Cable television companies are getting excited about a web push to put all of their content online for subscribers. Called “TV Everywhere,” the endeavor will make many television shows available online for free to customers who pay for cable on television. But getting all the major players to cooperate on this project could take quite some time. Five years in fact. At least that’s what Quincy Smith thinks.

Speaking at the B&C/Multichannel News’ sponsored “TV Everywhere and Anywhere” panel on Tuesday in New York, the CEO of CBS Interactive put a damper on the feasability of the cable plan, saying that implementation is a long ways off.

Others on the panel estimated that about half of cable viewers will be authenticated by 2010 or 2012, but Smith is more bearish. He thinks there is a lot standing in the way of implementation. And cable providers aren’t making it any easier for anyone.

According to Paid Content, Smith had some choice words for the cable companies, which he refered to as “The Death Star”:

“In the past 20 days, we’ve seen 20 different proposals. I notice
there’s [sic] no cable companies up here, so the content guys get to sound
off. The problem with the cable operators is there’s no leadership, no
coordination (on this issue). For this to happen, the technology has to
work and the metrics need to count. There is still no consensus at the
ad agencies as to who does the buying. If they want to purchase a spot
for authenticated video, they have to check to their broadcast group
and their online buyer.”

Add to that the legal hurdles of getting content across various providers and concerns over piracy of digital videos, and it could be a few years before any real progress is made.

Beyond that, it’s a different value proposition for broadcast networks than it is for the cable channels. Says Smith:

“From the point of view of our online business, we shouldn’t do
authentication. We make a lot of money from streaming and only 5% of our revenues are derived from regurgitated TV content. So why should we go through these hurdles? It’s the right thing to do for our broadcast business. At minimum, it gets you extended value for advertising.”

For the cable channels, bringing paid content online makes a lot of sense. They can give paid customers additional services for their base subscription rates, and even potentially get new subscribers if the technology provides an attractive online interface for premium content.

But even for the networks, authentication is attractive. Streamlining the process of buying advertising both online and offline will be a huge win for the networks. And unlike on television, where they are struggling to combat ad fast forwarding, online video can actually provide a more controlled environment. Web surfers may be accustomed to getting their video content online for free, but they’re also forced to sit through commercials until their programming starts.

Of course, getting all of the large conglomerates together to make this happen smoothly will be an uphill battle. Smith calls himself a cheerleader for authentication, since the process will require all major content providers to get on board, and his pessimiism on timing could just be a way to light a fire under the major players to get moving with it.

But it also makes sense that a cable push online would take longer than expected. When was the last
time a cable company showed up on time to your house?

Photo: CBS