NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Viacom is ready for Time Warner's "TV Everywhere" initiative to take flight. In a panel at the Deutsche Bank Media and Telecommunications Conference in Palm Beach, Fla., yesterday, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said the company was "very open" to experimenting with models that would allow cable, satellite and telco TV subscribers to view cable content online.
"We think it has to be seamless to the consumer, and we're working [with the distributors] on the consumer and technology side," Mr. Dauman said.
Viacom, which represents 20% of the ad-supported cable market in total viewers, has been particularly aggressive in experimenting with ad-supported streaming of its full-length content, often to the frustration of its cable distributors. At the end of 2008, the home of MTV, Nickelodeon and VH1 got into a heated contract renewal with Time Warner Cable after asking for a subscriber-fee increase of 15%, despite streaming some of its most popular shows for free online. Time Warner Cable balked to the initial terms and eventually agreed to a 12% increase in subscriber fees, on par with the average 12.2% Viacom received in 2008 from pre-existing agreements.
It's a sign that Viacom has already lost some leverage in renegotiating its subscriber contracts, which Mr. Dauman was quick to defend by investing more in exclusive video-on-demand programming for the cable distributors. "[We] provide great value to them, and they won't give us additional money for nothing. But whenever we've gone into a discussion with them, we have HD offerings to provide; we have more VOD we can give them. There're a lot of things that we can do for them that create value for them and justifies their paying more to us."
In a later panel, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes outlined the consumer model around TV Everywhere, which he first discussed with Ad Age late last week. Mr. Bewkes' TV Everywhere initiative is designed to make all cable programming available on an on-demand basis with a subscription model attached to each platform. "[You] should be able to watch it on video-on-demand basic, so you can watch it when you want, you can fast-forward it, you can take it with you on a mobile device, you can see it on a PC, you can watch it on your TV. All of that's being put in place," he said.
Mr. Bewkes added that a test involving cable, telephone and satellite operators is imminent and is designed to benefit all parties. "It's not something that's narrow-minded; it's something that's very expansive, and it's going to support the model of carriage fees and the ad support that is there today and simply extend it to broadband. And for the citizens, it's free."