Cable’s omnipresent online initiative is well hidden.
The reviews are mixed, the programming is limited and most networks haven’t even signed up yet. But online TV service TV Everywhere already has been anointed the future of the cable business, so it will be pervasive at The Cable Show. TV Everywhere literally will be everywhere – lingering in doorways, hanging out in hallways and omnipresent in every session and on the show floor. In fact, it’s so critical there won’t be a session devoted to it – instead it’s likely all three general sessions will address it, although in relatively vague terms.
That’s right. We dare you to find a session where the words TV Everywhere aren’t uttered at some point.
And yet the business is barely even a business. Nor will it be a rainmaker because TV Everywhere isn’t so much about the cha-ching; it’s about keeping customers from cutting the cord.
"TV Everywhere is critical…in terms of meeting consumer expectations that they will be able to watch their favorite TV programs whenever and wherever they want," says Will Richmond, an analyst and industry watcher at VideoNuze.com. "What we’ve seen from sites like Hulu is there is a huge demand from consumers to watch shows online."
What Hulu lacks, though, is a plethora of cable programming. If operators can fill that void and snag cable shows just for themselves online, then they’re well-positioned in the ever-vital customer retention battle.
TV Everywhere has a long way to go, however. Comcast has rolled out a beta trial of Xfinity with Discovery, Turner, A&E, History, Starz and others to most of its footprint. Time Warner is conducting small trials with TNT and TBS in New York City, Syracuse and Columbus, OH. Rogers and Bell Canada also are kicking the tires on TV Everywhere-like services. Time Warner and Comcast declined to comment further on their trials.
Early feedback on Xfinity is mixed. Some say the interface and navigation need work (who’d a thunk cable ops would struggle with that?). And the trials include only a few shows from a few networks, so it’s hard to say whether the service will be appealing en masse.
Even so, TV Everywhere is an imperative for the business. "It represents a roadmap for most cable programmers to offer full-length episodes for streaming, many for the first time," Richmond says. While most networks offer their shows to purchase on iTunes, only a handful, such as USA and A&E, stream full episodes on the Web. They’ve held back because they don’t want to bite the dual-revenue hand that feeds them by offering episodes directly to consumers online.
While Comcast and Time Warner have been mum on results from their early trials, there is some reassuring evidence about the commercial viability of the service for advertisers. An early network group on board, AETN upped the ad load in its shows on TV Everywhere by about 20% compared to the number of ads in shows it streams online. The result? Even with more ads, the same number of consumers watch the shows through to the end. That’s reassuring for many reasons, says Mark Garner, SVP, Distribution, Marketing and Business Development at AETN.
"We need to get people accepting the type of ad load they see on TV," he believes.
Other issues remain for TV Everywhere, such as the programming mix, the best windowing strategy, the impact on linear viewing and ongoing concerns over authentication.
Who, What, Where, When
Who: "My World — Powered by Cable"
What: 27K-ft consumer tech exhibit will feature TV Everywhere, 3D and a slew of other technologies and strategies.
Where: South Hall
Who: Cable Heavies
What: General Sessions
Where: Nokia Theater
When: Tues 1:30pm; Wed 9:15am; Thurs 9am;