Disney chief to cable biz: 'Consumer is king'

Says content should not be restricted on the Web

WASHINGTON -- Disney CEO Bob Iger has warned the cable TV industry not to alienate consumers by restricting cable programming on the Web to paying TV subscribers.

Such plans could be seen as "anti-consumer," Iger said Thursday at an industry event, the Cable Show.

"The consumer is king, not us the content provider and not you the distributor," he said.

Cable executives have spoken about extending popular cable programming to the Web to paying subscribers as a way to retain cable TV customers who might prefer to watch programs online at their convenience.

Cable operator Comcast Corp. calls its plan Online on Demand; Time Warner Inc calls its plan TV Everywhere.

One of the challenges facing cable operators and programmers alike is how to verify and authenticate customers who have already paid for individual programs.

Iger said solving the authentication problem will be key to extending the value of programming. Disney has been one of the early major programmers to make some of its programming and movies available on the Web with services such as Apple's iTunes store. Last week Disney announced a new relationship with YouTube offering some elements of its programming from ESPN and ABC cable networks. Such relationships bypass existing relationships with the cable TV industry.

Iger agreed with cable industry concerns that in the absence of Web alternatives for consumers, piracy could develop.
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