News

'Everywhere’ Heads North

10/24/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

Rogers Communications, Canada’s largest cable operator, will launch an online on-demand service with 15 network partners on Nov. 17, senior vice president David Purdy said on a panel at the Multichannel News/Broadcasting & Cable OnScreen Media Summit here last week.

The Rogers On-Demand Online service, to be available for no additional charge to the operator’s 2.3 million cable subscribers, will include content from Rogers-owned broadcaster Citytv and Rogers Sportsnet, as well as A&E Network, Bio and G4 Canada, Purdy said.

“We were trying to figure out how we could have an online video extension to our VOD product,” he said.

Eventually, he added, Rogers — which is also the No. 1 Canadian wireless carrier — will provide content to mobile devices: “It’s truly going to be 'TV everywhere’ in time.”

The Rogers service will be available from the MSO’s own portal and will be authenticated using a subscriber’s cable modem. “The beauty of this is, we can authenticate based on a customer’s modem … and we know if you are eligible to receive Discovery Channel,” he said.

Turner Broadcasting System vice chairman Andy Heller said his company has been working on a system that allows subscribers to access “TV Everywhere” content from programmers’ sites, as well as distributors’ own portals.

“We’ve only been working on this for a few short months as an industry, and we’ve made some great strides,” he said. However, he acknowledged, “there are people who want us to build a model that works before they get behind it.”

Purdy said Rogers is a big fan of “the Sam Schwartz model” — a reference to the president of Comcast Interactive Capital, who has pushed for centralized, operator-controlled authenticated Internet-TV services. Comcast’s thePlatform is handling the back-end management for Rogers’ On-Demand Online, and the portal’s interface was designed by Empathy Lab, based outside of Philadelphia.

“It really is an extension of the existing cable model,” Purdy said. “I question the idea you have to visit 50 or 60 Web sites to watch video online. Shouldn’t you be able to visit one site?”

Heller responded that “there are a large number of models that can coexist,” and that the industry’s primary concern is to preserve the value of the programming and associated advertising. Turner’s TBS and TNT are working with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon’s FiOS and others on various TV Everywhere trials.

“I think if we continue to allow content to appear online with limited or no commercials soon after air, and the consumer doesn’t really have to pay for it, we run the risk of doing damage to the ecosystem,” Heller said. “I do think it’s important to come up with a new model that’s better for everybody.”

Brian Fuhrer, Nielsen senior vice president and program leader for converged TV-Internet audience measurement, said the ratings firm has been working toward measuring video viewing across platforms for the last two years. He noted that on Oct. 16, Nielsen met with about 75 executives from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, cable and broadcast programmers, and ad agencies to get feedback on incorporating TV Everywhere views into its ratings.

“You really have to measure this from a single-source perspective,” to make sure the cross-platform viewing is measuring the same people in the same household, Fuhrer said. Nielsen has targeted full deployment of Internet-video metering in its national TV panel by early 2011.

Bob Broussard, Rainbow Media’s president of network sales, said that while broadcasters today “are teaching consumers bad habits by making content available for free online, I think we have plenty of time to put forward a set of reasonable rules I think consumers will embrace.”

But Purdy said time was of the essence in rolling out services like Rogers On-Demand Online, in part to combat distribution of pirated video content over peer-to-peer networks and other over-the-top video services.

“I don’t want to sound like a Canadian Chicken Little ... but every consumer-electronics device coming out in the 2009 holiday season is going to have a widget guide built into it” that provides links to Internet video, he said. “The threat of disruption gets easier and easier.”

By offering cable TV programming on-demand on the Web, Rogers can gain leverage when it looks to raise rates in the future, Purdy said.

“Charge for it down the road,” he said. “Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, 'I hope I smoke a few more cigarettes today.’”

The panel, “TV Everywhere & Anywhere: Challenges, Opportunities and Revenue Potential,” was moderated by Multichannel News editor-in-chief Mark Robichaux.

September