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Big Events Could Boost TV Everywhere’s Fortunes

LOS ANGELES — Lackluster marketing efforts and poor consumer awareness have slowed the adoption of TV Everywhere, but a panel of top programmers at The Cable Show here last week said new efforts around major events could give the service the boost it sorely needs.

TV Everywhere, or the ability for cable customers to watch select shows on any device at any time, has been touted as the industry’s answer to the over-the-top threat. But problems around authentication, a limited number of networks participating in the service because of rights issues, and the difficulty for some consumers to access the service have hindered its acceptance.

At the Cable Show Opening General Session last Tuesday (April 29), Turner Broadcasting Systems CEO John Martin called for programmers and distributors to work together to improve the customer experience.

The Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing also pushed its new “tv everywhere” awareness campaign at the show, complete with research and recommendations on the topic.

The theme continued to dominate all week, with top programming executives committing the bulk of a panel session called “Finding the Screens: Television Networks and the New Video Landscape,” to the TV Everywhere issue.

Despite the problems that have plagued the service, customers are beginning to see the value of TV Everywhere, especially when the service is promoted through major events like the 2014 Winter Olympics.

“We know the content is great and the customer wants to watch it,” NBCUniversal executive vice president of content distribution Matt Bond said. “But somewhere between the content and the customer there is a breakdown. And I think it’s pretty simple — there is not one brand; it’s been balkanized across various brands across the industry, and authentication is a challenge.”

But despite those hurdles, Bond said, TV Everywhere usage is growing, especially around major events. Event programming could be the key to greater adoption of TV Everywhere, HBO executive vice president of domestic network distribution Shelley Wright Brindle said. Major events and even the introduction of the service on new platforms can drive awareness and spur customers to use the service, she added.

With events, Brindle said, people are “willing to overcome the hassle” of signing on to the service. She added that when HBO Go is launched on a new platform like Apple TV, registration for the service spikes.

“What it really means is, if you provide them with the experience or the content, they will do it,” Brindle said.

On that track, Univision Communications is taking advantage of a major upcoming sporting event — the 2014 World Cup.

Univision president of content distribution and corporate development Tonia O’Connor said the programmer will use the World Cup as a vehicle this summer to drive TV Everywhere authentication and usage. “That’s our Olympics,” O’Connor said. “Our audience is extremely passionate about soccer, and we are going to use that content with our distribution partners to make sure we can increase authentication.”

While marketing efforts behind the service have been scarce, they should begin to pick up. But those are not the only issues, Brindle added. Problems surrounding programming rights have also affected not only the networks that can be on the service, but where ad on what devices the service can be watched.

“Is it really TV Everywhere?” Brindle asked. “Or is it, ‘some TVs, somewhere?’ ”

Fox Networks president of distribution Mike Biard agreed rights have been a hurdle to the adoption of TV Everywhere, but added that cable networks and broadcasters have different issues than premium networks, like advertising.

“It’s frustrating from our seats because we have the content and we want to make it available,” Biard said. “It’s just that there are a lot of steps to get there.”