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Time Warner Cable Making PC-TV Connection


Time Warner Cable is getting ready to embrace the speedy Docsis 3.0 platform in New York City, but the nation's second-largest operator is also gearing up to feed Internet-sourced video to the big screen.

Though long on ambition but short on technical details, TWC CEO Glenn Britt told the audience at the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Inc. Strategic Decisions Conference in New York Friday morning that the MSO is going to offer some new equipment that will help customers enjoy the video fruits of the Internet "soon."

"Within a relatively short time -- whether it's a year, 18 months, or two years -- it's going to be very easy to get Internet TV on your big-screen TV," he said.

Great! But how? Has Time Warner Cable fallen in love with Apple TV or something? Doesn't sound like it.

"It will be a new wireless cable modem that will allow you to network everything in your house," Britt added, which didn't exactly clarify exactly what the operator is up to. "It's another story, but it's coming soon."

Still, Time Warner Cable execs have recently talked up the operator's growing interest in advanced home networking. Over at Cable Digital News, we discovered that Time Warner Cable recently joined the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA), which uses a coax-based scheme to shuttle standard-def and hi-def video around the home at high speeds using IP. But that's wired, not wireless, so most questions remain unanswered for now.

Still, Britt's comments certainly make it sound like the MSO is growing more comfortable with Internet as a complement to its traditional way of delivering video.

"I think the idea that the Internet [as a source for video] is separate is quickly going to go away," Britt said.

But, to be fair, Britt did tell folks at The Cable Show in New Orleans last week that he would have a big problem if all the video Time Warner Cable offers via its cable systems were to be made on the Web for "free" using ad models.

On Friday Britt clarified that a bit, noting that cable networks should tread carefully with their Internet distribution strategies since they rely on multiple revenue streams today, including advertising and carriage fees provided by operators such as Time Warner Cable.

If there's absolute parity between content offered via the Internet and through cable and satellite TV distributors, "clearly consumers won't want to pay me, and I won't want to pay you, Mr. Network," Britt stressed.

But, if that does happen, expect to pay a premium for broadband connections.

"Somehow, we're going to get paid. If we're not longer selling the video package 15 years from now and all video is on the Internet, then broadband will cost a lot more than it costs now, because, by the way, the existing... broadband infrastructure can't physically handle all the video that is now transmitted."

And Britt doesn't believe programmers can live on Internet ad revenues alone.

"Nobody has built a sustainable [video] subscription model on the Internet. There have certainly been a lot of attempts. It's all advertising supported. There isn't a replacement source for the subscription part of the revenues," he said, noting that squeezing the existing subscription-based revenue stream could hamper programmers' ability to produce more high-value content.