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Is TV Everywhere Cable’s Savior?

15 Jun, 2011 By: Chris Tribbey

Just a couple of years ago, HBO tried something new with its subscribers in Wisconsin, doing a trial where broadband subscribers could access on HBO content on their computer.

Today, it’s HBO Go, and more than 2.6 million subscribers have downloaded the TV everywhere application to their computers and mobile devices.

It was just last November that ESPN first tried out its live-TV everywhere concept. Today, more than 2 million ESPN subscribers have downloaded the application, across a range of devices.

Pay-TV operators used The Cable Show in Chicago to tout the advances in TV Everywhere, a fast-moving technology that, they hope, will help keep subscribers from cutting the cord.

“We have always invested in the most desired and watched entertainment in America,” said Jeff Bewkes, chairman and CEO of Time Warner, Inc. “The best content is the stuff that debuts on cable, on television screens. We’ve got to put it on demand. We should be really happy and excited about where we are right now.

“We’re sitting on the cusp of having all the programming on television and putting it all on demand … on every device,” he added. “That’s the job we have to do now.”

That work is already well under way. By July there will be nearly 50 TV Everywhere initiatives offered by pay-TV operators, according to recent data from research firm Parks Associates, a pace of growth that Parks senior analyst Brett Sappington dubbed “remarkable.”

“It’s only the beginning,” said Alison Moore, SVP of HBO digital platforms. “The consumer expects to get HBO anywhere and everywhere. We’re mapping to consumer behavior, instead of expecting consumers to come to us. What we’re really trying to do is reinforce the value of linear subscriptions.”

HBO Go next will come to game consoles, starting in the fourth quarter, she added.

“It used to be cable was the place for choice, a 100 channels,” said Liz Claman, an anchor on Fox Business Network. “Now there are hundreds of thousands of choices. Cable doesn’t want to be the next music industry.”

Cable won’t ever suffer the fate the music industry met, because the cable industry — and the content companies supplying it — is adapting to the Internet and the challenges it poses, according to Philippe Dauman, president and CEO of Viacom Inc. But TV Everywhere still needs to be monetized, even if pay-TV operators are offering it for free, he added.

“We need to have a measurement system in place, so that the viewing on mobile devices gets measured, so we can sell ads, because that’s the currency,” Dauman said. “That’s one of the obstacles of getting true TV Everywhere.”

Ron Frankel, CEO of Synacor, which helps facilitate TV everywhere services for HBO, Epix and the like, said TV Everywhere is an opportunity for the cable industry “to take back from over-the-top [video], to interrupt what’s happening on the Web.”

The key, Frankel said, is to “make sure consumers have an easy experience, a very simple experience.”

That has been a challenge for companies like Synacor, dealing with multiple video formats from multiple sources, Frankel noted.

“I just think we have to make the access so much easier,” he added. “Once there’s enough content out there, it can be a huge win for the cable industry. I think it’s going to be a couple years yet before we have all the programmers online. I think we’re in the second inning.”

Plenty of metadata, ease of use and the ability for consumers to access everything on mobile and PC devices that they can access on their TVs are all part of the equation, Cable Show speakers agreed.

David Preschlack, EVP of affiliate sales and marketing for Disney & ESPN Networks Group, said nobody in pay TV could have predicted the advent of iPads and tablets, and the consumer thirst for content on those devices.

“It’s been a bit of a row to hoe with rights and technical [issues],” he said. “[But] we’re not talking about what we want to do; we’re doing it. Out-of-home live viewing is significant to a lot of our fans.

“You can’t underestimate the importance of making it simple and making it intuitive,” Preschlack added. “I think this industry has come an incredibly long way, both from the technology and content perspective. It is very much the future of where this business is going.”

About the Author: Chris Tribbey

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