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Time Warner chief wants to put cable programming on the Internet

Time Warner chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes went to The Cable Show in Chicago last week with a simple idea: put all cable television programming on the Internet for viewing anytime.

“Put the TV on the Internet,” Bewkes told cable operators. “Don’t change the business model, don’t charge people to use it and present it in a way that people are accustomed to.”

The key to Bewkes statement was “don’t change the business model.” Essentially, he wants to extend the cable industry’s “TV Everywhere” concept to the Internet in a big way.

For those worried about the impact of online video content and cord cutting, Bewkes said they should just embrace Internet technology and make everything available on any device for viewing at any hour of the day or night.

“This is not the music industry. This is the cable industry,” Bewkes said. “The reason consumers can get things on tablets and smartphones is because of what people in this industry did. Next to the infrastructure is the most successful content in the world — the best stuff is the content that premieres on cable systems on TV screens.”

Bewkes said cable companies should take advantage of their strong position. “While things are going great, what we have to do is put content on demand and put on a great interface, using the tools we already have and give it to the consumers that want it,” he said.

Several other panelists at The Cable Show agreed with Bewkes. Patrick Esser, CEO of Cox Communications, said “consumers are sending us a loud, clear message. They value the products.”

Esser noted that more than 100,000 people downloaded Cox’s TV Online application in the first day it was available. That was echoed by Neil Smit, president of Comcast Cable. About 50 percent of Comcast’s customers now use Apple’s iPad as a tool to improve their viewing, he said.

Philippe Dauman, Viacom’s CEO, said copyright and ratings issues have to be resolved before Bewke’s idea could happen. “If we are ad supported, then we need to have measurement systems in place so we can sell ads,” Dauman said. “That’s the currency. We need to have the technology obstacles overcome and the monetization obstacles overcome.”