Andy Heller, vice chairman of Turner Broadcasting System, ruffles at the suggestion that TV Everywhere, Turner's effort to make programming available to authenticated subscribers online, is taking too long to implement.
"It's only been two years; I know it feels like longer," he said during a Q&A with Multichannel News Editor-in-Chief Mark Robichaux at B&C/MCN's Video Everywhere event Wednesday afternoon. "I spend a lot of time defending how long this has taken, making this a robust product for the consumer."
Some of the time being taken is because Turner wants to do TV Everywhere with ads, so as not to cannibalize the viable existing cable business. Heller says the cable business model is working, pointing to the industry's 26 consecutive years of subscriber growth [until 2010]. "The theory that we would put together a business model that would undermine that didn't make sense to us."
And while Internet viewing offers very detailed metrics as to how many people are watching specific content, the data is not demographic specific, which slows the TV Everywhere business model. "The big trick is to marry the data in a way the advertisers will pay for it." he says. "We want to get to place where we are legitimately indifferent to where the consumer watches the content."
But that's not to say Turner is not making strides. By the end of the second quarter, they expects to have agreements for authenticated distribution in 70-75 million cable households, Heller says, giving subscribers the ability to get Turner programming online through Turner's Website or their distributors'.
Those agreements don't include the access of programming on tablets, however, a topic that struck a nerve in the industry with the recent release of Time Warner Cable's iPad app and some programmers' subsequent opposition to having their content distributed on tablets by the MSO.
Turner is owned by Time Warner Inc. but has nothing to do with TWC, so Heller didn't take sides in the debate, but said it was important that TWC acknowledged the need for rights agreements.
"The issue will either get resolved in courts or private negotiations, but it will get resolved," Heller says. So he's not worried the TWC dispute will throw the TV Everywhere train off the tracks, so to speak. "This is a relatively insignificant dipping of a toe into the water in regards to TV Everywhere."
As for the threat of Netflix to the cable industry, Heller says they key will be to see what kind of competitor they will be when playing on the same level as cable operators, and paying the same prices for content. "I think they're real, they're here to stay, there's a role for them and they're a competitor, but I don't think they're a cable killer."
Andrea Morabito is programming editor at B&C.