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Execs See Hype, Hope in Authentication

Authentication will reach a critical mass within the next three years, but there are still lots of technical-and legal-hurdles to clear before we get there. That was the message at a panel discussion hosted by B&C and Multichannel News Aug. 18.

Quincy Smith, the CEO of CBS Interactive, Bob Bowman, president and CEO of Major league Baseball Advanced Media and Marty Roberts, VP of marketing for ThePlatform spoke with Multichannel News Editor-in-Chief Mark Robichaux at the Paley Center for Media in New York.

Smith says CBS is out to make authentication happen, and sooner rather than later.

"The role of CBS is to be an agitator, and to help get this done as quickly as possible," Smith said, adding that authentication programs such as Time Warner's TV Everywhere and Comcast's OnDemand Online do not appear to cannibalize existing business. "[With authentication] the web is not an alternative business model, it expands our existing model."

Part of the challenge is to learn from other sections of the media that have had trouble adapting to the new environment. Roberts cited the music and newspaper industries as two businesses that have suffered as they moved into the Internet age.

"The Internet has disrupted the economics of every other media business sector," he said.

A big part of that is adding value. While newspapers and music essentially took existing content and put it online, Bob Bowman cited his efforts to add interactivity to the live streams, creating an environment around the content that is different than what people will get on television.

"It is not enough to just have the content," Bowman says. "We just can't take these games, put them online and say ‘here you go.'"

But while creatively authentication may be on the right track, it still has serious hurdles to clear. Each of the MSOs on board have different systems for authenticating users, a problem which Roberts says has given his company some headaches. In addition, legal and business affairs executives are still trying to write the rulebook, so to speak, for how to handle the dissemination of content online.

For now, authentication looks a lot like cable in its early days, with a ton of potential, but lots of questions still unanswered.

"There is no leadership, no consensus and no standards," quipped Smith.

The panelists agree that the technology is there, and the desire is there on the part of the content companies and MSOs. Now the challenge is to develop it to a point of viability, and to package it in a way that consumers will want to buy.