On the one hand, TV Everywhere is likely to be, well, everywhere some time within the next two years. On the other hand, nobody knows exactly how that’s going to happen.
Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News hosted a breakfast panel this morning on the topic of TV Everywhere with execs from MLB.com, CBS Interactive, and thePlatform. All were strongly in favor of the cable industry’s efforts to put TV shows online, but all were just as clearly unsure of what those efforts will produce. There are no rules yet for TV Everywhere. And whether you’re talking user authentication, ad measurement, or business model, everyone seems to have a different solution.
Marty Roberts from thePlatform, a subsidiary of Comcast, explained that his guys do authentication for a number of different service providers online, and the process is different for each one. It’s not that the operators necessarily want to do things differently from each other, but they all want to “do it right.” And nobody knows what right is yet when it comes to authenticating TV viewers online.
As far as ad measurement is concerned, Quincy Smith from CBS Interactive had the ultimate statement of irony. The Web is supposed to be infinitely quantifiable, but we still don’t know how to equate to the traditional TV standards of reach and frequency. Until we do, TV ad buyers won’t trust in the success and value of online TV advertising.
And finally there’s that sticky problem of deciding on the best business model. Nobody would comment on retransmission agreements, the deals the content providers have to negotiate with the content owners. However, they were happy to talk on just about everything else: free video vs. paid, consumer subscriptions vs. operator fees for content (the ESPN360 model), and a-la-carte vs. aggregated video service. Bob Bowman from MLB.com fell somewhere in the middle on the aggregation issue. He doesn’t believe there will be massive aggregation of content online, but he also doesn’t believe TV service will move to an a-la-carte model. And that’s from a guy who sells an a-la-carte service! I have to say, from the research I’ve seen, I agree with him.
The bottom line is that content owners and content providers are trying a lot of different things to make TV Everywhere happen, but nobody’s sure yet what will stick.
And isn’t that just what makes it all so interesting?