Cable networks, service providers say TV Everywhere is a top priority

By Jim O'Neill on Jun 05 2014 at 9:00 AM

TV Everywhere remains a top priority for broadcasters concerned about customer churn and the continuing rise in the popularity of mobile devices.

“We need to be where our audience is,” Stuart Schneiderman, SVP consumer insights and measurement at Viacom, told an audience at BroadbandTVcon in Santa Clara, Calif.

Fellow panelist Scott Barton, VP of digital and on demand programming at the Starz network, said that the company launched its TV Everywhere play because it saw a shift in how content was being consumed.

“We want to stay relevant, ahead of the curve,” he said. “It’s all about content for us.” Barton said Starz has used TV Everywhere to offer free reviews of new shows launching – even streaming it a week before the premiere without requiring authentication – to “get people in the front door and exposed them to the whole value of our subscription.”

TV Everywhere technology is among the fastest product launches ever from North American pay-TV providers, with nearly 90% of all pay-TV households having access to the technology.

One of the earliest rollouts was Rogers Communications in Canada, which launched in 2009.

Nevertheless, Niraj Desai, director video product management at the company, said the company was only at “mile 3 or 4 of a 10 mile race” in its rollout.

“Engagement and usage are following the same trend in Canada as in the U.S.,” he said. “Adoption is slow because of awareness.”

Despite being “designed to be used in Starbucks,” Desai said, Rogers has seen a marked shift in its current usage.

“We see it as a key trend that more and more people are using TV Everywhere in the home on tablets,” he said, increasingly for Live TV.

“TV Everywhere started off as VOD, as second screen,” he said. “But it’s begun to turn into a place where more people go for live TV.”

Especially sports.

Desai said Rogers saw an upsurge in TVE usage as a “first screen application” during the Winter Olympics, specifically during the U.S./Canada hockey game. Desai said he expects this month’s FIFA World Cup to drive TV Everywhere usage even higher.

Also looking to the World Cup as a major kickoff for TV Everywhere usage is ESPN.

Damon Phillips, VP of  WatchESPN and ESPN3, said the sports network -- which this week launched on Chromecast – sees “99% of our content” watched live.

“In eight days the World Cup will be on ESPN, and we see that as a watershed moment for TV Everywhere,” Phillips said. “TV Everywhere will be at forefront of our programming… we have eight days to figure it out and we want to make sure we provide value to partners.”

Phillips said “sports is a totally different animal” from most other programming because it’s live. And, increasingly, he said, “Fans have the expectation that they can watch TV anywhere.”

Phillips said ESPN’s TVE and OTT content has seen rapid growth and that ESPN expects to see online consumption as a hockey stick over time.

“We think it’s one of our best experiences for fans,” he said.

Phillips also said ESPN is ambivalent as to where its content is consumed, whether through traditional pay TV, TVE or on mobile devices.

“We’ll be where the fans are,” he said. “As long as we’re controlling ads and  quality we don’t care where it's consumed, we’re serving fans.”

While ESPN currently has no plans to go direct to consumer, Phillips said, that doesn’t mean the sports programmer isn’t aware of macros trends in the industry that point that way.

“It would be irresponsible of us to put our heads in the sand and ignore it,” he said. “The industry is evolving.”

For example, he said, ESPN still sees about half of its online content consumed on computers; a year ago it was close to 75%. Mobile phones and tablets are seeing a huge increase in traffic.

Adam Ware, head of digital marketing for The Tennis Channel, said the network sees TV Everywhere as a way to extend the brand, offering live coverage that allows viewers to follow an ongoing match from home, on their commute to work or in the office.

“Tennis is like March Madness all the time,” he said. “Early rounds start during the week and go all day long. Fans don’t want to catch up on it later. We look at TV Everywhere as taking the brand itself and offering it on a linear basis. The brand is the thing.”

Ware said he expects to see more brands launch over the top, too, taking advantage of technology to go direct to the consumer, especially as capacity pay-TV provider networks continues to get tighter. The Tennis Channel recently rolled out a new OTT product that offers ala carte and monthly subscription options.

“What really matters is that there’s a shift in the way people are consuming content,” said Scott Barton, VP of digital and on demand programming at the Starz network. “We want to stay relevant, ahead of the curve.

“It’s all about content for us.” Barton said Starz has used TV Everywhere to offer free reviews of new shows launching – even streaming it a week before the premiere without requiring authentication – to “get people in the front door and exposed them to the whole value of our subscription.”

Follow me on Twitter @JimONeillMedia

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