Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Why Time Warner’s “TV Everywhere” Means “Except For Time Warner Cable”

Starting today, you can stream CNN’s TV broadcast right to your iPad or iPhone, in real time. It’s part of parent company Time Warner’s “TV Everywhere” campaign, which gives Web users the ability to watch TV shows for free, as long as they’re cable subscribers.

Unless they’re Time Warner Cable subscribers.

That company’s 14 million customers don’t get access to the digitized CNN feed, even though just about every other big pay TV provider —  AT&T, Comcast, Cox, DISH Network, Verizon — has signed on.

This isn’t the first time that Time Warner Cable subscribers have been shut out of a Time Warner TV Everywhere service. Earlier this year, Time Warner’s HBO released HBO Go, a very good iPad app, for customers of just about every big cable provider — except Time Warner Cable.

What gives? The short answer is that Time Warner and Time Warner Cable are two entirely separate companies that share a name but nothing else. The two formally split up in 2009, part of a decade-long corporate slim down on the part of Time Warner (also jettisoned: Warner Music Group, AOL, and not nearly as much of Time Inc. as many had predicted).

OK. But what really gives? Here I don’t have a good answer.

Some wags suggest that Time Warner Cable has some sort of theological/business strategy problem with TV Everywhere products that allow people to stream video outside of the home, because Time Warner Cable only sells broadband access to the living room. That is, if you’re streaming HBO Go on your iPad in an airport, using AT&T’s bandwidth, then Time Warner Cable doesn’t really get a chance to participate: It wants you to consume most of your broadband through its pipes, so it can charge you for it.

But that seems a bit of a stretch, particularly since Time Warner Cable subscribers can use some TV Everywhere products — just not the ones from Time Warner. Time Warner Cable customers can use ESPN’s excellent ESPN Watch app, for instance, and stream live sports anywhere they can tote an iPhone, no matter whose bandwidth they’re consuming.

Another theory: Time Warner and Time Warner Cable’s executives simply don’t like each other, a residue of the divorce proceedings. That also seems a bit of a stretch — in the cable business, nobody really likes each other. They just tolerate each other because they spend all their time negotiating incredibly complicated, expensive carriage deals, that ultimately let both sides make a bunch of money.

Still, if anyone can shed any light, I’m all ears: Neither Time Warner Cable nor Time Warner wanted to comment for this one.

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