Cable Show 2013: Industry Still Needs to Simplify TVE Authentication Process

Panelists Also Say Measurement, Messaging Need Upgrading to Boost Platform
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Washington -- While the industry’s TV Everywhere push has yielded programming advances, work remains on the authentication, measurement and messaging fronts.

Executives speaking on panel here at The Cable Show here Monday afternoon all spoke about the continuing need to simplify the verification process as a means to bring more consumers to TV Everywhere. Todd Spangler, New York digital editor for Variety, moderated the panel, entitled: "Authenticate Me, Baby: Consumer Behavior in The TV Everywhere Era."

Marcien Jenckes, senior vice president and general manager video services of Comcast Cable, said the MSO, which deployed auto-authentication through its consumer’s cable-modem address during the Olympics and NCAA basketball tournament, is looking to expand that form of identification to other content.

The nation’s top provider is also lowering the barrier of TVE entry by allowing customers to either use their phone number or the last four digits of their social security number, instead of having to remember their Comcast video account number for access. Jenckes said the company is also collaborating with Facebook as a means of TV Everywhere authentication.

Such steps are important as a means to prevent MPVDs from losing ground to streaming providers offering more specific products. Jeremy Legg, senior vice president of business development and multiplatform distribution Turner Broadcasting System, said TVE's authentication complexities emanate because it is an initiative -- and a combination of efforts from programmers and MPVDs -- not a product like Netflix or Amazon Prime. “Inherently, that has made TV Everywhere roll out unevenly,” he said. This summer, Turner will launch TBS and TNT simulcast services, joining similar entries from CNN and Cartoon Network.

Such complications also hold true on the advertiser side. Rob Thun,  executive vice president of business operations at  Univision Communications, said the industry needs to be in a position to sell its digital, on-demand and mobile products as a bundle. “Unfortunately, these measures have to be aggregated. There is no universal standard,” he said, noting that Univision is currently working toward acquiring rights for its own live streaming service.

Legg said that while TVE hadn’t been a major part of the upfront advertising conversation over the past three years, that changed this time around. “Madison Avenue is now ready to make those decisions. You can now roll up C3 viewing on iPad, to some extent. Buyers have to decide whether to run a digital or linear ad in that platform,” he said, adding that some agencies are still structured with separate digital and linear units.

Although TV Everywhere audiences are growing, the business end still doesn’t carry the same weight as the historic video form. “The good news is that people are watching on different platforms,” said Ron Lamprecht, executive vice president of digital distribution at NBCUniversal, “but you don’t get the full credit. It’s a fraction of the value of when people watch on live TV.”

Still, Mike Biard, EVP distribution Fox Networks, said the industry can’t afford to wait around for uniform measurements and currency from Nielsen. “We’re taking it on faith that as we build it, the advertising measurement will come,” he said.

Biard noted that TVE underlines the value of the subscription video bundle, vis a vis other entertainment options and that is something the industry needs to do a better job of communicating.

With operators/programmers at various stages of TVE deployment, it’s not the easiest message for the industry to disseminate, compared to more focused presentations from Netflix or Hulu. Nevertheless, Jenckes said that is among Comcast’s goals for the platforms this year and beyond.

“We’re focused on continuing to build the most robust in- and out-of-home offering available,” he said. “We also want to work with other distributors in raising the industry bar and communicate that through consumer messaging.”