Content double jeopardy

What if you purchased a morning paper, but were only allowed to read it at the breakfast table? Or, suppose you bought a USA Today at an airport, but it came with restrictions that prevented you from reading it anywhere except on an airplane? That ice-cream cone you just bought at the Dairy Queen? You may enjoy it only while inside the store.

Such limitations sound ridiculous, don't they? Yet, that's exactly what happens when someone subscribes to a cable or satellite service. Sure, you can watch all the content you've paid for, but it must be done only in your own home and on your big-screen TV. Should you desire to walk to the park and then enjoy an episode of HGTV's “Yard Crashers” on your Galaxy tablet, forget it. Despite the enabling technology, the content owners and cable and satellite companies are limiting the use of that content to the viewer's home.

With ubiquitous high-speed Internet now available, viewers are pushing back against such restrictions. Today's viewers want the ability to watch the content they've already paid for when they want to watch it and anywhere they want to watch it. And, viewers don't like being told they must pay again for that same content.

“TV everywhere” was an early proposed solution. With much fanfare, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon conducted field trials. Consumer acceptance has been, shall we say, less than stellar; some experts say the results were even dismal. Not all programming was available, and some cable MSOs tried to charge extra for the “service.”

The latest MSO hurrah focuses on tablet applications. The Time Warner website touts, “TWCable TV app turns your iPad into another TV screen and lets you watch selected live cable TV channels with your home WiFi connection.”

But before you sign up, let's dissect that statement. The first key phrase is: “selected live cable TV channels.” Not all channels are available. Second, viewers must subscribe to Time Warner's Internet service. Third, the service works, not surprisingly, only in subscribers' homes.

Could there ever be a solution to viewers' desire for no-cost portability that also provides the security that content owners and multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) desire? Possibly. In late March, Adobe released a new product called Adobe Pass. Leveraging Adobe's Flash platform and HTML5, Adobe Pass enables pay-TV providers and content owners to deliver a wider range of content on more devices while ensuring a high-quality, secure user experience.

With Pass, an Adobe Flash widget runs in the background while viewers access video streams from authenticated sites. For Apple devotees, instead of Flash, Pass relies on HTML5 and some JavaScript code. Adobe provides the software free to cable companies, the MSO manages all the customer data, and the content owners (networks) pay Adobe to manage viewer access. The platform may help fast-track over-the-top (OTT) delivery to millions who already pay for content, but just want to watch it on other devices and outside their homes.

Although MTV is using the platform, the feature is only available to Verizon subscribers. Other networks using Adobe Pass include Turner Broadcasting's TNT, TBS, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network and TruTV. Additionally, Comcast, DISH, Verizon and Cox have agreed to support the service.

Pass may prove not to be the ultimate solution, but even so, it represents a huge step in the right direction to provide viewers with the portability they crave and the security that content owners and MSOs require. But wait, wouldn't that be like free OTA broadcasts that viewers can already enjoy?

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