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Telcos, satellite join cable's push to build pay wall on Web
|20 апреля 2009|
The satellite television, telecommunications and cable industries - longtime rivals - agree on one issue: The need to put TV shows that are available online, most of which are now free, behind a pay wall.
The rare agreement among the normal combatants reflect their strong concern that allowing free access to such content could lead to problems similar to those faced by the music and news industries, now struggling to establish subscription-based business models. No barriers to Internet content also could push subscribers to cancel their TV service and rely solely on the Web.
Cable companies have been out-front on this issue, but satellite and telcos are joining the fight. The different companies have had informal talks, but any agreement will be difficult and likely years away, if they ever come. Hurdles include logistical and technical issues as well as getting cooperation from many companies in different industries that generally don't play nicely with other.
"It's not just a complex technology problem, it's a very complex business problem," said Enrique Rodriguez, who runs the TV services and software unit for Microsoft Corp.
The basic idea is for subscribers of any satellite, telco or cable TV service to get an identification number or password, which they can use to access restricted online content offered by media companies, such as Time Warner Inc.'s HBO. A wide-ranging authentication system, however, would be difficult to set up when factoring the different service providers.
"It will not be built in a day, nor should it be built in a day," said Terry Denson, vice president of content strategy and acquisition for Verizon Communications Inc.
Restricting access to just TV subscribers runs the risk of shutting out consumers who rely on an antenna for their signals. It also acts as a deterrent for younger consumers tempted to cancel TV service.
But the cable and telcos argue that more than four out of every five households subscribe to a service, so only few of them would be affected. A pay wall also would encourage media companies to post a more robust library of shows online.'TV Everywhere'
At the cable industry trade show earlier this month, Time Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes and cable executives spearheaded the idea, called "TV Everywhere." It'll also likely be a hot topic at next week's National Association of Broadcasters trade show.
Broadcasters are generally open to the prospect, although Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert Iger - among others - has warned of a possible public backlash requiring subscriptions for already free content from networks like Disney's ABC.
For their part, Verizon and AT&T Inc. agree with the cable industry on this issue. Verizon's Denson noted that free online content may continue to exist, but he envisions a much larger library of shows and movies behind the pay wall down the line.
The telcos, meanwhile, are quick to note their advantage in being able to string together the television, computer and cell-phone screens - the prospects for which could lead to additional revenue streams.
AT&T, for example, touts its ability to access the same content on all three devices. Recently, the NCAA basketball tournament was broadcast on television, online at CBS Corp.'s (CBS) Web site, and on certain AT&T cell phones. The telco has been pushing for more integrated services, such as access to multiple camera feeds or having statistics posted on the TV screen.
"There remains to be a lot of discussion and trialing on what's effective and customer friendly before things settle in," said Dan York, executive vice president of content at AT&T.
DirecTV Group Inc., meanwhile, has had active talks with programming partners and plans to start a trial run of the service later this year.
"I think we should be looking at DirecTV as a gateway to the Web," Chief Executive Chase Carey said."I think in the past whenever any other companies sort of tried to stop or block something from happening, usually it's failed."
In general, the cable, satellite and telco companies are hoping that consumers will abandon the notion that everything online is free.
"The consumer has shown they're willing to pay reasonable money for added value," Rodriguez said."The consumer doesn't expect cell-phone service to be free, or HBO to be free."
Источник: Total Telecom