Indeed, the marketing is what’s lacking. “Consumers have no fricking idea what it is,” Levy lamented, because every company is on its own timetable—one that’s dictated by when deals come up for renewal. Matthew Strauss, svp, Digital and Emerging Platforms, Comcast Cable also found Levy’s 3-5 years a conservative estimate. “More and more programmers are starting to get into the TV everywhere fold,” he said. Adoption “will require meaningful marketing,” as Comcast performed for the Olympics. “When customers understand that value, they consume,” he said.
And during the Olympics’ authentication process, consume they did. According to Gary Zenkel, pres, NBC Olympics and pres, Operations and Strategy, NBC Sports Group, “we learned that industry has the technical capacity to make the authentication validation process fairly seamless for the consumer.” But the hurdle is entering in personal information. “When the industry gets to a point where that’s not necessary, or minimized, people are going to blow through the gates,” he said. The timeframe will depend on how quickly the industry adopts the technology, which varies depending on the particular CE partner. “You have to prioritize which devices you want to be on first,” said Damon Phillips, vp, ESPN3. For instance, ESPN is launching its Watch product on Xbox this fall because it’s “very important for us,” he said.
So what will make TVE smoother? Single sign-on, which asks consumers to authenticate only once, and auto in-home authentication are two ways (both tested during the Olympics) that would make the process more seamless. Auto authentication entails checking a customer’s IP address, marrying it with billing data and automatically granting access, said Strauss. “At the same time it has to be secure,” he said, particularly from a rights standpoint. “It’s a balancing act.”
Increasingly important to TVE’s progress is the continued marketing of authentication surrounding tentpole events. Strauss noted that the Olympics provided “such a clean message,” and served as a case study “on how we think it should be done.” On Comcast platforms alone the company did about 58 million video streams. Compare that to Vancouver’s 3 million streams, he said.
So is the onus on programmers or cable ops to market successfully? It’s a bit of both. “It has to be a combination,” said Legg. Both should adopt simple things industry-wide, such as authentication icons and a new name for its ungainly alias. “The word authentication doesn’t really roll off your tongue,” admitted Strauss. Legg expects more progress during the 2013 March Madness tourney, which Turner will fully authenticate. In other words, no paid application next year. “More live streaming’s coming,” added Strauss, “and it’s going to be coming in a fairly material way.”