Since about thirty seconds after we signed the deal with Disney/ESPN last week, we’ve been getting the question:
When can we expect to see ESPN3?
The other question we’ve been getting has been:
Do I have to be a video subscriber to get ESPN3, or is it available to RoadRunner-only customers?
Here’s the deal — Time Warner Cable is really, really excited to use the Internet to enhance the video packages that our customers buy from us. ESPN3 allows us to do just that. Because we see ESPN3 as an extension of our video product, we are making its available to all of our customers who subscribe to ESPN, instead of tying it to customers’ broadband subscriptions. ESPN360 will not be available to RoadRunner only customers.
We think it makes more sense to enhance the video products that our customers have already signed up for rather than to impose the service on every single one of our broadband customers, regardless of their interest. There are those among you who may say “well hang on, I pay for TV channels I don’t want. How is this different?”
AS of right now, we think that the television and the Internet business are different. While you may be able to stream video online, it’s still video. Even though we all pay for a lot of TV channels we don’t watch, the amount of TV channels available to a cable customer is finite — in Brooklyn, I get hundreds of channels. There are a hell of a lot more web sites that I don’t visit than there are TV channels I don’t watch. I can’t even imagine what would happen if you had to start paying for web sites you don’t use.
No matter what you might think, none of us want this to come true.
We do not currently have a concrete timeline for when ESPN3 will be available to our customers. Here’s why:
Time Warner Cable customers will have to authenticate to see ESPN3 — in other words, log into the site with a username and password much the same way that you’d use My Services or pay a bill. When you do this, computers on our backend infrastructure and on ESPN’s backend infrastructure perform a rapid, complicated handshake and after a few seconds you’re watching all the sports you can handle.
That last sentence was very easy for me to type and is very complicated to actually implement. Authenticated video on this scale is new for us, and it’s new for ESPN, too. It’s new for the entire MSO business. We’ve done some stuff like this with our TV Everywhere trials and also with the most recent winter Olympics. We learned a lot from both of those experiences, and we’re applying these lessons to this, too.
Both Time Warner Cable and ESPN have teams working as hard as humans can work in order to make this happen. Unfortunately, I don’t know how long it will take to make this happen. As many of you in the technology community know, things can work perfectly in a dev environment, work fine in beta, and then go completely pear-shaped in a live environment.
I know this is frustrating to anxious fans, but please keep in mind that an authenticated video offering of this size and scope is unprecedented in our industry. Once we figure out how to make this work for all of our customers, the linear feeds of ESPN 1, ESPN2, and ESPNU will also be available to our customers online — so there is that to look forward to.
We understand that there may be games slated to appear on ESPN3.com that are of particular importance to certain geographic areas. Where that is the case we are working hard with ESPN to find an alternate way for our customers to see those games.
We hope you understand our position here. We’re working as hard as we can right now to bring you the content you want, but it’s going to take a little time to make it work right from an operations perspective. We’re sorry if this causes any inconvenience.