Dispatches from The Cable Show: Online is Our Friend

Though I get a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing kinda feel from it, different cable and media execs talked up the opportunities of online video at The Cable Show in Washington, D.C., yesterday.
Comcast (s CMCSA) CEO Brian Roberts said that web video could be a friend of the cable industry because it can drive cable’s broadband business and present a new avenue for advertising monetization. Roberts said his company was looking for a way to let consumers watch what they want on the device they want, similar to what it does with its current tiered VOD. Some content is available for free to subscribers, other premium content requires an extra subscription, and some is pay-per-view.
Giving hope that consumers won’t be raked over the coals to pay for access to premium content online, both Time Warner (s TWX) Chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes and Suddenlink Chairman and CEO Jerry Kent said they believe that making content available to subscribers online wouldn’t require additional fees. “Some think we should charge extra; I’m not sure about that,” Kent said. When asked if he expected additional payments to be a requirement to access his company’s TV Everywhere, Bewkes simply said, “No.”

While I’d like to believe the olive branch these companies are extending to online video is real, as a cable subscriber for the last 15 years who has watched his bill steadily go up, I know that if there’s a way to tack on an extra fee, the cable company will find it.
UPDATE: Looks like Disney (s DIS) CEO Bob Iger is also a friend of online video, so much so that he doesn’t want it to get all mucked up with an overly-complicated authentication system. MediaMemo was at Iger’s Cable Show talk and got quotes:

“The consumer is king, not us, the content provider, and not you, the distributor.” We have to be mindful of that. They’re telling us they love content, they love access and playibility, and they want great navigation. “They view the computer as an entertainment device”