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SMT Conference: TV Everywhere At Least Three Years Away From Full Implementation

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The panel discussed means to accelerate TV Everywhere's expansion
It will be at least three years until TV Everywhere is fully implemented, but its marketing and promotion will begin in earnest across all sports in the next six months, said a panel of broadcasters and distributors during a session at the ’12 Covington & Burling Sports Media & Technology conference titled, “Authentication: TV Everywhere Challenges & Opportunities.” TBS Senior VP/Business Development & Multiplatform Distribution Jeremy Legg said, “The number of programmers that either have not launched TV Everywhere or completed TV Everywhere deals is getting smaller. Everyone will be on the playing field relatively soon or sooner. Some people will be on the 10-yard line. Some people will be on the 50-yard line.” He added that reaching a point where everyone has those rights is critical to breaking through and making TV Everywhere pervasive. Comcast Senior VP/Digital & Emerging Platforms Matt Strauss said that the effort also will require heavy marketing so that consumers know what TV Everywhere is and what content they can access. Strauss: “We can’t assume people are going to understand this. It will require meaningful marketing. When customers understand the value, it will be consumed.” NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel said that the process could move quicker if cable and satellite distributors develop systems to reduce the amount of information consumers must enter to authenticate their subscriptions. He added that Comcast developed technology that automatically made Olympic video available to its subscribers during the London Games. Zenkel: “You’re going to lose people every time you require them to put in some personal information. When the industry gets to a point where that information is not necessary or minimized, people are going to blow through the gates. We saw examples of that in London. We were incredibly encouraged by that.”

USER FRIENDLY: ESPN3 VP Damon Phillips said that another development that would accelerate the process would be requiring only one authentication that would cover every outlet, from ESPN to Turner to Fox to NBC. Phillips: “When I sign in at a Turner site, I should be able to come to ESPN and not have to sign in.” Strauss said that the cable industry did not help itself by calling the process “authentication.” Strauss: “It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.” But he added that the cable industry has “gotten smarter” with the process by doing automatic authentication -- by checking IP addresses -- so that people at home do not have to do anything but click “play.” Strauss said, “All of these things are evolving. You want to make it easy and seamless, but it has to be secure. It has to be secure from a rights standpoint.” Legg added, "Authentication is such an awful word.”

COLLEGE TIP-OFF: Legg said that Turner will not charge for its March Madness Live application in '13. Instead, it will allow consumers to download the app and begin viewing the NCAA men’s basketball championship games by authenticating their cable and satellite subscriptions. The decision marks a change from Turner’s approach in '12 when it charged $3.99 for an app that allowed people to view games on their mobile phones and tablets but let them view games for free by authenticating their cable or satellite subscriptions on their desktops and laptops. Legg said the change is being made because Turner discovered that authentication worked this past year. He added, “We think it’s time to move to that model for the 2013 March Madness.”

OF OLYMPIC PROPORTIONS: Comcast saw a huge increase in the number of people who consumed Olympic content on demand at NBCOlympics.com. During the Vancouver Games, it had 3 million viewers but that number soared to 58 million during the London Games. Strauss said that they also discovered consumption trends. During the day, on-demand consumption would rise steadily and peak around 8:00pm. Then it would drop. Strauss: “People would use on demand to catch up (and) watch great moments ... so it was interesting to see how those platforms were very complementary. That in some way helped drive incremental audience to tune in to primetime.” Zenkel said the Olympics underscored the appetite for second-screen viewing. Zenkel: “Despite any fears one might have had about exhaustion or cannibalization, in that 17-day window when people were emotionally invested in the Olympics, the more we made available, the more was consumed.”

IMPACT ON SUBSCRIBER NUMBERS: Cable and satellite operators just had a tough quarter in which there was erosion in their subscriber base. Strauss said that cord cutting is not an issue at Comcast, but that cord shaving, where customers downgrade some premium services, has been an issue. He pointed to new services like WatchESPN as features that are helping them to keep subscribers. Strauss: “As we continue to find ways and add more value and offer more choices, the market has shown people will pay.” Legg said that the big change is that household subscription numbers are not growing in the same way they used to. Legg: “If you believe in the pay-TV model, then you have to enhance the pay-TV model. We don’t do a very good job as an industry of marketing the value of the package. If you take your family out to a movie and buy popcorn and coke, you just spent $50.”

See the conference's full agenda and read more in our dedicated SMT blog.
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