MIchelle Clancy ©RapidTVNews | 12-08-2011

Disney may decide to put access to current programming behind a cable TV pay wall, just as FOX has decided to do.

The media company is reconsidering the role of streaming video-on-demand (VOD) providers like Netflix when it comes to content distribution. Leveraging a TV Everywhere tactic, where subscribers authenticate with their cable or other pay-TV provider's credentials to watch new programmes and premium film content online or via mobile, has a better feel to it, according to CEO Bob Iger.

Disney has a deal in place with Disney/ABC to offer current-season episodes on a 15-day delay window with Netflix, but indications are that Netflix will soon be relegated to an outlet for library content. "Our overall approach of late has been to make deals that increase [incremental] revenue while at the same time protect and respect the multi-channel [cable] or channel distribution value that we see today," Iger said during the earnings call for Q3 2011.

He added, "We will make access to newer programming more difficult, except if a customer is authenticated as a cable or satellite TV subscriber. I think you’ll see over the next few years a lot of deals done that enable this. We now have to hope that not only is the technology improved that enables authentication but that the whole user experience gets better."

This also means that long-term, linear licensing deals will give way to shorter-term, more opportunistic agreements that take into account consumer thirst for TV Everywhere and the rapidly evolving connected device ecosystem.

"There is clearly a thirst for filmed entertainment, particularly branded high-quality entertainment, and what we’re seeing, I think stimulated in part by not only higher connectivity speeds but significant development in tablet computers, we’re looking at platforms that are creating all types of new business opportunities," Iger added.

Digital distribution will become increasingly important in the absence of stellar box-office success: in the third quarter, Disney's studio revenue was flat at $1.62 billion compared to $1.63 billion last year.