Cable brass debate fee for Web content

Executives discuss impact of convergence at NCTA

NEW ORLEANS -- Top cable executives discussed convergence's impact on the industry during a discussion on Day 2 of the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn.'s 2008 Cable Show here.

Topics of Monday's panel included the importance of branding and the questions over whether to charge for online content.

Time Warner Cable's Glenn Britt said that when cable networks -- who he said seek "more money every year" -- ask whether TWC minds if they put their on-air programming online as well, "Guess what? We do mind."

In a news conference after the discussion, he clarified his remarks, saying he does want to see "all sorts of content" on the Internet.

"But if you're talking about putting (a program) online for free on the same date (it airs on TV), that will erode your other business model," he said. "The operators are the middlemen who guarantee (the cable networks) revenue, so we have to intervene at some point."

The panel, moderated by BET Networks' Debra Lee, also included Judy McGrath of MTV Networks, George Bodenheimer of Disney/ESPN/ABC, Neil Smit of Charter and Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems.

The panel discussion followed an address by Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, who argued against more government regulation regarding the cable industry.

He argued that innovation in a competitive marketplace is an "important economic driver."

"We believe it is government's job to create a pro-growth environment that encourages innovation, job creation and entrepreneurship," Gutierrez said.

He added that he was "disappointed" with last week's Senate vote to overturn the FCC's new rules allowing media companies to own a newspaper and a television station in the same market.

"We believe this discourages a diversity of media voices and hinders efforts to enhance local content," he said, "and I'll recommend that the president veto this bill if it reaches his desk," he said.

Gutierrez also outlined what he called the "core principles" of the Bush administration's broadband policies, including that "government should avoid overly prescriptive regulations that can't keep pace with technological change" and that competitive pressures rather than regulation "provide the most effective discipline on broadband providers."