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