Multi-screen video

Why TV Everywhere Still Struggles

TORONTO -- More than four years after the TV Everywhere concept was first introduced, multiscreen video is still scrambling to find a large audience and its financial footing, according to a group of pay-TV, online, and consumer electronics executives.

Speaking at a CTAM Canada Broadcasters forum here this week, the five executives agreed that most, if not all, TV Everywhere ventures have not exactly taken off yet. Instead, they said, multiscreen video is mainly still a promising idea that has yet to realize its potential. They cited a wide variety of reasons, ranging from early technical glitches to a lack of content rights to a reluctance to shift business models.

While the initial technical problems have largely been resolved, other major hurdles are still there, said Eric Bruno, vice president of video product management for Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI). In particular, he pointed to the pay-TV industry's oft-frustrating efforts to secure multiscreen and out-of-home viewing rights to content from many programmers.

"It's difficult enough to explain [the content rights problem] to our own executives," never mind to consumers, said Bruno, who previously helped develop Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s FiOS TV service and multiscreen video offerings. "We've got to get the rights to make sense."

In addition, Bruno said, traditional pay-TV providers don't seem to have the "imagination" and "experience" to craft multiscreen features and apps as quickly as the market now demands. Such a fast pace of innovation, while common in Silicon Valley, is "new to a lot of folks trying to do it," he noted.

TV Everywhere ventures also haven't taken off yet because service and content providers have been reluctant to tinker with what has long been "a successful ecosystem" for both video programmers and distributors, said Sean Fernie, senior director of online content and business development for Shaw Communications Inc. He said the big question that must be answered how is "how far do we push that change?"

Fernie also argued that multiscreen video hasn't scored big yet because most consumers don't know what it is or understand its benefits. As a result, he called on the pay-TV industry to do a much better job of educating consumers about TV Everywhere and marketing the concept.

Rather than really engage consumers with multiscreen, both broadcasters and distributors have devoted "a lot of energy to protecting their business models," said Cassey Tan, senior manager of content and convergence for LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) . But, he noted, LG's partners are finally beginning to focus on meeting consumers' desires. "Learning early is better than learning later," he noted.

Glenn Purkis, category manager for Xbox Live Canada, warned service and content providers that they could get left in the dust if they don't work out such tricky issues as content licensing for multiscreen viewing. Noting that a number of large global players are now offering "hyper-niche content" over the Internet, he stressed that traditional service providers no longer enjoy a monopoly on quality video programming. "If it's not done by this industry, they [consumers] will find different ways" to access the content they want," he said.

Jeremy Butteriss, director of strategic partnerships for Google Canada, said the younger consumers (35 years old and under) that his company studies are turning to other video screens because traditional TV isn't meeting their desire to "lean in, share, and contribute." He noted that 85% of these younger consumers use social media every day and that "they switch devices or platforms 27 times an hour" in their desire to "share and contribute" to the ecosystem. "They have ADD," he noted, only half-jokingly.

Yet the experts still held out hope for brighter days ahead for TV Everywhere. For one thing, they are counting on the development of more seamless authentication systems to make it easier for subscribers to log onto multiple screens. For another, they are counting on programmers and distributors to work out their differences over content rights.

"I think it's still very early days for us," Fernie said. "It's evolving quickly."

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— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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albreznick 11/26/2013 | 4:38:03 PM
Re: Penny ante Could be, Sam. But I think that will change as TV Everywhere gets far easier to use, more content is available, out-of-home rights become more common and the SPs do a much better job of building awareness of the concept. Of course, that could take years. But I believe we're on the way, just slower than originally anticipated (as usual).
albreznick 11/26/2013 | 4:34:51 PM
Re: Penny ante 75 words, eh? Hoo ha! Just think of the record you'll be able to set in another decade. 
MarkC73 11/24/2013 | 1:11:03 AM
Re: TV Everywhere Mindset Curious Hopefully, just like Steve Jobs did for the music execs, there will be a company that will develop an architecture and charisma to convince the content providers that they need to adjust to the technology or worse will happen.  Hopefully, it won't be too long of a wait, and you do see some at least embracing OTT.  I think if they can track the number of eyeballs and whose they are, as well as guarantee quality of transmission of content; we'll see a movement to accept TV Everywhere, or I like to call the set top app.
KBode 11/23/2013 | 11:05:46 AM
Re: TV Everywhere Mindset Curious That's a good point.

Kind of like a beach head for them to set up and expand down the road should they need to offer more IP-based services. Though I still wonder if they'll have the innovative and software development chops to field a truly compelling product when the day comes they have to truly battle software platforms that have been doing this for a while (Netflix).

It has all been fun to watch, either way.
KBode 11/23/2013 | 11:03:41 AM
Re: TV Everywhere Mindset Curious Yeah broadcaster licenings results in a fractured experience for many services, whether it's TV Everywhere or Netflix or Hulu. They assume consumer can or want to keep track of which of a half dozen services they need to log into to watch a show they like. It will get worse as Amazon/Netflix/Comcast strike more exclusive content deals.

The experience gets more fractured as cable ops try to protect their turf (and hold on set top market) from other innovative products.
gconnery 11/22/2013 | 7:56:15 PM
Re: TV Everywhere Mindset Curious Yeah.

For me the problem is that it isn't predictable.  I try to use HBO Go on my Roku box in the bedroom and it doesn't work.  Comcast doesn't allow it.  But on my Apple TV in the Family Room it works.  On an iPad it works.  On an Android phone it doesn't.  How am I supposed to act based on this? 

Similarly some shows that I watch are available via Xfinity TV.   Some aren't. 

Do they expect me to remember all of this?  Or do most people just act like I do?  They try things once in a while and when they don't work they give up and ignore the service?

Cable needs to change their mindset.  It isn't about new incremental revenue.  Its about keeping the customers you have.
DOShea 11/22/2013 | 5:08:23 PM
Re: TV Everywhere Mindset Curious I think TV Everywhere turned quickly from a supposed innovation into a contingency plan for a rainy day when cable might be losing too many customers. That's maybe why it has seemed under-developed as far as multi-device authentication, GUI and licensing are concerned. The rainy day didn't happen for a while, so there wasn't much need to make customers more aware of it either, but now maybe it's fnally starting to rain.
KBode 11/22/2013 | 4:08:19 PM
TV Everywhere Mindset Curious I always found the entire TV Everywhere mindset rather curious. The idea as I understand it is (in part) to offer such incredibly additional value, that users would never think of ditching their traditional cable connection because it provides everything they need. At the same time though, most cable operators utterly refuse to compete on price, and reserve all the actual price competition for new customers, even if a subscriber has been with them for years.

Instead, why not focus more on customer loyalty by offering rewards?

As for it not taking off, again, many cable operators and telcos really just aren't very good when it comes to software design and GUIs (take a look at 80% of cable set top GUIs). Add in layers of dysfunction from odd broadcast licensing restrictions and you wind up with a product that's just not that interesting when compared to Netflix.

The cable industry seems fascinated with the idea of innovation for innovation's sake...or offering products simply so they can SAY they inovate or offer value. Instead of oh, say actually offering value.
sam masud 11/22/2013 | 3:38:10 PM
Re: Penny ante Could it be that consumers do not care for TV on every device--but what they really want is Internet on every device. And I think the reason for that might be that with TV the provider is in control, whereas with the Internet it's the user who's in control. So maybe it's a control thing.
mendyk 11/22/2013 | 2:48:26 PM
Re: Penny ante 75 words, pal. No doubt that comes from spending the past decade reading analyst reports.
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