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Disney warns on restraints to web viewing

03 апреля 2009

Disney expressed caution on Thursday over the US cable industry’s move to restrict online viewing of television shows to cable subscribers, saying that the limits could provoke a backlash from consumers.

Robert Iger, Disney’s chief executive, said preventing viewers from accessing shows on the internet unless they paid for cable services – a cable industry plan called “TV Everywhere” or “authentication” – could be seen as anti-consumer.

“We are open to exploring the possibility [of restricting online viewing],” Mr Iger told thousands of cable TV executives at the annual National Cable & Telecommunications Association in Washington DC. But “preventing people from watching any shows online unless they subscribe [to a cable TV service] can be viewed as anti-consumer and anti-technology”.

Disney, owner of ABC television network and the ESPN sports cable network, does not operate a cable television service.

The cable industry’s idea is designed to preserve a decades-old business model where cable networks, such as ESPN, are paid by cable operators for the right to offer the channel.

The networks also can generate revenue by selling adverts.

This business arrangement has made cable networks more resilient to economic cycles.

Mr Iger’s proclamation could drive a wedge between cable programmers, like Disney, and cable operators, such as Comcast, who have been in negotiations to develop a strategy that would prevent online piracy while also offering programming wherever and whenever consumers want.

TV Everywhere, a concept led by Time Warner, is a broad framework that would offer vastly more shows online to consumers who pay monthly fees for cable TV service. Comcast is working on a similar concept called “OnDemand Online.”

Disney similarly shocked the cable industry a few years ago when it announced it would begin offering its top broadcast TV shows online for free on its website.

This week, Disney struck a deal to offer clips of some shows from ABC and ESPN on Google’s YouTube online video service.

Disney is also in late-stage negotiations to offer full-length shows from some of its networks on the Hulu online video service, a joint venture of NBC Universal and News Corp, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Although Hulu, which mostly offers full-length and clips of shows from broadcast networks, cable operators fear that the site’s explosive growth and potential to attract more cable network programming – which would be offered for free – could lead consumers to dump their cable TV subscriptions.

Источник: Financial Times

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