Cable Show 2011: Bewkes: Put All TV On Internet

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Chicago - Time Warner Inc. chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes had a simple solution for distributors and content owners worried about how new technologies and devices will undermine their business models: make everything available on any device at anytime.
Bewkes, who coined and has championed the concept of TV Everywhere for years, told an audience at the Cable Show 2011 here Tuesday that those worried about the impact of online video content and so-called cord-cutting, should just embrace technology and make everything available on any device.
"Put the TV on the Internet," Bewkes said at Tuesday's opening general session "Disruption Central: A Roadmap for Reward in a Shifting Marketplace." "Don't change the business model, don't charge people to use it and present it in a way that people are accustomed to."
Bewkes solution sounded much like Time Warner's own HBO Go product, which is available on any device to subscribers. But it seemed to resonate with other members of the panel.
Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, who has battled with online distributors over rights to air its programming on the Internet, said copyright issues and ratings issues have to be resolved first.
"If we are ad supported, then we need to have measurement systems in place so we can sell ads," Dauman said. "That's the currency. We need to have the technology obstacles overcome and the monetization obstacles overcome."
But Dauman added that cable distributors and programmers have a long history of working together on joint initiatives like video on demand and products like Start Over and Look Back. That tradition should continue.
"I think it is important for our future success to continue to collaborate," Dauman said. "We need to serve consumers."
Comcast Cable president Neil Smit said that the need to fill consumer needs often gets lost in the debate. But he added that at least in Comcast's territory, customers are using products like the iPad and smartphones as tools to make their viewing experiences better.
Smit estimated that about 50% of users of its iPad app use it as a tool, like remotely setting their digital video recorder.
"The iPad is an exciting tool to tie together various platforms," Smit said. "But we [programmers and distributors] need to be flexible. We need to work together collaboratively."
Bewkes also warned of taking the threat of cord cutting and online content too seriously, adding that the cable industry has managed to stay ahead of the game so far and is continuing to innovate.
"This is not the music industry. This is the cable industry. The reason consumers can get things on tablets and smartphones is because of what people in this industry did," Bewkes said. "Next to the infrastructure is the most successful content in the world - the best stuff is the content that premiers on cable systems on TV screens."
He added that cable companies should take advantage of that position.
"While things are going great, what we have to do is put content on demand and put on a great interface, using the tools we already have and give it to the consumers that want it," Bewkes said.
Cox Communications CEO Patrick Esser agreed, adding that consumers are already telling operators what they want through their actions. He cited his company's TV Online application, which was downloaded by more than 100,000 people in the first day it was available.
"Consumers are sending us a loud, clear message," Esser said. "They value the products."
News Corp. chief operating officer Chase Carey said that consumers are willing to pay for value and it is up to content providers to keep producing quality content.