Video services

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

spiral 12/5/2012 | 4:31:10 PM
re: TV Everywhere Faces Standards Conundrum

Now that broadband is prevalent, the answer is to do all the processing of interactivity and video in the cloud, and stream video to the end device. This takes the device limitations out of the equation, which is what causes all this "nfurication". One platform in the cloud that streams to every device. Makes sense for content providers/MSOs, and it makes sense for the consumer. Furthermore, the platform in the cloud should be built on web-standards so creative teams don't have to learn new skills. What did you say? That platform already exists? It's called CloudTV™ by ActiveVideo, and it's already got nearly 5 million users.

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:31:08 PM
re: TV Everywhere Faces Standards Conundrum

Interesting point, and you were able to put in a shameless plug all at the same time. ;)  One thing we've been tracking more closely is cable's move toward cloudy, video CDNs, which would seem to be a great fit for cable's TV Everywhere ambitions. Doing more follow up on those developments and it seems that video CDNs under development should work as advertised, but that it's a trickier proposition because this is video... so ops have to be especially sensitive to jitter, latency, etc. since consumers won't tolerate much of that. Anyway, we'll have more on those video CDN challenges soon enough. JB

kumaramitabh 12/5/2012 | 4:30:52 PM
re: TV Everywhere Faces Standards Conundrum

One of the most challanging developments will be to deal with 3D as it comes in heavy via satellite and DBS. The memories of how quickly HD took centrestage once services were introduced can barely be forgotton. Platforms on Dish Network and DirecTV moved exclusively to HD channels.

The same phenomena seems to now happening with the new Avtar of 3D. It will come quicker than anticipated and standards work for this will overshadow many brave efforts we have seen so far.



Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:30:49 PM
re: TV Everywhere Faces Standards Conundrum

I just question if 3D will take off at the same speed as HD.  Millions of consumers have already upgraded to HD sets without 3DTV, so I don't see a great number of them buying another HD with 3D capabilities right away since there's not much 3D content (video, games, etc) yet.  They might consider 3D-based TVs in the next cycle of upgrades , but i think that adoption will be more gradual than straight HD was.  However, there might be a market for 2D-to-3D converter devices, such as the one that Motorola showed off privately at The Cable Show, but if the quality is poor in could turn consumers off on 3DTV before it has a real chance of taking off. JB

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:30:49 PM
re: TV Everywhere Faces Standards Conundrum


My guess is that 3D will not start with broadcast in bulk but with recorded programs.  Systems are struggling with HD deployment (how much 1080p is really being broadcast?) and 3D is another jump in bandwidth needs.

So, I think you will see the TVs for quite awhile before you see lots of 3D channels.



Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:30:44 PM
re: TV Everywhere Faces Standards Conundrum

Can't disagree there... fewer than a handful of linear 3D channels have even been announced, and the first of the lot, ESPN3D, is a part-time channel that goes dark when there's no 3D programming on the schedule, which, for now, is almost all the time. Offering 3DTV content on VoD or the linear, event-driven stuff using SDV would seem to be a more efficient  use of limited bandwidth. JB

Sign In