The Problem With TV Everywhere: No One Wants It

“TV Everywhere” is a term used to describe the ability to have a TV-like experience from any device in any location by using one set of credentials (most likely tied to your cable account). While the surge of connected mobile devices in recent years has provided consumers with any number of TV and video viewing possibilities, TV Everywhere has struggled. Part of the problem is that people don’t know where, when or how they can access it, much less remember what their account login and password is for their home cable account -- do you?

That said, I would argue that the real problem with TV Everywhere is that it’s an unwanted solution to a problem that people don’t really have. Despite what the pundits say, people don’t want a “TV” experience everywhere. Seriously, who honestly likes the user interface of their TV? Even video-on-demand leaves us wanting a better solution.

Yes, we love TV content, and we love TV reliability, but if you asked people what they really wanted it, wouldn’t be “TV everywhere,” it would be content (news, entertainment, etc.) -- everywhere and on-demand. Viewing TV and video content is now something that happens at any time throughout the day. Consumers in today’s world take their content with them around the house -- and beyond. That doesn’t mean we want to port the remote + set-top-box experience everywhere as well.

You might argue that Content Everywhere and TV Everywhere are one and the same. Who knows, perhaps in time they can be, but the modern-day version of TV Everywhere starts with porting the home viewing experience and the content you have access to on your home television to other devices within the home, and with limited access outside the home. On the flip side, devices such as the Sling Hopper, and platforms like Hulu, Netflix and their ilk, are focused on content licensing for consumption that’s not tethered to the home, but allows for viewing flexibility and content consumption literally everywhere -- even outside the U.S.

While no one can deny that content volume is an important factor for consumers, multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), and programming networks, one could argue that user interface and meeting consumer expectations consistently are equally, if not more, important. Think about it. There are more shows than any one person can possibly watch (well, maybe any person other than @jasonhirschhorn). How many conversations have you had that go like this:

Katie: “Have you seen show X? It’s AMAZING!”

Bob: “No. But have you see show Y? Mind-blowing!”

Katie: “Keep meaning to, but I have been so caught up in show Z, I just can’t stop.”

Bob: "I've heard I should watch that one, but next up for me is show XY season two.”

So for most people seeking Content Everywhere, interface usability, organization, navigation and consistency of available content are most important.

The funny thing is, we know where this all ends up, or at least where it should: Consumers pay one bill for access to all content, anywhere and everywhere. The complex windowing and multiplatform licensing is a legacy that is hurting the overall consumer experience, not to mention double or triple charging consumers (example: if you pay for cable TV, Hulu and Netflix, a majority of what you’re paying for is on all the platforms at one time or another). Rich Greenfield has a more in-depth post on this issue here.

Consumers should be able to pay one bill and receive unfettered access to everything. Unfortunately, the success of the concept of Content Everywhere hinges on the ability of MVPDs and programming networks to put aside their differences for the greater good of the consumer experience.

Even if this does happen, the industry will still need to solve some key business challenges. Top of the list is the giant dent the decreased advertising revenue will put in content production. You know that old saying, “digital dimes for analog dollars”? Well, at scale that’s a lot of dollars to dimes. Other challenges include determining what the new bundle would look like. Who delivers it? How do we measure it (networks are already worried they’re losing ad revenue, since Nielsen can't measure views on the iPad or OOH)? This is what makes the Verizon acquisition of Intel’s virtual MSO group so interesting. And while I would bet on the current MSOs and MVPDs, you can’t count out Google or Amazon, although Amazon says it isn’t interested.

Yes, the idea of TV Everywhere is exciting and necessary, given today’s media landscape. However, Content Everywhere is what we should be striving for. Content Everywhere will allow content owners and consumers to forge a new, symbiotic relationship in a much more personalized way, while creating innovative business models designed to dispel concerns of lost revenue.

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11 comments about "The Problem With TV Everywhere: No One Wants It".
  1. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein , January 23, 2014 at 12:53 p.m.
    TV everywhere = more ads than no one wants anywhere = scalable brand reach nowhere.
  2. Rick Monihan from None , January 23, 2014 at 1:06 p.m.
    Not sure I agree. While I haven't fully utilized the concept of TV Everywhere, I will admit this is just an issue of age/generation. My teen sons have adopted it full on, and love it. I utilize aspects of it, when it suits me. I'm not overwhelmed by it, but I like that I can get my TV wherever and whenever I want, though I still rely primarily on appointment viewing. TV Everywhere has come in handy for a few key moments. Namely, being able to watch my favorite sporting events when and where I want. Or catching up on a program I missed because I was watching something else. As someone with a distinct older generation view of things, I would argue Content Everywhere is the same as TV Everywhere, mainly because, well....I've never had a problem with getting the video I want or the content I want wherever I am or on any particular device. But we could be splitting hairs here.
  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , January 23, 2014 at 1:12 p.m.
    Would the costs be broken down for people who want TV everywhere and those who don't ? Any particular levels ? One may want and need it for one week or for a month so could that be arranged ? Those who don't want it or need it don't want to pay for it.
  4. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2013ac.com network , January 23, 2014 at 4:36 p.m.
    It's great to see that someone gets it about the problem of accessing "TV everywhere", which in itself is a terrible misnomer. When I watch traditional TV, I power it up, and go through the channels. It takes a few seconds. But I have never watched anything on any device where I didn't have to spend way too much time entering user names and passwords, usually on two or more sites, before I might get lucky and see what I'm looking for. Until the time that the content providers begin worrying more about the paid subscriber experience, and less about the possibility that - shudder! - someone might view something without paying, TV anywhere will stagnate.
  5. Ira Kalb from Kalb & Associates , January 23, 2014 at 6:22 p.m.
    Are you sure? You or I may not want it, but there is likely to be a segment that does. Unless and until you measure the size of that segment, you shouldn't speak for everyone based on what you think. Many have been predicting the death of TV ever since the Internet and other distractions have come along, but it seems that TV viewership is going up http://allthingsd.com/20131204/surprise-youre-watching-more-tv-than-ever/.
  6. Paul A Houle from Ontology2 , January 23, 2014 at 7:05 p.m.
    I think Linear TV has little reason to exist in 2014 except for the fact that (i) many people still watch it and (ii) the content industry has a great business model based on pay TV subscriptions. (ii) is the important one, in that pay TV subscriptions are a predictable revenue stream that isolates content producers from the risk that they might make stuff that doesn't connect with people. The trouble is that the market for $100 a month TV subscriptions is eventually going to go away. Baby boomers are used to the idea, but soon they will be retired and many of them will have little more than a social security check. My mother-in-law is better off than that, but she cut the cord because she realized she could spend the money on a cruise. Ten year old kids are much more into Youtube than they are into the Cartoon Network, and I see preverbal toddlers that are already deep into smartphones and tablets. The industry admits it has a problem with the 25-35 demographic, but there is a whole generation of very young people for whom linear TV is something that makes you bored when you visit Grandma's house.
  7. Pete Austin from Triggered Messaging , January 24, 2014 at 7:09 a.m.
    We have had "content everywhere" for at least 30 years. It's called radio.
  8. Joe Gruchacz from Goodby Silverstein & Partners , January 24, 2014 at 1:47 p.m.
    Joe, I think your TV everywhere vs content everywhere is on track but only scratches the surface. Most of my TV viewing still happens on my couch. A small portion might happen on my mobile device or tablet while I'm in bed but only b/c there isn't a TV in our bedroom. Outside of that, an even smaller portion might happen on my commute but only b/c I'm in the minority who can use public transit. All other times I'm away from my couch, I'm usually working or interacting with the world and, as such, "TV Everywhere" doesn't make sense. Having been a "cord cutter" for the better part of the last 4-5 years, I can easily say what I really want is to not pay for a bloated bundle that includes things I'll never use. That's where most telecom/cable providers start to get it wrong. I don't care about phone. I REALLY care about internet. And I kinda care about TV. They continue to get it wrong in their prepackages cable TV bundles. I want on-demand access to only the content I care about and don't want the costs rolled in to the traditional cable model for channels I'll never watch. Something along the lines of an Apple TV/Amazon Instant model where I can access the latest content based on only what I actually consume would be appealing. I currently combine Amazon Prime, Hulu+ and Aereo to achieve this but would love if someone came along to streamline these service models further and really give me what I want.
  9. Ned Newhouse from Conde Nast , January 24, 2014 at 2:34 p.m.
    You missed the obvious one to compare the justification of the mass potential of the offering- Slingbox. as all the commenters above all stated it may just be that the masses have a problem for paying extra for portability when they already bought the content at home and the fact that they want ease of use. Slingbox is $149 once, with NO monthly service cost and it uses your own cable box with an emulated remote that looks like the one from home.
  10. Rob Gelphman from MoCA , January 24, 2014 at 6:50 p.m.
    TV Everywhere is an interesting idea that does have merit. While everyone commenting on this article seems to get it, the take up rate and understanding of most people is probably not sufficient to determine if they want it or not. I do not think it is marketed properly to consumers by operators and other stakeholders. There is an educate and inform component that is missing. There is also a technology variable that will come into play regarding bandwidth and reliable delivery of service when all these devices are connected to all the other devices and everyone is always on.
  11. Leonard Zachary from EquityStep , January 27, 2014 at 1:37 p.m.
    No wants a TV Everywhere offering where the content provider seeks to protect the legacy business model first. There is alternative content to access. The Verizon Intel purchase+Verizon net neutrality win+"sponsored" data+ Verizon LTE broadcast capability nationwide are large canaries singing that a New Network will be born and it is not your legacy broadcasters. These seismic developments appear to be a meteorite in their totality.