Cable Operators

Why ‘TV Everywhere’ Still Isn't Everywhere

4/30/2012 2:26 PM Eastern

How fast should conventional TV move
to Internet and mobile platforms, and on
what terms?

No one disagrees that the next generation
of TV must span multiple devices and
deliver content wherever people want it.
But a gulf remains between those who
believe the industry risks being left behind
as consumer viewing habits shift,
and those who argue that a workable
economic model must be firmly in place
from the get-go. There’s an underlying
tension about who, ultimately, controls the
customer experience — and about how
to make money in an anytime, anywhere,
any-device world.


Multichannel News
assembled a roundtable
of five top industry executives to get
their thoughts on where TV Everywhere is
today and where it’s headed. On the call,
in alphabetical order:

Shelley Brindle, HBO executive vice
president of domestic network distribution;

Denise Denson, Viacom Media Networks
executive vice president of content
distribution and marketing;

Bruce Eisen, Dish Network vice president
of online content development and
strategy;

Rebecca Glashow, Discovery Communications
senior vice president of digital
distribution and partnerships; and

Piers Lingle, Comcast vice president
of application and video IP development.

The discussion was led by Multichannel
News
technology editor Todd Spangler; an
edited transcript follows. In a separate interview,
Turner Network Sales chief operating
officer Coleman Breland shared his
thoughts on the topic (see Q&A).

MCN: I wanted
to start by getting
a temperature
reading.
Where is the
industry on TV
Everywhere?
Three years ago,
is this where you
all thought we
would be at this
point? There is a
general impression
by some
that TV Everywhere
has been,
as an industry
initiative, pretty
slow to roll out.


Piers Lingle: I
think we’re pretty
happy with
where TV Everywhere
is right
now. We have a
bunch of different
ways for our
customers to enjoy
their content.
So through either
their typical settop
box but getting
beyond that,
what we consider
TV Everywhere
is looking at this
content on mobile
platforms,
looking at the
content on Web
platforms.

We tried to, both either on our own properties or working
through partners on their properties, to be able to
provide this content to customers pretty much in as convenient
and as pervasive a way as we can. So I think we’re
happy with where it is today, and I think we can look forward
to some better things coming up.

Bruce Eisen: I agree. I would say things are doing well
right now. We’ve got content from, well, all the broadcasters
and most of the cable networks at this point. Clearly,
some networks are providing more content than others.
But I think everyone is certainly moving in the direction of
providing more content. It just takes some networks a bit
longer to get there than others.

MCN: Shelley, from HBO’s perspective, you guys are
basically fully distributed with HBO Go. Where do you
go from here?

Shelley Brindle: I think it’s where we always hoped we
would be. You’re right, it’s like 99% distributed, and so we’re
pretty thrilled. I think we’ll go wherever the consumer is. I
think that’s been the strategy up to this point, in terms of
getting on platforms with broad distribution and a variety of
devices. And we don’t need to be everywhere. We just want
to be where the majority of consumers are.

MCN: Rebecca, give us a sense of where Discovery is
with authenticated content.

Rebecca Glashow: Is TV Everywhere where we thought
it would be? I
think, clearly,
the answer
is “no,” because
I think the way
TV Everywhere
was conceived
three years ago
was probably,
in many ways,
more narrow in
scope to what it’s
become.

Things like the
tablet didn’t exist
back when
the concept for
TV Everywhere
[originated]. And
I don’t think everyone
was on
the same page
about what TV
Everywhere was.
I think it was,
“We want to put
content online
and authent icate
it,” but I don’t
think it was really
as consumerfriendly
as I think
the definition has
shaped up to be.


MCN: I know
Discovery Communications
has
described the TV
Everywhere content
that you’re
providing to Comcast as an ongoing “test.” When does
that stop being a test?

Glashow: It’s a test, I think, because at the time, back to
what TV Everywhere was, just putting content online, it was
very narrow in scope. As far as building a real consumer
product that we feel like our consumers are going to respond
to and have an ease of use and have a consistent experience
across the industry — that takes time. I think we’re
probably closer than we ever were to [launching] products
in the marketplace and are actively having those conversations
now with distributors.

MCN: So you think the market has changed, or the
dynamics in the market have changed, so the time is
better now?

Glashow: I think defining TV Everywhere took a long time.
I would say each of the distributors probably had a very different
point of view about what TV Everywhere is. Is it in the
home, is it out of the home, is it the linear product, is it an
on-demand product? How do those diff erent products intersect
across different platforms and devices? And I don’t
think that was really scoped out.

MCN: Denise, let’s hear your thoughts. What’s the level
set on where are we now, and have things evolved to the
point where it makes sense to try to pursue these deals
more aggressively?


Denise Denson: Well, I agree with most everything Rebecca
said, so I’m not sure I want to follow her every time.
[Laughter.] But we’re happy with the collaborations so far
in the industry on where TV Everywhere is at. I do agree,
conceptually, that we are getting closer together on what it
means.

Measurement is a big key, for at least our products. As
the devices grow, or as we want ubiquity on all these platforms,
we need
measurement to
follow, because
that’s obviously
going to be one
of the key ways
we monet ize
this TV Everywhere
experience.
So I’d say
that’s the piece
we need the industry
to focus
on and evolve
more quickly.

MCN: Bruce,
what’s in it for
Dish? Why are
you offering a
bunch of this
authenticated
content to subscribers?

Eisen: Well,
because we believe
that’s how
many of our subscribers
want
to consume the
content. Our job
is to be able to
make the content
available to
them when and
where they want
to watch it. They
pay us a decent
amount of money each month for that and we believe that
it’s a value-add that we should be providing them.

MCN: And the evidence, in terms of hard metrics, is that
it is working the way it’s intended to work?

Eisen: Certainly, we are seeing more and more usage each
day and there’s a
good number of
people watching
a good amount
of the content.
So I would say
yes. But personally
I would like
to see more content
made available.
In my perfect
world, the
primetime lineup
from all the
networks would
be available. If
you subscribe to
the network, you
get the content.

MCN: So we
agree that TV
Everywhere
adds value and
people say they
want more of
it. How does
everybody in the
ecosystem here
make money
from that, and is
that really where
the conversations
are starting and
stopping these
days?


Denson: I think
the first place
you’re going to
make money is
through advertising and being able to have more eyeballs or
more people watch our content and have greater exposure.
So I think that’s going to be the No. 1. It does reinforce the
subscription model, and that was probably one of the initial
purposes, and so we would like to keep that business strong.
But I also think there should be consideration from both the
consumer and the operator for that added value. Being able
to receive content on your iPad, on your phone, in home,
out of home should be at additional cost or additional value
exchange. So I think that’s how we make money.

MCN: But the initial promise of TV Everywhere was that
this would be provided as a no-extra-charge kind of thing,
and that’s how it’s been marketed to date.


Denson: I guess it’s back to the point where I think TV Everywhere
has been a lot of different things. It’s probably the
worst-used term in the industry. Because when I use terms
even internally, in my company, when I’m talking about
TV Everywhere, I am talking about an on-demand package
that we have offered to some distributors to date. And
TV Everywhere, when used in the press and lots of places,
could mean your linear feed.

So I think some types of experiences could be added value
and just reinforce the subscription. Some types of experiences
of TV Everywhere could be at an incremental charge.
I think that the content providers should be reimbursed in
a number of ways. … As we move eyeballs to platforms that
aren’t measured, I mean, I think there needs to be additional
consideration.

MCN: Bruce, what’s your feeling about that?

Eisen: I agree with some of it, and I disagree with other
parts of it. I do agree that it is an additional value to the
consumer, to the subscriber. And I do agree that it would
be great if we could — or when we can — as an industry,
measure it so that the ad-supported programmers can get
the benefi t and value of that.

I don’t agree
that it makes
sense at this
point to charge
the subscriber
for it, because
the subscriber
has other ways
of get t ing the
content. I think
what ’s maybe
implicit in Viacom’s
position is
that if [consumers]
want it, they
have to pay us
for it, otherwise
they won’t get it.
I’m not sure that
that’s accurate.
There are other
ways to get it
that are less beneficial
to the industry,
be it the
distributor or the
programmer or
the content creator.

I think nickel-and-diming
them, saying, “If
you want to watch
on the iPad you
gotta pay up, if
you want to watch
on the iPhone you
gotta pay up,” after
you’ve paid us
a decent amount of
money already is not the best way to go about doing all that.

MCN: Anybody else want to respond to that?

Glashow: I guess I can jump in. TV Everywhere — whatever
that definition is we’re using — needs to basically create
ubiquity of product. There’s sort of an expectation and certainly
a competitive marketplace with all the IP-connected
devices that are now in the home and in people’s hands that
they have the access to what they’re paying for. I think that
environment is sort of demanding of it, and so I think that’s
certainly what’s propelling forward the meat of the industry
to move content to multiple platforms.

With that being said, moving our entire business to an
on-demand platform is not necessarily beneficial to a network
like ourselves, where we still use the linear network.
Obviously, with all our networks being original content, we
really rely on the linear network to drive awareness and create
promotion for our shows. That is very challenging to do
on an on-demand platform.

So clearly, as we change the business and shift the business,
there is going to be a value exchange in these conversations.
And I think it’s realistic. Denise’s point is the right
one, which is as we change what the model is and we move
into new business models, certainly there is some sort of
exchange there.

MCN: How much of a factor is piracy in the TV Everywhere
discussion? You can get Discovery shows or Jersey
Shore
or Game of Thrones from BitTorrent. Shouldn’t the
industry be offering a way to get that legitimately?


Denson: I think that’s one of the reasons why at Viacom we
support the TV Everywhere efforts, because we do look at
providing legitimate ways to reach this content as a tactic to
reduce piracy. So it is key. There’s a number of other tactics
we’d love for the industry to adopt to make sure that this
piracy is reduced. But TV Everywhere is a start.

Lingle: I think consumers have shown over and over again if you give them an easy way to get to their content in a legal,
safe way, they’d much prefer to do that than try to figure
out some way around the system. So yeah, I wholeheartedly
second that concept of, the more ways we can get it out to
customers in a friendly way the better off we’ll be.

MCN: But it doesn’t seem like the urgency is there,
whether that’s from cord-cutting or piracy or anything
else, for someone like a Discovery to go aggressively
into TV Everywhere at this point. Is that right, Rebecca?


Glashow: Right. I don’t think we make business decisions
based on fear. We still have to be very thoughtful on how we
bring a new product out into the market. And, obviously,
piracy is a real issue, but we also want to balance that out
with real issues around advertising and measurement and
real issues around the value exchange with the distributor
— and real issues about putting out a consumer product
that is meaningful and is going to resonate.

Because if you put out a product that is subpar just to get
it out there, to rush something out, and people aren’t using
it, we haven’t succeeded in stopping piracy.

Brindle: I’ll just chime in. From our perspective, obviously
piracy is something very important to us. As a premium service,
we potentially have the most to lose. But our feeling
about it is, the best way to avoid piracy is to get your content
where consumers want to watch it. Really, what piracy is
about is consumer behavior. So I think part of the aggressive
rollout of [HBO] Go across all platforms is really kind of
the best antipiracy measure that we can take.

MCN: What about the notion that consumer expectations
are changing, so that using different kinds of screens
in the home, on a tablet or game console, are how they
expect to watch TV? Denise?

Denson: Well, we’re a great company to ask that question
of. Obviously, we’ve taken a different position that
all devices in the home are not TV, even though they’re
in a home. But I don’t think there is one common message
out there to the consumer that you should have
TV on your iPad or you should be able to get TV on your
computer. I think consumers today are probably very
confused about what they can and can’t get and how
they can and can’t get it.

So does a consumer think that in their home, any screen
should be a TV? I don’t believe they do. And we don’t believe
that the iPad experience or that all platforms are created
equal. So I’ll drone on about measurement again, but
today Nielsen doesn’t measure the iPad. So imagine how
many teenagers might sit in their bedroom and watch Jersey
Shore
from their bed on an iPad and how concerning
that could be for us if they move away from a television set,
which is monitored by Nielsen.

MCN: But don’t you want to get the audience now,
while their behaviors are still in flux and then get the
measurement piece to catch up? Or you’ve been down
that road [with free video-on-demand] and that doesn’t
work for you?


Denson: We’re testing it, right?
We’re on Cablevision [the Optimum
App for in-home streaming].
And we’ve been included in the
Comcast test markets. We’re looking
at it. I’m not concerned that the
consumer will come when the time
is right. So maybe I don’t really believe
that they’re not going to watch
my shows if I don’t participate as an
early mover. I think we are the core
of that audience. Between Nickelodeon
and MTV, we are [the] zero to
20 [age demographic], and those are
the users who are going to drive the
next viewing experience.

So I think we should get it right and
I think we need measurement. And I
think the industry should press for it.
Bruce, it’s gonna make your job a lot
easier with programmers if you had
measurement in place.

Eisen: Oh, I agree. I’m all for it. I
want that very badly.

MCN: On the question of a
multitude of IP-connected devices
— Piers, Comcast lets customers
access content via Xbox, on iPads
and iPhones, and other devices.
But, for example, you’re not allowing
HBO Go on Roku or Samsung
Smart TVs. So there’s a bit of a
customer confusion issue here,
right, about what can I get where?

Lingle: It can be. I think what
we’re trying to do is enable different
platforms and as many platforms
as we can. But each one of
those takes some time to think
through what are all the implications.
So it’s not something you
can just turn on overnight.

MCN: What are the issues on
those platforms you haven’t
activated yet?

Lingle: It can be any number of issues.
Sometimes it’s business issues
but a lot of times … we don’t know
the technology as well as we should,
and so we need to take our time to
explore what the different kind of security
mechanisms, content protection
mechanisms there are. There’s
sort of a variety of terms, and they
can range really from technical to
business reasons.

September