Cable Show 2013: TV Everywhere Must Become More Flexible: Panelists

Exec Says Ease of Authentication, Availability of Product Key for Platform Growth
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Washington -- Operators need to make the TV Everywhere experience for consumers easy and flexible if it’s going to be successful, industry executives said Tuesday at the 2013 Cable Show.

Consumer usage of cable digital products such as TV Everywhere and video on demand is rising, but the industry needs to be vigilant in making the services more palatable for viewers who want to view their content whenever and wherever they want, said executives on the Tuesday afternoon panel titled "The Revolution Will Be Tablet-ized: Influence and Impact of Emerging Video Devices."

“If our viewer expects to find us on their tablet or on their phone we don’t want to disappoint them  because [competing] content could exist someplace else,” said Kathleen Finch, general manager of HGTV & DIY Network and Scripps Networks Interactive. “We don’t call it a second-screen experience we call it a multiscreen experience … we want to see where our viewers want to go.”

Both operators and networks have to work together to make TV Everywhere successful and stop listening to the naysayers who say the industry is losing eyeballs to competitors such as Netflix.

“We have to stop buying into this hype that one thing is going to displace another - -it just doesn’t happen,” said Mark Garner, senior vice president, business development, marketing and analytics for A&E Networks. “All this stuff is frickin’ great – we just have to be smart in how to make it better.”

Indeed, Tim Connolly, ESPN vice president of digital video distribution for Disney and ESPN Media Networks said on its surface, TV Everywhere and VOD are better services for consumers than Netflix because they provide content days after it airs on linear channels compared to Netflix, which offers previous seasons of a series.

 “This is the most valuable content – the episode two nights ago of (broadcast network ABC series) Once Upon a Time is a lot more valuable to the consumer than [the series’] last season (on Netflix),” he said. “That’s why you pay $70 for your multichannel subscription and you pay $8 for Netflix. But the two can co-exist and they do.”

Bernadette Aulestia, HBO’s senior vice president of domestic network distribution, added that while the industry has the best content available to offer consumers, it has yet to put its best foot forward with regard to offering that content digitally on a TV Everywhere basis.

“There’s never been a better time to be a content company – people want great content,” she said. “We just haven’t made it very easy (to access),” she said.

Disney’s Connolly said the industry has to work on a better interface so that viewers an easily find the quality programming available on cable’s digital platforms. He pointed to a Disney survey which found that 60% of consumers were aware of Disney Channel and ESPN’s “Watch’ TV Everywhere apps, but only 35% of consumers understood how to use the product.

“People are still confused about how to get a username and password from their MVPD, and how to enter it in,” Connolly he said. “Consumers have said that’s the number one challenge with TV Everywhere. You need simple messages and you need to repeat them often.”

Melanie Griffith, executive vice president, business development for Penthera Partners, also noted that the industry needs to make sure that customers have a satisfactory TV Everywhere experience on mobile and tablets without having to worry about broadband usage caps that operators may impose. 

“There needs to be an enjoyable TV Everywhere experience and it needs to be everywhere,” she said.