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Cable giants Time Warner and Comcast take aim at Hulu

June 23, 2009 |  5:36 pm

Call it the anti-Hulu.

Cable giants Time Warner Inc. and Comcast Corp. are expected to announce Wednesday that they are teaming on a new venture that would make it harder for people to watch TV shows online for free. 

BEWKES Motivating the media giants is the emergence of online video as an alternative to television. Hulu, the venture owned by News Corp., NBC Universal and soon Disney, has become an overnight sensation with its steady stream hit TV shows for free.

It's that free part of Hulu that is so worrisome to Comcast and Time Warner. Cable operators have been  irritated that Hulu gives away stuff that they pay good money to carry. Cable companies shell out some $22 billion annually for programming, which explains why Hulu makes them nervous.

ROBERTS Called "TV Everywhere," the initiative has been pushed hard by Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes. It requires viewers to demonstrate that they already subscribe to a pay TV service -- cable, satellite or telephone company -- before they may watch certain shows online. 

Technology has been a hurdle in these efforts. The companies have to find a way to "authenticate" whether the person logging on to a website also is paying for cable or satellite service. Time Warner Cable has been testing the service in Wisconsin for several months. Comcast also plans to test its version, called OnDemand Online. Another Comcast service, Fancast, which provides online video, could become the vehicle for TV Everywhere. Both companies declined to comment this afternoon.

Time Warner's Bewkes will be joined by Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts to unveil their partnership at a news conference in New York City.

--- Meg James

Photos: (Top) Jeff Bewkes by Evan Agostini / AP. (Bottom) Brian Roberts by George Widman / AP.