The launches are still months away but CNN Digital has a pair of announcements from SXSW tonight that mark significant advancements for the network’s online and mobile video offerings. In early summer, CNN plans to flip the switch on its version of Time (NYSE: TWX) Warner’s CEO Jeff Bewkes’ TV Everywhere, making it possible for subscribers of Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) Xfinity, Dish, Cox and Verizon FiOS to watch CNN live across platforms and devices. Other Turner Broadcasting networks, including TNT and TBS, are likely to offer authenticated live streaming of linear channels
at the same time. [Clarification: Currently, there's no plan to launch live/linear streams across at the same time.]
CNN also will launch a new video player taking full advantage of the native HD being used for nearly all its footage now, the first major update for CNN’s online video experience in three years. KC Estenson, SVP and GM of CNN.com, showed me the new player on multiple bank of screens during a practice session before I left Austin; the quality of the video being streamed over WiFi in 19:9 format to the large screen array doing double duty as a computer monitor was stunning. Equally important, the player is designed to work across platforms, including Google (NSDQ: GOOG) TV. Eventually Estenson, who calls the new player a “quantum leap,” expects it be to be available through any internet-connected TV.
In addition to various technical improvements, the player features a playlist that moves with the user from device to device. Start watching on a computer, switch to an iPhone or iPad, pick it up later on a connected TV and the player will know where the user left off and what is in the queue. One hitch: at launch, it will only work with internet access. Eventually, CNN hopes to make offline viewing possible. Estenson is striving for the quality of Vimeo, the serendipity of YouTube, the experience of Hulu and the portability of Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX).
Online video is already a major component for CNN. In an average month, it delivers 60-80 million video streams. Last Friday following the Japan earthquake and tsunami, it delivered 60 million via a redesigned home page meant to make it easier to navigate through the rapidly changing news. Through the weekend, CNN delivered more than 100 million videos streams, mostly less than 3 minutes each.
Some other CNN.com changes:
– a new feature called Open Story, now in beta, pulls together iReports with official CNN reports, a major shift from bthe idea that the user-gen iReports need to be treated separately.
– Any registered user with a webcam, Facetime, etc., can record a video comment directly to the site and post it in real time.
– In case it got lost in the iPad2 shuffle, iReport is now embedded as an option in iMovie.