During last week’s Upfronts presentations, Turner networks TNT and TBS announced that they will become the first entertainment networks to live stream content nationwide across multiple platforms 24/7. Cable subscribers will be able to watch a simulcast of the two networks’ programming via apps currently called TNT and TBS that will soon be rebranded as Watch TNT and Watch TBS.
Turner (which, like EW, is owned by TimeWarner) already streams live content for its networks CNN, HLN, and Cartoon Network, though only CNN and HLN stream 24/7. News and sports were among the first types of programming Turner made available live. Jeremy Legg, Turner SVP of business development and multi-platform distribution told EW that “it got to the point where we felt like the market was mature enough that we bring the next set of content online. So our general entertainment networks were the next logical place to begin streaming. This is in some ways the last set of streaming that we’re doing rather than the first…. It’s obvious to us that consumers want to be able to access our content on these other platforms.”
Viewers will be able to use their cable login — the same username and password that accesses information like online cable billing statements — on the Watch TNT and Watch TBS apps. That login info will validate that the viewer is a paying cable subscriber. As for how Turner will deal with cable subscribers who share their passwords with non-subscribers, Legg said, “We’re working with our distribution partners to implement back-end monitoring and security to make sure that doesn’t become a pervasive problem,” Legg said. “It’s certainly something we’re aware of.”
The move to make live TV available on tablets and smartphones certainly won’t make the muddy waters of TV ratings any clearer. Turner will have stats for viewership on these new apps, but how those numbers will be interpreted and used is up to the industry at large, Legg said. “The industry is essentially going to have to decide one of two paths,” he explained. “Does it A) want to accrue the ratings from these other platforms up to their television ratings? Or does it B) want to work and measure viewership based on more traditional digital forms of measurement? Everything has the capability to be measured. It’s just a question of what you want to do with that measurement and how advertisers ultimately want to buy. So that is an evolving answer.”
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