The growth of video distributors on the Web and new video-enabled devices like Apple Inc's iPad will create opportunities for both networks and distributors, top cable executives said at an industry event on Wednesday.
The executives disagreed with any suggestion the cable business is terminally threatened by the evolution of the industry but all agreed that there is a need to develop profitable business models to support these plans.
For now, top cable executives speaking at the Cable Show industry event were keen to extend the appeal of their existing offerings to customers rather than risk attempting to reinvent the cable business overnight.
Comcast Corp Chief Executive Brian Roberts showed off a new iPad-based Xfinity TV app that would allow Comcast customers to control home set-top boxes from wherever they are.
But Comcast has not yet enabled delivery of Comcast programing to the device, though Roberts hinted at that possibility in an interview on the sidelines of the event.
It depends on rights, whether it's in the home, whether it's outside the home, but we're not talking about that today, said Roberts.
He said Comcast is in talks to enable the application with other device makers and technology companies like Google Inc's Android wireless operating system.
Cable companies are pushing to create a more flexible TV viewing experience for paying subscribers who are spending more time watching and sharing YouTube videos with their friends online, including on Facebook and Twitter.
Time Warner Inc Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes said cable companies' broadband infrastructure allows them to lead the way in making more content available on-demand to customers -- video on demand (VOD).
Bewkes said cable companies should get your VOD robust.
Time Warner, which led the TV Everywhere initiative at last year's Cable Show, announced a new partnership with Verizon Communications Inc to offer TV shows online to paying FiOS TV subscribers of TNT and TBS.
Bewkes said the TV Everywhere initiative is now in 20 million U.S. homes, and challenged the industry to make it 50 million homes by next year.
However, content makers remained cautious about the new world of groundbreaking devices and enabling content on all types of platforms for consumers.
Content creators have got to get paid for that ubiquity, said Tom Rothman, CEO of News Corp-owned Fox Filmed Entertainment. I don't believe it's good for creators and distributors for everything to be everywhere all at once. I think windowing is a strong defense.
Content producers have traditionally timed the release of content in different formats such as theater or rental DVDs at different price points to ensure that customers will continue to pay premium prices for earlier or higher-quality viewing experiences.
CBS Corp CEO Les Moonves used CBS's hit show CSI as an example of content that could be harmed online if both sides did not develop the right business model.
It costs more than $3 million to produce an episode of the show, he said, and the pennies from online advertising are not enough to replace the dollars from TV ads and fund production of such a franchise.
If too much of my audience shifts and it's just pennies online, I'm not going to be able to produce that content, said Moonves.
(Reporting by Yinka Adegoke; Editing by Gary Hill)