Just after Time Warner announced its spin-off of Time Warner Cable, CEO Jeff Bewkes is saying he wants paying customers to get their favorite shows via whatever means they prefer: Cable, computer or phone.

The key is "paying" customers, but the other key is "free with purchase." That is, if you already pay for, say, CNN or HBO, then Bewkes says you'd be able to get it on your PC, and maybe on your phone, for no additional cost. If you are among the 15% of Americans who don't pay for TV, you'd presumably be able to grab a web-only option.


Bewkes presents this as a program he is cooking up with Comcast and his ex-ward, Time Warner Cable, but what this move does is turn content owners into content providers. The cable companies—and the wired and wireless phone data service providers—become dumb pipelines, whether they're signed on or not.

Boy do they love that. (Their industry expression is "over the top," meaning that content piggybacks on the connection rather than being part and parcel of the connection itself.) Saul at the Times, who was citing an Advertising Age article, makes a point of saying that Bewkes can only do this now that TWC isn't under his protection.

It's a good plan, if it means I can just buy a damn HBO subscription when the shows are good (as in, better than Eastbound and Down), have Nick and PBS on demand for the kid, and can do away with 90% of the cable crap that I have to wade through now. But just visualizing the convenience makes me realize the industry will never really let it happen. [NYT]