Time Warner plans to put programming from its cable networks online so that it can be watched anywhere, provided the viewer can prove they subscribe to a multichannel operator, whether it is via a satellite, cable or telco platform. That would include the majority of viewers in the United States. The initiative has been dubbed TV Everywhere.

The idea is that viewers can simply enter the details of their household subscription to be able to view cable network shows that are currently not available on the web. It has been tested by Time Warner with HBO shows in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The concept, as outlined by Time Warner chairman and chief executive Jeff Bewkes, is similar to the Sky Player proposition that is available for Sky satellite channels in the United Kingdom.

“We believe in TV Everywhere, that consumers should have access on broadband to the same channels they see on television,” he told Business Week. “But the online model has to support, not undermine, the distribution fee and advertising arrangements between programmers and distributors.”

Time Warner is preparing to spin off its cable operations to focus on its media properties.

Comcast is currently pushing a separate strategy, known as On Demand Online, to provide cable programming online to their subscribers through their Fancast service, although such an approach need not necessarily be exclusive.

Cable networks and operators have historically been slow to enable online streaming of their programmes to avoid losing subscribers. With broadcast networks putting their programming online, viewers have come to expect more flexibility. The alternative is that they will simply download unauthorised copies of shows.