We recently heard about possible plans by Comcast and Time Warner Cable to offer packages combining cable TV programming and online TV viewing, an idea that has the potential to rock the TV service provider industry and the broadcaster segment too. This week, two other companies appear to be hitting the ground running with that idea.
Charter Communications, the financially-troubled St. Louis-based cable TV provider, announced that it is offering a cross-platform premium sports content package called Sports View Plus. For just $10 per month, it combines a Charter cable TV sports channel package with discounted access to online TV and audio offerings from sports Web sites that usually carry a subscription fee. Meanwhile, Time Warner, the media giant currently in the process of separating from Time Warner Cable, suggested a new approach called TV Everywhere which would allow cable TV subscribers free access to cable TV content that is not currently available online. Web users who don't subscribe to cable TV service would pay a fee for that same content.
The first approach is a quick effort by a company without too much to lose to create a new kind of telecom service bundle while giants of the service provider industry are carefully considering their options and the possible effects. How much Charter will gain from its first-mover status remains to be seen.
The second is a high-level strategy by the broadcast and programming industry that attempts to contain and control the online TV viewing explosion. Time Warner may be one company, but it owns many cable TV channels, and this idea is not new-though it might be the first formal articulation of a concept many companies have thought about and discussed. In its own way, it is also a stab at creating a new kind of bundle that could be generally applicable across the TV service provider industry.
What is not clear right now is what telco TV players think about these plans, or what their own ideas might be about creating a new business model or bundle model for cable TV/IPTV programming and online TV/video. Telcos have been very good at outlining visions for the technical integration of cross-platform content, and also at suggesting scenarios of new applications that would leverage cross platform capabilities. But, they have not been thought leaders when it comes to outlining the new business models or pricing approaches. They certainly would benefit from an idea like TV Everywhere, but for now, they remain outsiders waiting to see in which direction the more established industry moves.
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