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TW, Comcast team for 'TV Everywhere'

Industry giants to distribute TV shows 'on demand online'

NEW YORK -- Time Warner and Comcast are pushing ahead with a plan to make big cable network shows available online to existing cable subscribers shortly after their first airing.

The industry giants unveiled Wednesday a set of guiding principles for what TW has dubbed TV Everywhere and announced a national technical trial of what Comcast will name its On Demand Online service starting with 5,000 customers in July.

The nonexclusive service is free of additional charges to Comcast subscribers and will start with such programming as "The Closer" and "Tyler Perry's House of Payne" from TW's TNT and TBS, with other networks expected to be added.

TW chairman and CEO Jeffrey Bewkes said the idea is to allow consumers to watch their favorite shows on any screen -- be it a TV or device screen -- on demand, with networks' and distributors' Web sites serving as possible access locations.

Bewkes and Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts signaled that they don't plan as of now to provide an option for consumers to subscribe solely to the Web offering, or without also having a cable video contract. "We don't know the answer to that (and will let things unfold)," Bewkes said.

While some have called the initiative a defensive move, Bewkes said it will stack up well against other digital video services. "This is offensive," potentially increasing ratings and ad sales and giving consumers more options, he said.

"It's like iTunes but better because you get it for free" as long as you are a cable subscriber. He also said Hulu and YouTube would be dwarfed by the online views if the entire multichannel TV universe adopts TV Everywhere. In that case, "this will be by far" the most watched online video service in the U.S. -- "past Hulu and YouTube," Bewkes said. "This will be the biggest story in VOD and Internet video."

Roberts said he hopes to strengthen Comcast's broadband user base with TV Everywhere.

Bewkes said the online tests will experiment with full TV ad loads. The companies said they are working with Nielsen to allow for the Web-viewing numbers to be added to Commercial-3 ratings.

One key question will be whether Disney's cable networks will join the initiative. Disney CEO Robert Iger has expressed doubts about it, and Disney recently joined Hulu. Bewkes, though, predicted that Iger "will come around."

CBS, the only broadcast network that isn't part of Hulu, said it looks forward to "continuing discussions with cable operators -- and all distributors -- to seek partnerships that recognize the value of our content."