New York -- In order to speed up the "TV Everywhere" movement, the industry must find ways to simplify the authentication process.
John Skipper, ESPN president, co-chairman Disney Media Networks, speaking at the "TV 3.0: What's Next" event, presented by the B&C Hall of Fame and held at The Paley Center for Media here Wednesday afternoon, said that finding ways to make authenticating Watch ESPN as easy as possible is what's keeping him up at night.
Alluding to what Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav said earlier at the event about TV Everywhere's sluggish rollout, Skipper noted that different distributors currently have different ways of authenticating subscribers. "Right now it's not as easy as we wish it was to authenticate. We need some uniform way. One password no matter where you are," he said. "We can't ask people to take out the cable bill and figure out your number. The Watch ESPN experience itself is very easy. We have to get past the difficulty of authenticating your cable subscription."
Skipper, who was interviewed by B&C editor in chief Ben Grossman, called authentication the "lead priority" at ESPN/Disney. "David [Zaslav] was bemoaning, appropriately, that it's taking a long time. We're among the first movers. HBO is among the first movers. We have to provide [subscribers] with tools to watch what they want, wherever and whenever they want to."
He said cable operators are also interested in accelerating the process because it "adds value" to their offerings and helps "prevent cord-cutting."
Given the "perishable" nature of sports, where currency lasts only as long as the most recent games and commentary, Watch ESPN is critical to the worldwide leader's success. Skipper noted that "99.4%" of the viewing for the sports programmer, whether game action, SportsCenter or its studio shows, occurs live.
ESPN, through deals with Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, Verizon FiOS and Comcast, currently allows authenticated subscribers to watch simulcasts of ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN Deportes via the Watch ESPN app on their computers, tablets and mobile devices.
With Watch ESPN currently available to some 40 million subscribers, ESPN executive vice president of sales and marketing Sean Bratches said at sports giant's upfront presentation to advertisers in Manhattan last month that the worldwide leader wants to "double the distribution of our affiliate base that has Watch ESPN in the next year."