I want my E(verywhere)-TV!

I want my E(verywhere)-TV!

August 11, 2013 4:00  AM


By Maria Sciullo Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The concept of TV Everywhere is tantalizing: sci-fi, techie wish fulfillment  crossed with consumers’ ever-growing demand to stay connected to  entertainment.

“I remember sitting in an airport for the final round of the Masters last  year [watching it on an iPad], and there was a group of five or six guys sitting  around me,” said Ray Carter, WPXI-TV general manager. “Quite a scene.”

In recent years it has been possible, but not particularly common, to watch  live television programming on laptops, smartphones and tablets. Technologies  such as Slingbox record over-the-air (OTA) shows and allow users to play them  back in virtually real time, which is how Mr. Carter watched the golf  tournament.

But the notion of content providers opening the pantry doors to shelves of  products — from the latest “Homeland” on Showtime or CBS’s NCAA March Madness  to the upcoming Winter Olympics on numerous NBC platforms — is just beginning  to reach the top of the marketing roller coaster.

As it picks up speed and more providers along the way, TV Everywhere just  might become the greatest thing since the color picture tube or it could be the  downfall of the traditional television advertising model.

“I hear some talk about this being a threat to us, but I think it’s just a  reality,” Mr. Carter said. “The smart players are going to figure out how to  make this work.”

The promise of TV Everywhere means freedom to, well, watch TV everywhere. Or  at least everywhere there is Internet access. Those lucky few with uncapped data  plans will be able to stream as they please, but for the rest of us, there are  limits.

A recent report from eMarketer sampled 400 data points from 40 different  researchers and concluded that for the first time, U.S. adults are on the verge  of spending more time using digital media than watching traditional television  on a set.

Media consumption soon will be up to five hours a day through nonvoice,  online mobile activities, compared to four hours, 31 minutes of television  viewing.

Depending on who’s doing the talking, this is either super news for  traditional content providers such as broadcast networks and cable companies, or  it’s a sign of the TV apocalypse.

Many networks have unveiled plans for TV Everywhere apps this year, from ABC  Watch — possibly arriving in Pittsburgh before the winter holidays — to  A&E and its lineup of History and Lifetime apps accessible on the Kindle  Fire device.

In a promotional stunt, Dish and Southwest Airlines just concluded a month of  TV Flies Free, in which patrons could access up to 75 on-demand stations if they  flew on one of Southwest’s 400-some Wi-Fi-enabled planes.

TV Everywhere doesn’t necessarily mean everywhere, however. For example, the  HBO Go and Netflix apps won’t work in Paris — but they do work in the United  States– because services are limited by what’s known as geoblocking.

There are work-arounds, of course, but the average cable subscriber isn’t  going to get into that.

TV Everywhere is growing quickly, so much so that some networks and  multichannel video program distributors (MVPD, in other words, cable and  satellite companies) are rushing to give consumers these new options without  necessarily having worked out all the answers yet.

And everybody is trying to get into the act. The Wall Street Journal recently  reported that Google is approaching programmers in order to stream their  channels. Apple and Intel also reportedly are considering a jump into the  live-TV game.

No simple feat

Tangled legal issues involving retransmission rights and how best to monetize  the advertising side of it are bound to be part of the process.

“I think you have to give TV Everywhere a kind of ‘incomplete’ at this  point,” said Ian Olgeirson, senior multichannel analyst for SNL Kagan. “There  continue to be some inconsistencies over what content is available on what  device and in what location.

“That has created a level of uncertainty among consumers that puts this into  the category of ‘work in progress.’ ”

Will users want to remember even more passwords to access multiple apps?  Breaking old habits is tough, but the process of allowing access to content via  a sign-in process, or authentication, is a necessity.

“I think that with any of these applications, you balance how tight your  security is versus how easy your access is. Any time you tighten the controls,  you risk making it more difficult for legitimate consumers to get to,” Mr.  Olgeirson said.

Then there is the tricky question of retransmission rights. Fox filed a  copyright infringement lawsuit against the Dish satellite network this year,  claiming the technology in the latter’s Hopper technology — Dish owns Slingbox  and has it embedded in its DVRs — allows viewers to skip commercials.

Then there are start-up companies that promise to bring popular programming  to consumers while sidestepping the MVPD’s high subscription fees.

Aereo is a company that leases users a tiny TV antennae from its many data  centers. It attaches a DVR to the subscription. A basic $8 subscription allows  the user to watch and record over-the-air content from cable providers.

In turn, Aereo has been accused of retransmitting content without paying  fees. Another company, New York-area NimbleTV, piggybacks off Dish’s service via  broadband connection to deliver online content. Like Aereo, NimbleTV offers DVR  function and real-time broadcasts.

Dish recently cut off access to NimbleTV, which has been signing up for Dish  service on behalf of its subscribers for the starting fee of $29.99 a month.

Retransmission fees have been in the news recently, with Time Warner Cable  dropping CBS content that ultimately has affected more than 52 markets,  including New York City and Los Angeles. Time Warner Cable claims the broadcast  network is demanding an exorbitant markup in retransmission fees, and after  negotiations failed last week, Time Warner pulled not only CBS, but subsidiary  content including Showtime, the Smithsonian Channel and The Movie Channel.

The “Showtime Anytime” app was reduced to Showtime No-time, as CBS then  blocked Time Warner subscribers from accessing full-episode content online or  through mobile devices.

Subscribers, naturally, were not pleased. On Sunday night, when an episode  from the final season of Showtime’s “Dexter” was to run, fans were tweeting  their dismay.

It’s about the money

TV Everywhere threatens to shatter the long-standing models between content  providers and advertisers, which is one reason everyone is scrambling to work  out a new model.

Canoe Ventures, a joint venture of several big-name MVPDs, focuses on video  on demand advertising. As subscribers view VoD on various devices, it allows for  customizing ads.

At the same time, networks such as NBC — which offered cable subscribers  live feeds from the 2012 Summer Olympics on a variety of platforms — are able  to gather data that will help target advertising.

“It’s an incredibly complex and expensive operation we are starting,” said  NBC Broadcasting chairman Ted Harbert during an industry summit in Las Vegas  several months ago.

The Big 3 networks have hinted at TV Everywhere via affiliate stations, it’s  just a matter of when it reaches the Pittsburgh market. “We believe in the  localized version of TV Everywhere,” Mr. Harbert said.

In Western Pennsylvania, the local cable market is dominated by Comcast’s  Xfinity and Verizon’s FiOS.

“The industry is really exciting right now,” said Debbie Frey, a Comcast  communications representative based in Philadelphia. “We welcome the  competition; it all makes for creativity in the end.”

Raised on a diet of online viewing for free, many younger viewers are  unaccustomed to paying for cable or are likely to opt out through “cord  cutting.”

By creating a menu of real-time streaming and downloadable services that  require authentication, MVPDs are hoping to lure this demographic back to  cable.

Unlike relying on data gleaned through the traditional Nielsen television  ratings, providers can accurately measure who’s watching programs, when and for  how long. It’s all the better for customizing ads.

In fact, the “Showtime Anytime” app user agreement states that it collects  user information including Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, viewing habits and  Internet service provider, all the better to “analyze trends, study traffic  patterns and gather demographic information.”

It then states that some third-party companies are able to view such  information.

So as TV Everywhere enters this brave new world and we are all watching, it’s  good to remember that in some cases, a digital Big Brother is, as  well.

Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com or  412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/ae/tv-radio/2013/08/11/I-want-my-E-verywhere-TV/stories/201308110130#ixzz2qZJTotoy




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