March Madness may be biggest test yet for TV Everywhere authentication

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With Turner forcing hoops fans to prove that they are a cable or satellite subscriber in order to watch any of its 67 games from the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament for free online and mobile devices, March Madness may prove to be the biggest test yet of TV Everywhere authentication systems used by cable and satellite TV providers.

Turner, which will carry games on TBS, TNT, and truTV, was one of the first cable programmers to distribute TV Everywhere programming. Jeff Bewkes, the CEO of Turner parent Time Warner (NYSE: TWX), is a big proponent of TV Everywhere distribution, and has been pushing the pay TV industry to embrace TVE authentication, and allow paying cable and satellite subscribers to watch content for no additional charge on the Web and mobile devices.

Turner will require March Madness viewers who can't prove that they are cable or satellite subscribers to pay $3.99 for access to its March Madness games. But broadcast partner CBS won't require authentication to view any of the games that it will distribute online and through mobile phones and tablets.

The opposing CBS-Turner strategies on authentication are a good example of the lack of consistency that programmers have shown when it comes to TV Everywhere distribution. Last summer, News Corp. (Nasdaq: NWSA) pulled all full-length, ad-supported original series from Fox.com, and announced that it would only allow cable and satellite customers who subscribe to a multichannel provider that has struck an authentication agreement with the network to watch its programming online for no additional charge. So far, only Mediacom Communications, Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) subscribers can watch Fox programming online.

Turner didn't say what authentication technology it will use for March Madness. But the company has previously relied on Buffalo, N.Y.-based Synacor to provide it with TVE authentication for content from TBS, TNT and truTV.

For more:
- see the news release

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