haven't worked out quite as planned.

Not at all incidentally -- because it comes from the same instinct that is causing cable operators to protect subscription revenue -- the TV Everywhere group also plans to air just as many commercials in its online streams as it does when its programming airs on TV.

Consumers are sure to whine about all of this -- many made angry comments at the mere suggestion last week that Hulu might begin to charge -- but cable needs to make money. If it loses 11 percent of its potential online audience, and keeps 89 percent -- who pay the freight and see the commercials -- that's a small price to play to protect one's business.

The real hand-wringing in TV's transition to offering programming online should be preserved for Hulu, which undermonetizes content to a perilous degree, and yet, there are many who champion it without considering the cost it will have to the health of the TV business. Get over it, people. I'm glad that the cable industry is willing to tell consumers what they should know already -- that there's no such thing as a free lunch.

(If you want to know more about the program, here's a link to a video featuring Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and TW CEO Jeff Bewkes describing TV Everywhere back in April.)

Previous coverage of TV Everywhere at BNET Media: