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Getting TV Everywhere in Gear

Alan Breznick

More than five years after Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX) and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) introduced the concept of multiscreen video, TV Everywhere is still going nowhere for many, if not most, most viewers.

In a study conducted by Parks Associates last year, only 26% of US consumers knew that their pay-TV operator offered multiscreen video service. While this number was up from just 18% the year before, it still meant that three-quarters of consumers didn't know they could tap into TV Everywhere service.

Similarly, in a survey conducted even more recently, Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) found that a mere 17% of US pay-TV subscribers knew anything about TV Everywhere offerings. The cable industry marketing group is now aiming to raise both multiscreen video awareness and usage to the 50% level by the end of this year.

Industry experts have targeted many culprits for TV Everywhere's low awareness and appeal so far. The reasons range from the general reluctance of TV programmers to grant service providers the content rights for out-of-home viewing, to lackluster marketing efforts for multiple-screen offerings. Experts also point to the pay-TV industry's inability to craft compelling business models for monetizing multiscreen.

Yet TV Everywhere promises to be one of the most potent tools that cable and other pay-TV operators can employ to stem their steady loss of video subscribers. In particular, multiscreen video can help service providers reach young adults and "millennials" who have never subscribed to pay-TV before.

So what can service providers do to get TV Everywhere in gear? Here are some steps that they can start taking now:

Secure out-of-home content rights: Of course, this is easier said than done for service providers because content rights holders want to be duly compensated for the extra screens. But, without those crucial mobile rights, TV Everywhere will be limited to "TV Everywhere Just Inside the Home," deeply cutting into its appeal.

Extend multiscreen video to as many screens as practicable: Consumers increasingly want to view video programming on whatever device happens to be available at the time, whether it's a PC, laptop, tablet, smartphone, Kindle, game console or media streaming player. Recognizing this fact, such pay-TV providers as Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) have already extended their reach to as many as eight different video platforms.

Liberate TV Everywhere from the TV: Just because it's TV programming doesn't mean that consumers should need a TV set and a pay-TV subscription to access it. In an ideal world, viewers should be able to stream the content they want to the device they want without any intermediary. In what's already proving to be a popular plot program, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is now offering an IP-delivered multiscreen streaming service, known as Xfinity on Campus, to six universities around the US, with several more trials in the works.

Make multiscreen video simple and convenient to use: As Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) and TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) have clearly shown, the user interface plays a critical role in the success of a video service. Moving to cloud-based user interfaces (UIs), as Comcast and other service providers have begun to do, will enable pay-TV operators to streamline and refine their interfaces quicker and more efficiently and give the UIs a consistent look across all screens.

Craft a business model for monetizing TV Everywhere: The model could rely mainly on advertising or subscriptions or transactions -- or some mixture of all three. But, without a monetization model in place, service providers will have little incentive to keep developing their multiscreen offerings or promote awareness and usage of them.

TV Everywhere may not go many places yet. But it can go a lot further than it does now with a more concerted effort by both service and content providers.

— Alan Breznick, Cable Practice Leader, Heavy Reading

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