Comcast and Time Warner are teaming up on an initiative to make more video programming available online, free of charge, for subscribers to pay TV services.
The companies described their "TV Everywhere" model as a framework for making more shows available over any broadband connection. They will begin with a national technical trial of Comcast's On Demand Online service in July, carrying programming from the Time Warner-owned Turner Network Television (TNT) and Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) networks.
The recent success of online video site Hulu, which provides on-demand viewing of many current network TV shows with no charge or sign-in, has increased pressure on cable operators to give consumers content in more forms. Apple's video-friendly iPhone and the Boxee system, which lets users stream online content to their TVs, have further increased the competition for viewers' eyeballs.
TV Everywhere is designed to tap into the ubiquity of the Internet, but it's not intended as a giveaway. The national trial will test an authentication system for secured access to the content by Comcast subscribers.
On Wednesday, Comcast and Time Warner presented a set of TV Everywhere principles designed to be easy for other video programmers and distributors to adopt. TV Everywhere is pro-competitive, open and nonexclusive, allowing cable, satellite and telecommunications carriers to enter into similar agreements with other programmers, the companies said.
"Bring more TV content, more easily to more people across platforms," is the first principle. Programmers should make their best and highest-rated content available online, where subscribers can watch for no additional charge over any broadband connection, the framework says. They should be able to get access to this programming with easy authentication.
The two companies also called for development of a new system to measure ratings for online viewing that extends the current viewer measurement system.
The upcoming trial will make shows from TNT and TBS available free at Comcast.net and Fancast.com, and later on TNT.tv and TBS.com. The test will be the first step in a multiphase rollout of the service, the companies said. Comcast expects other programming networks to participate as the trial expands, and Time Warner said it expects to announce similar trials with other distributors.