Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes and News Corp COO Chase Carey took the message to The Cable Show this morning, urging attendees to jump on the Internet video bandwagon — even if it means relaxing their grip on the relationship with their customers. “We’ve just got to do it faster,” Bewkes says about TV Everywhere, the service that enables subscribers to watch TV shows on mobile devices. Carey agreed that “it should go faster,” adding that “we get too hung up on protecting the rules of the past.” That was a subtle swipe at pay TV distributors who covet their gatekeeper role. Many fear that they could lose control once subscribers begin to use an iPad or other device to access shows directly from programmers — without a need for the operator’s set top box or on-screen guide. “We’ve got to find a way to make all of these experiences easier to use and more accessible,” Carey says. “That requires us to work together.” Bewkes agreed. “Let consumers use the interfaces they want,” he says. “You’ll still have your subscriber relationship. We can’t develop the best, world-class interfaces at the scale that a distribution company has. Silicon Valley, the Internet industry, is a global industry and that’s what they do. We should harness that….Don’t try to hold that back. Consumers won’t allow it.”
Cox Communications president Pat Esser defended operators’ progress thus far, but added “along the way you’ve got to negotiate agreements…and we’re got to figure out how the economics work.” He noted that “we all have a relationship with the customer. What we have to understand is that this business is becoming more complex.” For example, programmer price hikes — including for TV EVerywhere distribution rights — could result in “disadvantaging people in the marketplace you could have had inside that circle of consumption.” He also raised the specter of piracy when content is distributed on the Internet. “We have some work to do,” he says. There’s “not a piece of live entertainment produced today that you can’t find somewhere globally being redistributed within 10 minutes.” Carey and Bewkes seemed unfazed. The Time Warner chief says economic pressures on the industry should ease when the economy improves. And with piracy, Carey says that he doesn’t “think the genie is out of the bottle” yet. (He still supports a law, though, to crack down on Internet pirates.)
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