Last month on November 4th at the Ad Tech New York conference the President of Comcast Interactive, Amy Banse said TV Everywhere would be available in the first part of December, but I had not heard of anything so I just Googled it and in fact, it just launched, within the last day…according to lot of the bigger publications (nytimes, wsj) though surprisingly, it didn’t cross any of my channels in the tech world including my Twitter friends, Techmeme or RSS blog feeds. Maybe because it’s just not that exciting or maybe because it’s not working (I’ve just been getting a blank page all day and havent seen it yet)
The service is called Xfinity http://xfinity.com/ and it sounds like a good idea. If you have Comcast for your TV content and pay for Comcast internet service too, you should be able to not only watch TV at home, but travel to anywhere in the world where you can get online, with your laptop, say, login, and watch whatever you would be watching as if you were at home in your living-room.
Comcast and partners including Time Warner kinda need to make this work because if they dont, they could lose a lot of business as the world moves on without them. Before the internet, the big cable companies made great money just pumping TV through the cable to homes. Then when the internet came around, they were able to double up and send each person two subscription bills per month, one for the TV and one for the Internet.
But now, if you use Hulu, iTunes or Boxee, for example, you wont need your TV subscription anymore so Comcast could be out of luck on that one. And you may not need Comcast or Time Warner either for your home broadband service, especially if you upgrade to FIOS, or use internet at work. This is pretty big business as I was saying. Much bigger than the TV Networks like NBC which Comcast may soon control.
Setting aside the cable companies and their visions, you can see the model is pretty neat: Eventually you could be anyone in the world, like a customer in India willing to pay the monthly subscription fee and gain access to the same content that Comcast TV subscribers currently have in the U.S., without any wires. Just a Hulu like subscription, which this service obviously competes with. This is a double whammy though on Comcast because they will have advertising on the content anyway. iTunes on the other hand does not have advertising.
This may or may not threaten Apple’s plans, but it certainly threatens the Apple rumor fanatics who suggest that Apple is working on a similar subscription service via iTunes. I assume people would pay $50 a month to Apple to have free access to all the content on iTunes, music, TV – everything. Then Apple can divy it up back to the content creators.
And while usually people tend to piss and moan about Apple being closed, I’m rooting for Apple in this game so far – Apple is open. Anyone can podcast their content through iTunes with an RSS feed. I also like YouTube because they will host anyone so far as the law will extend YouTube the rights to do so.
And this leads me to my main concern about TV Everywhere, er Xfinity (the TV Everywhere lingo was just code speak, it’s Xfinity now) which is that it threatens to close off the rest of the content world. The Comcasts of the world have a history of maintaining an elite control over their airwaves and thus stand to hurt the general democratization of media that I personally believe in. I’m a major proponent of content creators getting paid for content and I think the tradition has shown a desperate and unhealthy way of doing business in order to keep control over the content industry, finally diluting the medium for everyone down to the lowest common denominators. For even as there will always be alternative places to freely distribute and access content, if the TV Everywhere initiative becomes the main one, closed as it is, people are generally lazy and will likely go with it, the marching on of the following masses, making it more difficult for people to discover everything else.
Big guns have rolled into to save TV empires before and so far, all retreats. See them now regrouping…and waiting…