Media Money with Julia Boorstin

Time Warner and Comcast's Web TV Venture Gains Partners


Time Warner and Comcast's partnership to bring cable TV content to the Internet is adding more big brand-name partners.

Today CBS joined Time Warner's to distribute its content through Comcast's new "On Demand Online" system that will allow cable subscribers to access TV anytime, anywhere, through the web. This comes on the heels of Time Warner announcing it'll distribute HBO and Cinemax content along with its Turner Broadcast networks. And last week Liberty Media's Starz Entertainment signed on as well, adding to a list of 17 cable networks including Scripps and BBC.

This assortment of cable networks and one broadcast network could provide the critical mass to see if this new model works. Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes (TWX) calls the new plan to protect cable revenues "TV Everywhere." The idea is that if cable subscribers can get access to their content over the web on demand, and if they can't get that content if they're not subscribers, then they'll continue paying their cable fees. This is designed to protect a crucial revenue stream for content creators like Time Warner, Viacom and NBC Universal as well as the broadcasters like Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

So what does it mean that a network, CBS, is now on board? First, it's worth noting that CBS is the only broadcast network not participating in Hulu, the joint venture between NBC Universal, Disney, and News Corp. Having a new distribution stream online is key in face of all its competitors teaming up together. Another reason CBS is doing this is to get paid retransmission fees for the rights to carry its programming; cable networks get paid these fees, but broadcast networks do not. From Comcast and Time Warner's perspective, getting CBS on board shows that they could get *all* TV content -- cable and broadcast -- online in one coherent format. This would make it easier to monetize (TV Everywhere would be monitored by Nielsen or the like) and easier for consumers to find the content.

Let's see who jumps on board next.

Questions?  Comments?