CNN News Fans Run Into Brick Pay Wall on the Web
July 18, 2011 - Openet
CNN hopes to monetize the online streaming of its live 24-hour broadcasts by making them available only to paying customers -- those who subscribe to a handful of major cable and satellite TV services. However, with other outlets offering streaming news online for free, it's questionable whether many customers will be willing to jump through the necessary hoops to get their news from CNN.
Live streaming of CNN's and HLN's 24-hour television networks became available on CNN.com, the CNN App for iPad, and the CNN App for iPhone and iPod touch on Monday -- but only to a limited audience.
CNN's rollout of its version of TV Everywhere for consumers reaches AT&T (NYSE: T), Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSK), Cox, DISH Network, Suddenlink and Verizon subscribers. Those who are customers of other cable or satellite companies are out of luck. The service has met with some complaints about the inconvenience to consumers, including the requirement to punch in their customer numbers to access the streaming news.
The grumbling is taking the focus off the offering itself, which includes what CNN calls a "new video experience" that integrates live network TV into a video player capable of delivering HD quality.
Users can access CNN and HLN live online streaming by visiting the website, clicking on the "Live" tab, and log-in through their cable, satellite or telco provider with a username and password.
CNN spokesperson Erica Puntel declined to comment for this story, pointing the E-Commerce Times to CNN's official statement.
Pay Walls, Pay Subscribers
CNN is taking a passive-aggressive approach to the concept of TV Everywhere, said Richard Laermer, CEO of RLM PR.
"To get to the service, you really have to jump through hoops," he told the E-Commerce Times. "It is obvious when you compare how easy it is to access video on other sites like MSNBC or YouTube."
One reason for that, in Laermer's view, is that CNN's management is bogged down in bureaucracy.
Another reason could be that CNN has only reluctantly embraced the concept of TV Everywhere, suggested Paul Levinson, a professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University.
"The people still calling the shots in cable come from an older generation that doesn't get Facebook or Twitter," he told the E-Commerce Times.
However, there are difficulties to surmount in setting up such a service, pointed out Mike Manzo, chief strategy officer at Openet.
"Providing a reliable content stream accessible via mobile applications or online 24 hours a day is quite a demanding process," he told the E-Commerce Times.
The biggest challenge is going to be coming up with an acceptable method for validating subscriber accounts in order to enable user access, he said.
"Subscribers are always looking for ease of use, but carriers are constantly struggling with access points that meet both subscriber expectations for ease of use and proper validation to avoid overbilling," he said.
The New York Times' Pay Wall
This debate is hardly limited to the news broadcast space. Some newspapers, most notably The New York Times, have been grappling with the issue of how to monetize online content -- content that many consumers have come to expect for free.
The Times decided after much soul-searching to keep its best content behind a pay wall for frequent readers.
It is still unclear whether this strategy is working out on a long-term basis, but its regular readers have so far not complained about access -- one of the early sticking points, Laermer said.