Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes to CES: Help Us Build 'TV Everywhere'

Execs Look to Persuade a Bleeding-Edge Crowd to Help Preserve Cable's Business Model

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Verizon has more than enough fiber and 4G wireless capacity to feed consumers ever-increasing amounts of video, even as video explodes from half of web traffic today to 80% or 90% in the next few years, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg said during his Consumer Electronics Show keynote today.

Jeff Bewkes (left) and Ivan Seidenberg at CES 2011.
Jeff Bewkes (left) and Ivan Seidenberg at CES 2011. Credit: AP
But it turns out there's an even tougher challenge between consumers and watching TV on the latest thing, said Mr. Seidenberg's surprise guest on the stage: Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes.

All these PCs, set-tops, consoles, tablets and phones are going to have plenty of bandwidth, it seems. But will they have enough content?

It's been 18 months since Time Warner started talking about TV Everywhere, the concept under which cable subscribers would get access to programming on all kinds of devices, not only their TVs. While every major TV distributor and network has signed on, at least in principle, to the concept, it still doesn't exist in a way that even nearly matches its moniker.

Why? Call it the last mile of content: A uniform, consumer-friendly system for authenticating cable subscribers across many devices just doesn't exist. And that's a software problem, one it seems Time Warner and even Verizon can't fix alone. So, after showing a montage of Time Warner celebrities such as Conan O' Brien (and Mr. Bewkes himself) living the dream of watching video on all their devices, he made a plea: Help us build it!

"We have every distribution network and content company trying to create a uniform approach for this," Mr. Bewkes said. "Let's try to keep it simple. This is the best room in the world to develop the innovation to make this happen."

With tentacles in wireless, high-speed internet, TV and devices, Verizon is a powerful partner. But this isn't about convincing the industry anymore; it's about convincing the geeks that more than preserving the cable TV model -- the one that brought consumers "Entourage," "Boardwalk Empire" and "Mad Men" -- there's actually something in it for them.

Consumers may not know it, but they don't want to see the business model go away, either. As much as they say they'd like to cut the cord, stop paying the cable company and watch TV via the web, Nielsen says they're watching more TV on TVs than ever.

Said Mr. Seidenberg: "We need to transform our new industry around this simple idea, and that is TV Everywhere."

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