Time Warner, Google TV, and the Internets

You probably didn’t see or don’t even remember the little tiff in august that Time Warner had with ESPN/ABC and Disney.

Or the one in december 2009 with FOX.

That’s nice that they kissed and made up, but it’s probably for the last time. The whole model should be, will be, shifting as the internet gets faster and the cable networks wise up.

TWC is just a middle man when it comes to television content. And in this age of internets, middle men are going out the window. Consumers and producers both benefit from direct exchanges, but these direct exchanges are traditionally inconvenient to arrange for both sides. Thus the need for dedicated middle men. The internet opens up distribution by making these exchanges easy to find and execute.

Time Warner, Google TV should scare you. Because now online options like Amazon Video on Demand, iTunes show rentals, streaming netfilx, and hulu.com will all suddenly be available on your TV.

TWC should get ahead of the curve and focus on making their internet faster and cheaper. Let the companies that actually produce the content sell it directly over the internet to the consumer. They’ll have to do this in order to get ahead of google, verizon, and ATT fiber networks and even the growing 4G services (i.e. Clear, Sprint, and now T-Mobile kind of ). Otherwise in 10 years Time Warner will find itself with a shrinking percentage of the ISP market and a dying cable television model.

Unless . . . the internet doesn’t get faster. If you dig into the ESPN/Disney agreement, they say “Subscribers will also have unprecedented digital access to online content and expanded Video On Demand services.” But that digital access is now being “authenticated.”[1] It appears free, but you’re really paying it with your cable fees. And if net neutrality gets destroyed, these authenticated services will run fast while all the other competing online options will run slow. That’s why the cable companies, the middle men, are so hot for bringing down net neutrality.

I’m hoping Google TV works with all of these services – both free and authenticated. I’m sure Apple won’t play nice since they’re working on a competing product, but that’s Apple for you. As long as we get a market place for video that’s open and competitive with multiple providers, the consumers win.

1. Access to a new authenticated service, which will give Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks subscribers the opportunity to watch the linear networks ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU through their broadband services as well as mobile Internet devices, like an iPad. Details on the launch will be forthcoming.