There is a tinge of irony involved with the announcement that Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC-WI) will begin carrying ESPN channels live on the Web starting Oct. 25 as part of its newly agreed upon retransmission pact with ESPN parent Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS). The irony is that News Corp. (Nasdaq: NWSA) has blocked Cablevision Systems (NYSE: CVC) subscribers from accessing its online channels as it renegotiates a new retransmission agreement with the MSO.
The ESPN-TWC move is being hailed as a big step in cable's TV Everywhere evolution. By putting the content online for authenticated roaming Time Warner subscribers, TWC hopes to add yet another string that binds the viewer to its service. ESPN, meanwhile, hopes to expand its advertising universe onto the Web.
The important part of this deal is that viewers must be authenticated TWC subscribers to access the ESPN programming; effectively fighting back at those who would cut the cable cord in favor of over-the-top programming from Hulu, Netflix and other alternate sources.
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