July 18, 2011 / 11:15 PM / 9 years ago

CNN puts live news behind a pay wall

CNN unveiled its new online video service today, making live video from its newsroom available on its website, as well as on new versions of its popular iPad and iPhone applications. But the live stream isn’t accessible for  just anyone — to view CNN’s new live feeds, users have to be pay TV subscribers with access to the news network.

The main features are the same as what CNN demoed at SXSW earlier this year, including: 16×9 format HD-quality video online, with up to 6 Mbps bit rate encoding. The ability to create personal playlists — in a sense, the ability to create and program a CNN channel based on your own interests. Access to short-form video clips, entire on-demand episodes and live streaming of the shows that are currently on TV. The ability to pause, as well as scrub live video backward and forward. Pause and shut down a stream on one device, such as a PC, and resume watching on another device — like an iPad.

But the most important thing here is that CNN has joined Time Warner networks HBO, TBS and TNT in tying access to its videos to viewers cable, satellite and IPTV subscriptions. That’s part of the parent company’s broader TV Everywhere initiative, which seeks to add more value to its cable networks by adding live and on-demand videos online and on connected devices. But TV Everywhere also ensures viewers pay for the network with an authentication system that connects to their pay TV subscription.

CNN has benefited greatly from distribution of major live online events, such as the Obama inauguration and the Michael Jackson memorial service. According to a spokesperson, major live events like those will continue to be free on the company’s CNN.com Live service. But for those that are fans of its shows like American Morning or Anderson Cooper 360, being a pay TV subscriber is the only way to get access.

Even then, not all cable or satellite systems have access. The CNN Live service is available with subscription to AT&T U-verse, Comcast, Cox, Dish Network, Suddenlink and Verizon. Among the major pay TV operators missing are Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, Charter and Cablevision. Like other Time Warner networks, CNN uses Adobe Pass authentication technology for easy sign-in across different networks.

Lack of ubiquitous access across cable systems is one possible roadblock to mass adoption, but the bigger issue might be that other news networks already make live streams of their programming available without having to login. These include Fox News, CBS News and Al Jazeera English.

Of course, that’s fine for the news junkie without a cable connection. But for Anderson Cooper fans, only the real thing will do.

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