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Time Warner may tie tablet content to print subscriptions

updated 09:05 pm EDT, Wed August 4, 2010

Subscribers to get free tablet access to magazine?

Time Warner may be looking to deliver special digital tablet versions of its paper magazines as a perk to its current subscribers. The company's CEO, Jeff Bewkes, hinted that he wants to make the content available to current subscribers--in a model a bit similar to its "TV Everywhere" initiative, which offers its own television content (TNT, TBS, HBO, etc.) to current cable television subscribers on their tablets. However, unlike its video initiative--such as its HBO Go service-- the company may deliver its premium magazine via its native app. Currently, users can download the app its Time, Sports Illustrated and other apps for free, but they must pay for continuing access the magazine content.

While much of its premium content is already available on the Web, it is sometimes delayed: Bewkes' new comments hinted that the company would allow subscribers to enjoy popular titles such as TIME, People, and Sports Illustrated on their tablets--perhaps with special or enhanced features that would bring a more magazine-like experience to tablets, with interactivity and offline browsing available--and without any delays.

The company's CEO told analysts that it hopes offer access to print titles to all of its subscribers, thereby tying its digital content to print subscription, according to a post on the Wall Street Journal. "The key to it all is to get our subscribers - not just for our TV networks but our magazines - to be able to enjoy their products over all broadband devices as soon as possible, because they already subscribe," Bewkes told analysts in an earnings conference call on Wednesday.

While a few print publications offer digital versions designed for tablets, popular destinations such as The Wall Street Journal currently charge print customers extra for online access. Time Warner's new plan would tie tablet versions of its publications to print magazine subscriptions. The iPad has already been very successful for the WSJ as a portal to its content: earlier this year, News Corp said that 64,000 users are subscribing to the newspaper in just the first month.

Some services such as Zinio offer digital versions of print magazines, but those do not offer the same type of interactivity that native applications of each print magazine could offer. According to the report, Apple reportedly nixed plans by Time Warner's Sports Illustrated magazine division to offer subscriptions on the iPad and earlier this month; however, Time Warner in July began delivering content that was not in print version--such as a different cover story based on breaking news--to users who download its magazine app., while making print subscribers wait until the content was available on the Web.

by MacNN Staff



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