July 16, 2012
By Sam Divine, Jr.
Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge fan of the beautiful game. That’s the game known to most of the world as football but here in the U.S. as soccer. I have been known to arrange my work schedule around World Cup games and spend several hours on the weekends glued to the TV watching Europe’s best teams. When a rival provider offered to lower my bill by $50, I said no because they did not carry GolTV—if a GolTV exec reads this: Ray Hudson is a gem.
With Euro2012 underway, I was happy to have WatchESPN. I could watch all games live from my iPad. While watching Spain, the eventual champs, against France, I wondered, “whose customer am I?” During the game, I forgot that this was a service provided through my cable provider. I remembered thinking, “wow, this is really cool ESPN!” If I could easily get lost in the programmer’s brand, I wondered if TV Everywhere could ultimately usher in the era where customers deal directly with their programmers. Could ESPN sell WatchESPN, which shows live programming via Apple for the same distribution fee paid by operators?
There are many advantages to the current system where the programmers sell to the operators who sell to the individuals. The packaging of channels allow for more niche content that would possibly not exist in a different system. While niche football (soccer) fans like me would happily pay more for GolTV, the prevailing thought is there won’t be enough of us willing to pay the resulting price. I don’t have answers.
Am I alone in getting lost in the programmers’ brands and apps with very little thought about the distributors? I would love to hear your thoughts. Ask several friends if they use WatchESPN or HBOGo. It helps to ask non-industry buddies. Then, ask them what they think of their cable provider’s role in providing this. Lastly, ask them about TV Everywhere.
Everyone loves the freedom of watching his or her favorite shows on multiple devices. TV Everywhere gets us that freedom. Are the customers’ linking the viewership of these apps to TV Everywhere and their cable providers? If in the customers’ minds they link viewing on multiple devices to the programmer, could that eventually lead to unintended consequences for operators?
Are programmers getting greater access to subscribers that never existed? Does ESPN now know about my love for the beautiful game? Have they noticed that I have used WatchESPN or ESPN 3 to watch football (soccer) 95% of the time? Might ESPN offer me African Cup of Nations games next? I would be interested.
How do potential cable competitors view this new world? Do they see this as a way to bring over-the-top to the masses if more high-quality content is available on apps?
As mentioned earlier, I do not have the answers. These are questions raised by an enthusiastic fan after watching a Euro2012 game. Yet, I think these questions should be on the minds of those in the industry. Feel free to leave your comments.
Sam Divine, Jr. is a consultant, speaker, and author. He is CEO of Cross Atlantic Business Advisors, LLC and author of BATTLEGROUNDS to BOARDROOMS: Life Lessons from The Liberian Civil War to Corporate America. Follow Sam at www.crossatlanticadvisors.com