CTAM, Industry Continuing to Make TVE Strides

Buoyed by more content and greater consumer awareness, the Cable & Telecommunications Association said eight months into its educational efforts, it is charting significant progress toward its goals of boosting TV everywhere sign-in and usage across the cable industry.

CTAM has launched a consumer awareness communications tentpole initiative, outlining the significant benefits and value proposition of TVE -- an ever-growing collection of programming, across all genres and including live news and sports, at no additional costs to verified viewers -- to a broad audience, using social and earned media channels.

The move comes as Netflix and Amazon continue to add subscribers and other over-the-top providers are joining the fray.

For cable operators, it’s a simple problem with a maddeningly complicated answer: How to let paying subscribers know they already have access to favorite shows on favorite devices?

To fortify a collection of current, approved promotional assets for media placement, CTAM has built a secure e-form that makes it easy for content providers and MSOs to participate.  

The core messaging emphasizes the ease of the sign-in process to verify customer status and clarifies how the content can be accessed earlier than other online and mobile platforms. The communications promote current TVE programs to encourage non- or infrequent users of Apps and websites to learn about how it works and what’s available. The approach brings the platform to life by illustrating the viewing possibilities, which are illustrated with a “You Could Be Watching TV” theme (youcouldbewatching.tv) and #youcouldbewatchingTV hashtag.

“Netflix didn’t invent this. Cable providers are offering a better product, with more diversified programming offering that includes live sports and news, all at no additional costs,” said CTAM president and CEO John Lansing.

Underscoring the drive was  Fox Networks’ “Stream It and Dream It Sweepstakes” promotion that ran last month, touting authenticated streaming apps as FOX NOW, FXNOW, Nat Geo TV, BTN2Go, and FOX Sports GO. The two-week initiative, which also granted non-subscribers a two-hour temporary pass to access the content on Fox Broadcasting,  FX Networks, Fox Sports 1, BTN, regional sports, National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo Wild, sought to drive TVE awareness and usage that also offering participating users/viewers a chance to win $25,000.

The endeavor, aligning with CTAM-led tactics, paid dividends resulting in a unique reach of 3 million and 56 million total impressions, boosting promotional value for Fox Networks and distributors, whose combined bases exceeded 100 million homes, according to the marketing group. 

The outreach is being managed by CTAM and The Lippin Group, which are working toward educating consumers and promoting available TVE content. The results thus far have yielded the placement of TVE streaming highlights in mainstream TV and lifestyle sections in newspapers, including The New York Times and U.S.A. Today..

“We have also gained with influencers and bloggers reaching 25-to-39-year-olds,” said CTAM senior vice president of communications and marketing Anne Cowan. “This is a group that loves to watch online.”

When CTAM initiated its education campaign last April its stated goals were to drive aided awareness of TVE, which was only at a 20% level, to 65% in January, as well as push usage of cable subscribers familiar with the platform to 55%. Through mid-October, a study conducted by Hub Entertainment Research, indicated that aided awareness had climbed to 54% of the survey group, while 49% said they had used TVE to view TV content at least once over the past six months.

Moreover, CTAM wanted 75% of its 23 member companies participating in the TVE space to adopt the sign-in recommendations developed by a steering committee in conjunction with OATC, NCTA, CableLabs, Adobe and member partners. Through mid-October, all CTAM TVE companies are using some to all of the best practices, at an average of 52% overall.

“We set out at the beginning of the year to have a measureable impact on awareness and usage of TV everywhere – and given this unprecedented industry participation and support, we have done just that,” said Gemma Toner, senior vice president of business insights and strategy, Cablevision Systems and CTAM chairwoman.  “This initiative from CTAM, designed to drive usage and awareness among consumers, will help to elevate this product category now and into the future.”

Recent HUB Research showed that 61% of millennials reported that access to TVE services made them feel more positive about the TV provider and 56% said the same about the network they’re watching.    

“TVE users ascribe greater value to their cable packages, with millennials, the most-at-risk group, having the most positive reaction to TVE,” said Lansing.

CTAM isn’t the only group proclaiming TVE’s rising metrics.

Adobe data indicates that authenticated content starts soared 388% in the second quarter, over the corresponding year-earlier period.

Comcast-owned advanced advertising company FreeWheel reported last month that verified viewers leaped 368% year-over-year, with 46% of all video ad views on long-form content (20 minutes or more) and live content coming from behind authentication walls.

Still, CTAM recognizes much more work needs to be done as Netflix and extant players gain more traction, and others are poised to enter the marketplace.

Distributors and networks own TVE brand development aside, the industry will also be working toward improved verification for kids, families and Hispanics. There will also be a CTAM drive toward the development of extending sign-in periods, and having subs secure access across a programmers’ suite of networks. For example, after a user signs in to watch HGTV, she would then have access to the other Scripps Networks Interactive services: Food Network, Cooking Channel, DIY, Travel Channel and Great American Country.

Also on the docket: CTAM will present TVE-focused executive panels at the Television Critics Association (TCA) Winter Tour in January. It also has engaged in a partnership with the NCTA to deploy a pavilion at INTX (formerly The Cable Show), one of five pillars at the industry gathering with and toward further forging excitement about the growth of TVE throughout the entertainment industry. 

A late-summer tentpole consumer event is in the early planning stages.

CTAM’s progress comes as EchoStar is taking stabs at TVE with an ad campaign touting retail sales of its place-shifting Slingbox devices. The creative trades on a made-up coalition called “Can’t Watch Anywhere Pain” or C.W.A.P. tagline, which takes aims at the programming holes in the cable industry’s TVE lineup.

 The officials quickly engaged the challenge. “In my view, [EchoStar] views our TVE as a threat,” said Cowan. Lansing added: “That’s great. Game on.”