Cable duo to announce TV initiative Wednesday

Time Warner and Comcast Corp. are joining forces in their push to make more cable programming available for viewing online.

Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes and Comcast chief Brian Roberts are set to hold a news conference Wednesday at the Time Warner’s Gotham HQ to discuss their partnership to “advance the TV Everywhere initiative” that Bewkes has been tubthumping for the past few months (Daily Variety, March 4).

Bewkes has pitched Wall Streeters and others on the notion of making pay and basic cable shows available for online viewing, but with the catch that programming would only be available to viewers who already subscribe to cable, satellite or telco services. Viewers would receive a password from their service provider in order to have on-demand broadband access to programming from HBO, TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network and other cable outlets.

Comcast execs have been working on a similar initiative for their subscribers. Time Warner had been trying to enlist the support of other cable programming giants, including Disney, News Corp. and NBC Universal, in the initiative dubbed “TV Everywhere,” but it’s uncertain if any other media players are on board with TV Everywhere.

While the broadcast nets have been quick to make an array of programs available online, cable programmers have been more cautious out of concern of a backlash from cable operators, who fear that they’ll lose subscribers if top shows are made available for free online. The password-protected access plan is seen as an operator-friendly compromise.

Disney is about to join News Corp. and NBC U as an equity partner in Hulu, the website whose rapid growth has helped drive more online viewing of full-length episodes of primetime skeins. Disney has been aggressive in making shows available for broadband viewing via its various network websites, but it has held back on some of its top cable properties, including “Hannah Montana.”

It’s still unclear if the TV Everywhere initiative would funnel the broadband distribution of shows through websites of cable channels and cable operators, or if shows would be available on a password-protected basis on Hulu, Yahoo and other popular Internet vid sites.

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