TV Everywhere Might Just Work

  • by , Featured Contributor, March 26, 2009
When I first heard about the TV Everywhere concept being promoted by Time Warner's Jeff Bewkes, I was skeptical. In his plan, Time Warner companies that provide content over cable television such as TNT, Cartoon Network and HBO will also offer viewers on-demand access to that same video programming over the Web, but on a protected site that can only be accessed if the viewers are subscribers to that same programming through a cable or satellite television provider. I have never been a fan of walled-garden strategies online, having watched so many of them fail in the mid-1990's, when the "open" Web won out over proprietary online services. Thus, my skepticism.

I've spent some time over the past few weeks pondering the viability of TV Everywhere. After much thought, I have replaced my skepticism for its prospects with guarded optimism. (Full disclosure: I am a shareholder of Time Warner (TWX) and briefly worked for its AOL subsidiary) Here is why:

Narrow focus of initiative. TV Everywhere is first and foremost about protecting the relationship between television programmers and pay-television system operators. Cable and satellite operators pay many billions of dollars per year for the exclusive ability to provide their subscribers with content. If programmers offered viewers unrestricted access to that same content for free over the Web, similar to what some broadcasters do on Hulu, programmers' most important business relationship would be forever undermined.



Doesn't depend on substantial change in consumer behavior. The vast majority of U.S. households already subscribe to pay television services. Thus, using TV Everywhere on the Web (or mobile too, I suspect), will be a simple compliance issue and piggy-backs on an existing subscription. This is not like the efforts of early online services or music companies to establish new consumer subscription services. Certainly, there is a lot of talk these days about consumers bypassing their traditional pay-TV providers and going straight to the Web, but I don't think that mainstream America is going to go that way for some time. This is going to be a long transition, and cable and satellite subscriptions and set-top boxes aren't going away anytime soon.

TV viewing experience doesn't micro-chunk (or commoditize) easily. Whereas newspapers found out that in the open digital world -- where content is easily "micro-chunked" and redistributed -- their individual stories ultimately carried more value than their entire daily package, long-form, studio-produced video content doesn't work the same way. Viewing re-aggregated 30-second snippets does not replace the experience of watching a full season of "The Sopranos."

Do I think that TV Everywhere will become the long-term platform and business model of all studio-produced video content? I don't know. I haven't really thought through all of those issues yet. However, I do believe that TV Everywhere is a smart strategy to preserve critical business relationships and consumer behaviors, while television transitions into a more on-demand and Web-driven vehicle over the next decade. What do you think?

5 comments about "TV Everywhere Might Just Work".
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  1. Spider Graham from Trainingcraft, March 26, 2009 at 1:51 p.m.

    I think that one of the questions that needs to be asked outside of the technology is how will this type of programming pay for itself?

    I rarely get an opportunity to watch live TV programs and as a result catch up on programs I wish to follow through my laptop. One trend I've noticed as of late is that there seems to be very limited or missing ad inventory to accompany the programs I'm watching. While I'm not complaining about not being able to see the same create 5 times in an hour, I am cognizant of the reality of the programming needing to get paid for at some point. Case in point: I watched a few episodes of 24 on last evening and didn't see a single ad during the entire two hours. Is it possible that Fox has absolutely no inventory (including promos) to share with me?

    Granted times are tough and the money may not be there right now but anybody planning for future video content distribution has to ask themselves 'where the money going to come from?'

  2. R.J. Lewis from e-Healthcare Solutions, LLC, March 26, 2009 at 3:03 p.m.

    Dave, your initial skepticism was and is still well founded. You more than anyone know that many business models over time become obsolete. New ones emerge and the old ones need to adapt and change or risk being left behind. This still sounds like an outdated "walled in" concept to me. I'm not saying subscriptions models will go away, but more user-centric (not cable centric) models like pay per view will likely drive the economics of tomorrow. Content when I want it, where I want it, and on the device I choose. Don't make me tie my cable subscription to my iPhone access... I will likely want to watch different things at different times for different reasons.

  3. Glenn Moss from MossMedia, March 27, 2009 at 12:09 p.m.

    Protecting the value of your content in aultiplatform environment is primary. Seeking to control and manage access to content by applying a pathway for subscribers is one way. However tying to preserve the content investment by sustaining a cable/satellite revenue model faces obstacles.

    First, repurposing and syndicating content on the Internet and via mobile would presumably need to end;or at least be limited to prmotional segements. Second, while this effort may help preserve/sustain value of original cable content, the question of what kind of content translates to different media experiences and expetations remains. Will TV Everywhere offer distinct ne content available only to subscribers and only available on the newmedia site (whether it be Internet o mobile)? That can be a way to enhance the perceived premium value of these subscriber restricted sites.

    The difference between how ad supported (e.g., basic cable) and pay (premium) services are treated needs also to be considered. To some degree, consumer/viewers already expect to find ad supported content on the Internet, and increasingky in high-quality, longer form. The argument that by offering extended media access to viewers through TV Everywhere can be seen as attractive to advertisers as a way of aggregating viewers wherever and however they want to "consume" video. Protecting the already established premium value of a pay service like HBO may seem a clearer argument towards maintianing the verifiabe subsriber model and maintain the perceived enhanced value of HBO product.

    TV Everywhere may work at least to protect Time Warner's content investment. It is certainly worth trying to see how subscribers and viewers react. How its markted and sold in, as always, will be key to create and keep a connection in a multimedia marketplace where the kind of content, means of access and economic vialbility all remain in flux and evolution.

  4. Bruce May from Bizperity, March 27, 2009 at 12:39 p.m.

    First you've got to get Hulu to go out of business.... content is king and content creators are going to have a lot more to say about this than distributors, especially since the content creators can do their own distribution now. We've got a long way to go to see how this ecoysystem is going to evovle. For now, my bets are on Hulu (that million dollar Super Bowl ad didn't hurt either)....

  5. Jackie Chazan from JD Anderson, March 29, 2009 at 3:41 p.m.

    The multi-media marketplace covers a myriad of platforms such as online social sites, television, blogs, video, etc. all of which are content-centric. Users exercise free will to reach this content and therefore accessibility is the key.

    Online advertising has become ubiquitous and accessible. However, commercial messages pushed through in the form of ads, banners, etc. in order to reach a potential customer who is in the middle of doing something else are seen as intrusive.

    Understandably, there has to be a way to monetize the multi-media marketplace. Business models have to find the proper balance between accessibility, content and the user's perceived value in order to sustain their economic viability. Will TV Everywhere succeed as a viable economic choice? Doubtful. The majority of television viewers prefer to watch comfortably on a television set as an escape mechanism. Multi-tasking while watching a program makes it harder to follow. There is a limit to the number of activities a person can do at once.

    Perhaps time has come for business models to take into account users' limited attention span, use of time, economic situation and perceived value to offer content that is engaging, accessible, does not cost much and is right on target in order to monetize their efforts.

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