Jeff Bewkes

Rated ugly: Will TV Everywhere free us from bad cable box menus?

October 14, 2010: 3:29 PM ET

As cable companies take on Netflix and Hulu with TV Everywhere, they'd do well to remember that where video content is concerned, a polished interface is part of the package, and the main area where they've been beat.

At a time when more than 21 million people now regularly stream film or television content from services like Netflix Instant and Hulu, cable companies still think they have the consumer by the eyeballs, but have begun to see that they may have to try harder to not lose their grip. Take Comcast's (CMCSA) $30 billion deal for NBC Universal, buying not just a television operation, but the ability to control how and whether NBC's many broadcast and cable offerings are distributed online.

As Comcast CEO Brian Roberts integrates NBC into his behemoth cable outfit, Time Warner (TWX) CEO Jeff Bewkes is finishing up the exact opposite task, having spun off Time Warner's cable division (TWC) in February of 2009. Despite the inverse approaches, both companies' content primarily ends up in the same place: the sleek-looking but often clunky digital cable box sitting underneath your television. The middling quality of the cable box experience is partly the reason that startups like Netflix and Hulu, with sleek webby interfaces and intuitive functionality, have managed to thrive and grow. Now cable companies are getting ready to launch an online salvo, TV Everywhere. But have they learned their lesson? More

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