On Monday (1/4/10), public interest groups called on federal authorities to investigate a plan by the largest cable, satellite and phone companies that threatens the future of Web-based video. “TV Everywhere” gets programmers like TNT, TBS and CBS to keep their content offline unless a viewer also pays for TV through a traditional company like Comcast or AT&T (phone companies are starting to offer TV service, too).
TV Everywhere is designed to protect the current cable TV subscription model and block competition from upstart online video ventures like Vuze, Roku and Hulu. Cleverly marketed as a consumer-friendly product, TV Everywhere is really a desperate bid by old media giants to crush the emerging market for online TV. Cable giant Comcast just became the first company to launch TV Everywhere under the brand “Fancast Xfinity,” and the other dominant cable, satellite and phone companies have announced plans to follow suit.
At its core, TV Everywhere is about ensuring consumers don’t cancel their overpriced cable TV subscriptions that provide companies like Comcast with huge profits ($6.7 billion in 2008 alone.) But the current scheme also prevents competition between existing TV distributors. Instead of being offered to all Americans, including those living in Cox, Cablevision and Time Warner Cable regions, Fancast Xfinity is only available in Comcast regions. The other distributors plan to follow Comcast’s lead, meaning that the incumbents will not compete with one another outside of their “traditional” regions.