Time Warner Cable's customers will soon be able to use the Internet to watch sports events, including some that are not available on cable television.
Online access to live ESPN broadcasts will be available for free to Time Warner customers as soon as Oct. 25, just in time for ESPN's online streaming broadcast of a Monday night football contest between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.
Time Warner will offer two online services: ESPN online, showing the same programs that are broadcast on cable TV, and ESPN3, which has exclusive programming available only online.
The streaming video game can be watched by Time Warner customers who subscribe to ESPN cable programs, which is virtually all Time Warner customers.
ESPN streaming video access is part of last month's contract agreement between the cable giant and the owner of ESPN, The Walt Disney Co., to broadcast Disney-owned programs.
But Time Warner customers had to missed some ESPN3 broadcasts for the past six weeks as the cable company scrambled to design an online authentication program that will grant access to Time Warner customers and block the Internet broadcast for non-customers.
Time Warner said the online authentication program is unprecedented in size and scope.
The rapid development of online videos and online movies is presenting an existential challenge to the cable television industry. The communications companies are trying to find ways to offer online programs to their customers without undermining their subscription-based business model.
Time Warner said in an announcement that it is "really, really excited" to give its customers access to football games online. Verizon and AT&T already have access to ESPN3's online broadcasts, but Time Warner spokesman Keith Poston said Time Warner will be the first to offer other ESPN programs online.
"It is unprecedented in the amount of new content that will be available online to cable subscribers," Poston said. "You'll be able to access it anywhere -- on the road, at Starbucks, or wherever you access the Internet."
Time Warner has 2.1 million cable, Internet and phone customers in North Carolina, including 830,000 from Raleigh to the coast. ESPN is part of the standard basic and digital packages.