Jeff Bewkes doesn't hit the stage of the 2009 Cable Show until Thursday afternoon but his idea for ubiquitous pay TV is already front and center right where he wants it. It's been a month since the chairman and CEO of Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) went public with TV Everywhere, his initiative to give multichannel video subscribers access to the same programming across platforms at no extra charge. It isn't the only idea out there Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) is planning its own beta for this summer but, for now, it is the most ambitious. It's also a one-man band of sorts on the programmer side, perhaps something that could change during his session today with Viacom (NYSE: VIA) CEO Phillipe Dauman. ContentNext Media Co-Editor Staci D. Kramer spoke with Bewkes on the eve of the show about TV Everywhere, the spinoff of Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and more; here are some edited excerpts of their conversation.
You may have noticed attention on Disney (NYSE: DIS) the last few days and the idea of Disney and Hulu and the short-form deal they did with *Google* and YouTube. How does that fit in with what you're trying to do with TV Everywhere and how does that challenge what you're trying to do?: It fits in fine. I don't think it challenges it. The approach that Disney, for example, is taking with YouTube is very similar to the discussions we have with YouTube so we understand that. I guess I would conceptually say the same thing about the approach with Hulu, but one cannot start talking about specific deal points. Conceptually, I don't see any inconsistency with how we're thinking about it. I think it all fits in with how TV Everywhere will work.
Say if ABC makes a long-form deal with Hulu or with YouTube, it does lock them into open-access broadcast online. Are you just resigned to the fact that broadcast networks are going to be out there and freely accessible?: I don't think "resigned" is the way you should look at it. Right now, what you have, and this is for broadcast networks only, you have some of their programming at NBC, Fox and maybe ABC going long-form onto Hulu. You shouldn't have me speaking for them but there's several questions you should ask about whether that broadcast programming is available on the same basis as it is broadcast for free on television. You can watch ABC or NBC TV tonight. I'm not sure whether you can watch the same stuff from ABC or NBC on Hulu tonight. I think they have a slight windowing delay. If they go in here, I don't know to what extent the broadcasters are going to put their whole networks on and I don't know what their windowing strategy would be.
It may be that over time if they see some carriage fee support or retransmission ... most of the viewership of ABC, *CBS*, NBC and Fox is on television through cable or satellite multichannel packages in people's homes so there's a big question for the economics of those broadcast networks of whether they will or should get some form of carriage-fee compensation for those networks because they provide a lot of ratings points on television for the cable and satellite distributors and that's what they're selling to consumers. Nobody knows whether broadcast networks will eventually move to some form of access fee in addition to their advertising.
You've said that you see what you want to accomplish as being at no additional charge to the user. Do you expect additional payment in order for that programming to be made available to the user?: No.
You don't expect *Time Warner* Cable or Cox or *Comcast* to pay you more for the programming that they get from you?: No.
Do you expect it to help you hold the value of what you have, what you're getting from them already?: Yes.
How does that work for you?: If you separate the broadcast-network business from the very large cable-branded etwork business, as you know all of the hundreds of channels not cable, the multichannels, somebody ought to get a good word for this it's the branded channel business of TBS and MTV, Disney Channel, etc., and all of those have clear identities, loyal audiences that watch them on televisionall we're saying is that all of those branded channels delivered by cable, satellite and telecom, they should be available on demand on your television set and they should be available on demand on your PC and your mobile-broadband device. What we're saying about TV Everywhere, we'd like to move in the direction of having all of those networks and certainly all of the ones that we [run] to be available to you for no extra charge, for free on broadband. You'll be adding the other platforms broadband and mobile to your television experience for no extra charge.
You can look at HBO for a pretty good example of this. HBO is available on demandcurrent episodes, current moviesright now, widely available on video on demand over your set-top box. I think the way people should think of this is, take TNT, which you mentioned, and other networks we don't own, and have those available the same way HBO is available. You'd have current episodes, the last few episodes, you can keep up with your favorite series, whatever the schedule of that channel would be I wouldn't envision a windowing. I would envision whether it's available literally at the same time or the next day remains to be seen but there's no conceptual reason why you couldn't with a TV Everywhere model have it all available at the same time. If the idea is you should be able to watch your show whenever you want, why should there be a difference if you watch it on a laptop using broadband or on a mobile device?
The practicality of it is do you stream all networks, which is hard for most networks to do because they don't have the rights so they'd simply be moving in that direction. The idea would be for most networks, they'd want to put their best foot forward and have programs that their fans most desire. HBO offers a choice. Every network may view this a little differently because they're trying to make available what the audience is most interested in when they're using VOD or using broadband. That could be different in different cases.
By Staci D. Kramer