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Cable Show: Providers, Networks Both Need To Push TVE

In keeping with one of the primary themes at Cable Show 2014, Charter CMO Jonathan Hargis posed the question "whose brand" is TV Everywhere to a  group of affiliate marketing executives.

The MSO executive, noting the technical, pass word and authentication issues that currently surround the platform, as well as the growing number of networks that are leaning into it, advocated for “TVE simple,” where one password would open the door through the distributor to the array of content.

Jamia Bigalow, senior vice president of distribution marketing at Fox Networks  started by saying it “can be both,” with aggregated customer experiences through cable operators. But for customers who want a deeper dive into the content, they likely want to gravitate to the networks’ TVE gambits that offer additional quality content.

Speaking on the "An Evolution in Distribution: The New Face of Network Affiliate Marketing" panel, Bigalow said TVE is a valuable tool to keep customers within the current pay-tv ecosystem. Or if they're outside, “to bring them back in.”

Chris Brush, Disney and ESPN Media Networks senior vice president affiliate sales, said the company doesn’t care how viewers access content across the company’s Watch portfolio, as long as “we get them into the process.” 

Brush told Hargis that he recognized that Charter as an operator has 50 different campaigns to contend with at any given time and that "you don’t have the assets, the resources", to fully promote TVE. As such, he said it’s "important to be at the table with you to try and provide solutions, and support on the technical and contractual sides. I know that’s not an answer, but we recognize the challenge."

Brush said two years ago ESPN created a program for operators using its Monday Night Football announce team of Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden on how viewers could use Watch ESPN. “We have resources and need to be creative to help. We need to double down on that,” he said.

Laura Palmer, senior vice president of distributor marketing at Showtime Networks, said “we’re very early in the process. It’s exciting. We need to give consumers a choice."  She noted some prefer an aggregated approach, while others are more inclined toward branded network platforms. "Some may want both, I don’t think we know yet. Let's give them choices, get them into the experience. We want them to watch Showtime; it’s a common goal."

That being said, Palmer said it’s a marketing challenge to convey TVE messages to consumers. At the same time, she believes that operational and password issues will get resolved on “a parallel path” as marketing solutions emerge.

Rori Peters, senior vice president of national account and field sales strategy at TV One, said that TVE holds various challenges for an independent network. “There are technical issues, and the processes involved to getting the content rights,” she said.

But those are not reasons for “authentication to be complicated for consumers. At the end of the day, we have the same goal: to maintain our relationship with consumers, so that they don’t go somewhere else. The consumer is king for both of us. We don’t want them to go to a different provider.”

Hargis also steered the conversation to social media and its role in affiliate marketing today.  For one thing, the panelists concurred that at this stage it’s still a relatively inexpensive marketing tool.

Brush reeled off some impressive stats, saying ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars series was the most tweeted at show last year, its season four premiere the most-tweeted episode, and that ESPN drives 17% of all social conversation on all TV networks.  “There’s a lot of news on the sports side, that’s something we’re going to continue use as a company.”

Peters said social is one way the independent network attempts to cut through the clutter. TV One uses its own social tactics with subscribers, and also relies on its talent leveraging their relationships with viewers to make them aware of the programming and the direction the network is going.

Bigalow said social is exploding and it's a challenge managing  all of the “syndicated content.” She said the the MPVDs  “love to have it,” from sweepstakes and quizzes, to engagement and building ties to the providers' brands. We're trying to get our heads around it, so we don’t have to have three different people working there.”

Showtime, according to Palmer, looks at social as “the next wave of consultative marketing” with its distribution partners for all platforms, with the premium network endeavoring to packaging and promoting its content through different outlets. .

She also noted that Showtime develops special content that can help each affiliate, depending on whether a distributor is interested in enhancing engagement or increasing its Facebook likes.  “Depending on the goal, we can come up with a program,” she said. “Social is a tremendous opportunity of which we are only scratching the surface. We’re focusing more resources on that.”