Time Warner Cable, the country's second-largest MSO, said it will launch further trials for "TV Everywhere," its initiative to offer some online video free to customers who subscribe to its video service. While billed as "TV Everywhere," when -- and if -- the service launches widely, it may not carry that brand.
Time Warner Cable said the upcoming trials will roll out in 5,000 homes with TWC customers in select markets in coming months, and it expects rapid expansion thereafter.
Under the program, subscribers to one of TWC's video services will be able to watch full online episodes of shows from more than 10 networks -- ranging from TNT to AMC to Discovery -- at no extra charge.
Also Thursday, Verizon said it has launched a trial under the "TV Everywhere" umbrella for customers of its FiOS telco TV service, although it will be more limited than TWC's efforts, including only two networks.
Verizon's trials with FiOS will be only with TNT and TBS at first, although the company said others will be added. Verizon said it will use online user names and passwords to open the online streams to FiOS customers.
Dish Network already offers a "TV Everywhere" service that allows customers to program DVRs remotely.
Both TWC's and Verizon's moves are part of an emerging industry initiative to thwart what is sometimes termed "cord-cutting." The theory: if much of the same content available on TV is also free online, people may opt to drop pricey cable subscriptions.
TWC has made noise that if networks continue to make TV content -- say an episode of TNT's "The Closer" free online -- it may look to lower the fees it pays networks to carry them on its traditional cable tiers.
One possible hiccup in executing "TV Everywhere" is finding a way to authenticate that a person looking to access online content is also a TWC cable customer, but TWC has indicated that this is not a challenging process.
TWC has run "TV Everywhere" trials with HBO. The list of networks participating in its next phase of trials includes TNT, AMC, and Discovery as well as CBS, BBC America and Syfy.
TNT and Discovery's participation is a study in contrasts. TNT has made full episodes of its top dramas available widely for free online. Discovery has held back on that front, partly because CEO David Zaslav has said a profitable business model has not yet been found. Discovery may also be looking to avoid cable operators' attempt to reduce sub fees it pays the company's networks.
Still, wary that customers may be upset at having, say, online episodes of "The Closer" suddenly disappear, TWC is taking a more gradual approach with "TV Everywhere." It will offer customers some content that is not already on the Internet, and a chance to view full episodes online more quickly after their TV debuts.
TWC CEO Glenn Britt said "TV Everywhere" will provide "customers more control over content and allow them greater access to programs they are already paying for, while enhancing the distributors' and networks' robust business model."