TV Everywhere Faces Standards Conundrum
ATLANTA -- Cable Next-Gen Video Strategies -- While distributing content on multiple platforms may help programmers drive new revenue streams, a lack of standards and the challenge of encoding shows for new devices could hold the sector back, executives said here last week.
“Every time I think we’re getting close to standardization, something like the iPad is created,” thePlatform Inc. vice president of sales and marketing Marty Roberts said on a panel focused on cross-platform TV. (See Canoe Boots Up Interactive Ad Campaign ).
Drawing laughs from pay TV provider and technology vendor executives, SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC) director of advertising product management Malcolm Stanley said the firm has identified a new trend called “nfurication" -- the process of creating multiple copies of an arbitrary object, each of which varies slightly from the original product.
"We’re very concerned that if this gets out of control, the world as we know it may end,” Stanley said regarding the challenges in creating multiple copies of programs from platforms including cable video-on-demand (VoD), Web video, and, mobile devices.
Stanley said some programmers must create 15 “copy variants” for each piece of content they have, ranging from 720p and 1080i HDTV formats to versions of a video created for some Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) devices. Adding metadata to each piece of content complicates the process and requires “massive systems from a data flow perspective.”
Some online video sites are also relying on meta-data to help differentiate themselves from competitors, Roberts said. But that can also create challenges for firms that encode online video like thePlatform.
“Why is [Comcast Corp.’s] Fancast better than Hulu?" he asked. “What we find is every site we push content to has a different meta-data solution we need to match.” (See thePlatform Extends OTT On-Ramps.)
Panelists also debated the impact that viewers migrating from TV to the Web and mobile platforms would have on programmer bottom lines. “At the end of the day, the real problem isn’t that viewership is migrating between these platforms. The real problem is that the monetization of video on these platforms is lower than it is on TV,” Roberts said.
Some programmers are looking to increase the amount of ads they place in online videos to generate more revenue, Roberts said, noting how ABC recently doubled the amount of ads on ABC.com to six minutes per hour.
And while PBS is commercial-free, Roberts said the network generates revenue by pitching DVDs and merchandise sales in all of its programs.
While cable MSOs such as Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI) haven’t charged subscribers additional fees to access programs online through their TV Everywhere sites, Colin Dixon, a senior partner at The Diffusion Group (TDG) , said there may be an opportunity for programmers and distributors to charge consumers a premium for accessing videos on multiple platforms. (See Rogers's TV Everywhere Passes 100K Subs, Comcast's 'Xfinity' to Go Mobile in 2010 , and Hulu Readies Subscription Plan.)
“The average person spends $62 or $63 [monthly] for a pay TV subscription. A substantial number will pay $75 for a three-screen service,” Dixon said, pointing to research conducted by his research firm. “They’re paying for mobility -- they’re paying for access.”
Starz Entertainment LLC executive director of on-demand Scott Barton said he believes that the TV will remain the “primary viewing device” for consumers. But he noted that Starz offers a larger online library of movies on its Website, Starz Online, than it does through its Starz On Demand VoD offering. Starz Online features 300 movie titles, with 80 percent of them offered in HD, while Starz On Demand offers 100 titles at a time, with 40 in HD format.
— Steve Donohue, Special to Light Reading Cable