Steve Burke, chief operating officer of Comcast, said the top cable operator plans a national test of a system to authenticate that consumers are cable subscribers before allowing them to view cable programming online or on mobile devices.
Authentication emerged at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association’s Cable Show in Washington as the most promising way to preserve cable networks' dual revenue stream at a time when more consumers want to view programming online for free.
“It is one of the most important things we can do,” Mr. Burke said during a panel discussion on Friday. “It is very complex technically. You have to make sure you’re 100% secure and that nobody can hack that.”
Mr. Burke said a Comcast unit called thePlatform was working on the test.
He added that authentication is in the best interests of media companies that derive 60% to 70% of their earnings from cable content.
“If we don’t, it’s going to be a terrible thing for our business in the long term,” Mr. Burke said.
Time Warner Cable is already using an authentication system in Wisconsin, where it is testing HBO Go, which allows HBO subscribers to watch HBO programming on their computers at home or while traveling.