Turner Networks took a pretty significant step today - for cable networks - by announcing that it plans to stream all 7 of its original TV series slated for this summer. Though broadcast networks have been aggressively launched streaming efforts since last fall, this is the first big network group that has followed suit.
On my Cable IPTV panel last week, we spent some time discussing the divergence in strategies between the cable nets and the broadcast nets. A key takeaway was that it's not going to be so easy for cable nets to stream their programs online. That's because all cable nets have complex provisions in their "affiliate agreements" with cable and satellite operators that circumscribe their ability to distribute through additional channels.
Of course these provisions vary from agreement to agreement, but you can be sure that operators paying hefty per subscriber per month fees to cable nets are going to vigilant about allowing valuable programming to show up elsewhere, thereby (potentially) undercutting the value of their programming packages. For now the issue is being defused by Turner by positioning these streaming activities as primarily promotional. So says Jeff Gregor, CMO of TBS/TNT/TCM in today's B&C piece:
"We want new viewers to come in, and, while we certainly want them to watch shows when we air them live, we want them to watch during encores and on-demand when and where appropriate."
I'm skeptical that we'll see a rash of similar announcements from other cable nets any time soon. Lots of lawyers are still working hard to figure out how much wiggle room affiliate deals allow. Ultimately though, these restrictions will be renegotiated and cable programming will flow freely. Cable nets, like all other content providers, will conclude that online distribution is essential.
Categories: Cable Networks