Time Warner Inc. president and chief operating officer Jeffrey Bewkes talked up driving the cable industry to deliver all TV programs on demand, all the time, at the CTAM Summit in Washington, D.C., in late July. At the forefront of the cable operator’s plans are a set of enhanced-TV products it is rolling out that include on-demand viewing features such as the ability to 'Start Over’ and 'Look Back,’ as well as to get 'Quick Clips.’ In a telephone interview with Multichannel News editor in chief Tom Steinert-Threlkeld, Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt drilled down deeper into how that world might take shape.
MCN: From an advertising perspective don’t you — meaning Time Warner — need all operators nationwide to go along with skip-proof ads and enhanced TV for this program to evolve, for VOD all the time to work?
GB: Not really. I think from a programmer viewpoint and, I assume, from an advertiser’s viewpoint, that would be the most attractive outcome. But [this is] the first version of Start Over which we’re rolling out and we’re already getting significant participation by the networks in that.
MCN: So then in that case, what are the next steps for Time Warner in the first rollout of enhanced TV services?
GB: First of all, we’re actively engaged in rolling out the first one, which is Start Over, and we’re going to start rolling out some of the other versions like Look Back and Quick Clips, and we’re engaged and meeting with all the programmers and talking about that.
The other 'enhanced-TV’ idea is that the different products are different ways of slicing up the programming according to time period.
It’s all being done in a way that’s sensitive to the needs of networks and also consumers and advertisers and that whole ecosystem. So we can come up new versions of this and variations as we go along.
MCN: Does that give them a greater reach, a bigger audience?
GB: That’s the idea. So by disabling the fast forward, there’s probably more people will see the programming than would have seen it only in the original live airing.
There’s a version of this that would feature older programming. This idea is called 'Catch Up’ and that could be shows that originally aired some time ago, and we have the ability to have the programmer put new advertising in those shows and then we can measure that.
So, it becomes not only a new way to schedule networks but it becomes new advertising opportunity because obviously ads get stale after a while.
MCN: When do you expect the first TWC system to offer what I’d call the first five features of it could be any of them — Start Over, Look Back, Catch Up, Coming Soon, and Quick Clips altogether?
GB: I think the time when all five are available in any particular place will be next year but subsets of it will be available in markets starting now and going throughout this year.
And one thing I should say is that this whole thing that we call Enhanced TV, once it’s available in a division, one of our operations, [and] the networks participate, each network can then decide which of those features it wants to activate.
So, in a sense this is programmable by network so TNT could decide it wants to Start Over and Look Back but not Catch Up, for example. So the networks decide which features they want and also which shows they have the rights for that they want to make available that way.
MCN: And then, how about the bigger picture? How far off do you expect it to be before, in a Time Warner Cable system, all broadcast and cable network programming is on-demand all the time?
GB: Well, on-demand all the time is really this enhanced TV set that we’re talking about, and I think the answer is the same.