TV Everywhere Boot Camp

Wherever I go, someone is asking me about TV Everywhere. It is unquestionably the topic of the year in the digital media space.

When I refer to TV Everywhere I mean premium content, like television series and feature films, available anywhere, at any time, and on any device.  Those devices include laptops, mobile devices, game consoles, netbooks, portable video players - anything with a screen. 

Everywhere really does mean everywhere: true multi-platform distribution of premium content.

Obviously, this concept brings an enormous potential upside for content providers.  But the technical challenges TV Everywhere presents are pretty enormous themselves.

Here are five central issues a premium content holder needs to nail down in order to create a viable TV Everywhere solution: 

User authentication. Before they can give out access to multiplatform premium content, cable systems will need to verify that users have a current subscription.  It sounds relatively simple, but this is actually turning out to be a central challenge.  Call it the "spam filter" problem: how do you block everyone who shouldn't get access, but simultaneously grant access to users who should get it - with 100% accuracy?  At the moment all of the major providers have different backend systems in place, and opinions abound as to which one is best, but sorting this out is critical to bringing TV Everywhere online.  



Rights management -- central to profitability.  Cable providers need to know when, how and if they are permitted to stream a given film or episode of television in light of the elaborate thicket of legal agreements that come bundled with any piece of content.  Smart, speedy, automated rights management will ensure that all of the content -- including music rights -- has been cleared for each platform, region, and distribution window.  Metadata will be a deciding factor in rights and clearances, because the more information you have about your content the easier it is to track actors, regions, dialogue, subject matter, music questions and licensing concerns.

High-quality presentation. It goes without saying: people want a great viewing experience.  If they don't get it, they'll be less likely to tune in.  TV Everywhere content needs to be delivered in high definition and should be automatically sized for multiple screens.  Given this reality, providers should invest significantly in video operations, storage and delivery - which they'll need in order to manage digital libraries of unprecedented size, scope and complexity.   

Tracking viewership. TV Everywhere will be ad-supported in some way, and TV Everywhere providers will need to develop a new process to measure ratings for online viewing.  As with video delivery systems, these processes should be instant, accurate, and applicable to each screen in the TV Everywhere universe.  Once you can prove people are watching in significant numbers, the advertisers will follow.

Business plan. OK, so now we know who's watching, and how and when. Immediately the question becomes: what do we do with this data?  Or to put it another way: how do we take this information and make it actionable (and attractive to advertisers)?  These are the sort of enterprise-wide, general management type questions that the leaders of TV Everywhere will need to formulate, and then answer -- in the form of digital infrastructure investment.  

So, yes, TV Everywhere is coming soon to a multiplatform device near you.  But just how soon will be determined by how quickly the industry can get over these hurdles.

1 comment about "TV Everywhere Boot Camp".
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  1. Pinaki Saha from Me!Box Media Inc., September 10, 2009 at 1:43 p.m.

    Great post. If you would really like to test the above issues in a real life use case, keep an eye on Comcast's Online OnDemand Beta release over the next several months. The implementation is taking place using the backbone of thePlatform and it will be very interesting to check how they handle the points that you mentioned.

    One of the challenges I see with TV Everywhere is the myriad of backend (data, video content, user accounts, and permission settings) environments that different production houses maintain. The backend integration has always been a challenge and also an acquired art in mergers of banks, Tech, CPG, Utilities and others over the last several decades. I would assume that lots of their best practices will be employed in TV Everywhere integration as well.

    As for user management and permissions, I still remember the early days of LDAP and other contact management systems that proliferated. OpenID concepts could also be a composite solution to make the user move uninterrupted across the cable host and the individual content provider within the cable umbrella.

    Interesting times!

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