Cable Operators

The Battle Of The Platforms

1/02/2010 2:00 AM Eastern

The most glaring sign of TV's platform metamorphosis was Comcast's deal to acquire a majority stake in NBC Universal.

The deal isn't the first mega-merger to tout potential synergies between TV content, consumer electronics and new media, which have been difficult to realize in the past. “If this were five years ago and I saw a deal like this, I'd say, 'Here we go again, with a company that is trying to leverage its media position to own a lot of stuff they don't necessarily know what to do with,' ” said Forrester Research vice president and principal analyst James McQuivey. “But we are in a different place now. Comcast understands very clearly that the Web is going to figure prominently in their business.”

Screen connectors Viewer WatchOver the past year, Comcast has ramped up the video content available on its Fancast.com Web site, which received 11.3 million unique viewers in October of 2009, up 244% from a year earlier, according to Comcast Interactive Media's senior vice president of Fancast and online entertainment Karin Gilford.
In December, the MSO took an even bigger step with the launch of Fancast Xfinity TV, which will offer existing video subscribers about 14,000 hours of content.

 

Ultimately, Gilford hopes this effort will lay the basis for a more converged platform that would allow consumers to use the site to search for content, set their DVR to record programs and to bookmark VOD titles.

“You just imagine all the great features that will make it much easier for people to access all this great content, not only online but through the DVR and VOD,” Gilford said.

Others are thinking along the same lines.

“There is a perception that TV Everywhere is primarily a cable initiative,” said Verizon Communications vice president of content strategy and acquisition Terry Denson. “It is not. We are actively discussing this with all the content providers.”

Verizon Wireless, for example, already has extensive video available to mobile subscribers, with over 200 long-form series, and its FiOS service has already launched some authenticated services for online video, with more to come, Denson said.

AT&T is also actively exploring its own version of TV Everywhere and “recently launched a Web site (www.entertainment.att.net) with a slew of content,” notes the telco's executive vice president of content Dan York. “One of the reasons we built U-verse as an all-IP television platform was because it gives us an advantage in offering a truly converged and integrated content experience.”

DirecTV has also been aggressively pursuing cross-platform strategies to establish itself as the leader in video services, according to the satellite-TV provider's executive vice president of entertainment, Eric Shanks. It has deployed a wide variety of interactive, on-demand and cross-platform services with set-top boxes connected both to satellite dishes and the Internet for content delivery.

“Our 'NFL Sunday Ticket' [out-of-market pro football package] gives them everything,” Shanks said. “They can watch all the games on their high-definition TVs and use interactive services [to access scores and other information.] Or if they're away from home, they can watch all the games on their PC or mobile device. Almost anything you can give a sports fan, they will use, mobile, broadband, interactivity, or high definition.”

News is another area where the future of converged content is already something of a reality.

“Digital media is engrained in everything we do and it helps across the board,” said Mark Lukasiewicz, vice president of NBC News Specials and Digital Media, who added that NBC News served around 150 million video streams in October of 2009. “That is trending to close to 2 billion video streams a year.”

To make that video more accessible, NBC recently launched a embedded video player that allows bloggers and users to edit their clips and it deployed tools that make video searching and access much easier.

CNN.com senior vice president and general manager K.C. Estenson also made note of the importance of digital media. “This year we've rolled out a whole series of products and features that have had video at their center.”

The company has completely revamped CNN.com to make video even more prominent and it has launched an iPhone app that offers live news video. In October, CNN Digital had more than 38.2 million visitors who watched more than 285 million minutes of video and it had 11.9 million visitors to its mobile site.

Before entertainment-programming distributors can embrace those efforts more widely, some new advertising models must be established. Those efforts are the subject of the next story, on page 8.

MONTHLY SCREEN USE BY AGE
(Hours: Minutes)

  2-11 12-17 18-24 25-34 35-44 55-64 65-PLUS People 2-PLUS
SOURCE: The Nielsen Co., Three Screen Report, 3rd Quarter, 2009
Traditional TV Viewing 101:24 100:26 97:57 116:59 124:10 140:38 160:55 179:03
Timeshifted TV Viewing 6:06 5:21 5:31 10:01 9:41 7:57 7:50 3:43
Surfing the Internet 5:06 10:39 27:18 36:07 35:11 31:27 28:16 23:07
Internet-Video Viewing 1:49 2:59 5:57 4:57 3:47 3:10 1:55 1:32
Mobile-Phone Video Viewing n/a 7:13 4:20 2:53 2:36 2:53 2:10 n/a

 

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