Cable Execs Root for TV Everywhere, But No Timeline on Mass Adoption

From ESPN to Discovery, a Quest to Get Viewers to 'Authenticate'

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"TV Everywhere" has been the concept on everyone's lips in the TV industry for months. But as chatter at the cable industry's annual Cable Show proved this week in Boston, no conclusive solution exists as to how the "authentication" policy will find mass adoption.

At the very least, TV Everywhere, an idea that calls for TV programming to be available so long as the customer is a subscriber to a video distributor, is at the forefront of many negotiations. "Nearly every deal we do now has TV Everywhere included," said Comcast President Neil Smit during a panel. Discovery Communications has been one of several networks that is careful about the type of content made available online. For Discovery, the majority of selections offered have been complementary short-form videos. The company utilizes streaming-video providers such as Netflix as a means to distribute older content, usually with an 18-month window.

David Zaslav
David Zaslav

"That's why we are looking to get behind TV Everywhere as a place where we can put our long-form content," David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery Communications, said during Monday's general session.

Mr. Zaslav said TV Everywhere is especially appealing because it retains commercials.

Sports content, in particular, is finding a natural place with authentication since there is a great need to watch programming live.

During Turner's recent broadcast of "March Madness" NCAA men's basketball, the Time Warner unit charged $3.99 to allow viewers who were not "authenticated" to watch the games streaming live. But this wasn't a move to realize a profit, said David Levy, president of sales, distribution and sports, during Wednesday's general session. Instead, it was done as a demonstration of Turner's commitment to TV Everywhere, he said.

"TV Everywhere is where the business needs to go to survive," Mr. Levy said. Showing just how critical TV Everywhere is to sports, the majority of ESPN's booth at the Cable Show was dedicated to its Watch ESPN application.

"Sports will deliver more value to TV Everywhere because it needs to be watched live," said John Skipper, president of ESPN.

Even so, the idea has not been adopted by the larger mass of consumers. When will the concept have national scale? Unfortunately, there wasn't a clear answer.

"It's all chicken and egg. Consumer adoption is slow because there's not a lot of content, and there's not a lot of content because deal cycles take time," JB Perrette, chief digital officer at Discover, said on a panel about TV content and delivery on Monday.

Before mass consumer adoption, the industry needs to figure out how to make TV Everywhere less clunky and more intuitive, TiVo CEO Thomas Rogers said in an interview.

The biggest concern is that making TV Everywhere easily available and easy to understand will take too long to figure out, losing its potential for mass scale in the process.

"VOD took way too long to get content on it," Mr. Perrette said. "It does well today, but not as well as it could have if it got content sooner."

Time Warner 's CEO Jeff Bewkes, however, holds that TV Everywhere is being adopted faster than some of its technology predecessors, such as DVR and high definition.

Ultimately, everyone in the industry, friends and foes alike, will have to work together to create a service that 's valuable to consumers, said Chase Carey, president and COO at News Corp. "We will all benefit from this."

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