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On Demand Summit: VOD To Become An Even More Powerful Viewing Force

New York -- With the amount of content and number of devices accelerating, the video on demand platform, in its various forms, is going to become an even more powerful viewing force over the next few years.

That was the consensus among panelists on the programming roundtable at the On Demand Summit here Wednesday when asked by moderator and Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead to gaze into their crystal balls about where the platform will be in three years.

Ubiquity will govern the VOD universe, according to Richard Buchanan, vice president and general  manager of content solutions at Comcast Media Center.

“I think it’s going to be more on every platform,” he said. With the aid of guides, consumers will be able to find whatever programming they want, whenever they want it on VOD, “from every location, all the time,” Buchanan predicted. “It’s all about the convenience of consumers that will outweigh everything, with the exception of big live events like The Kentucky Derby and Sunday Night Football."

Jeff Cuban, executive vice president of AXS TV and Magnolia Pictures, said that “everyone will be on a far more even playing field” relative to their technological capabilities and with much of the content that they can make available. As such, differentiation will come through "content offerings and that’s going to happen sooner, rather than later,” he said.

Rob Jacobson, global head of programming and acquisitions at Vubiquity (formerly Avail-TVN), foresees “a handful of global players. It’s going to be iTunes, it’s going to Netflix and hopefully, it’s going to be us.” He said Vubiquity is going to provide a uniform package of programming to consumers everywhere in the world that they will be able to access on multiple devices. He added that “those packages will be augmented with local programming to meet the needs of the customer bases in those particular markets.”

Mike Kelley, senior vice president of business development – programming and advertising at Ensequence, said content will be “available anytime, anywhere, which, when you think about it, is overwhelming to consumers.”

He said some of the "real winners" will be the companies that can provide search and discovery elements for programming that people really want. While top-flight content ultimately rules, Ensequence believes part of “that great experience will be viewers interacting with their friends,  by voting, playing trivia,” as elements that will enhance the programming.

Tricia Lynch, senior programming executive at Verizon, believes that VOD stands poised for a huge uptick. She said on demand currently counts for about 15% of Verizon’s total viewership around the country, with the balance occurring on more traditional linear lines. Lynch expects that within three years, VOD, in its various forms, will generate the “majority of viewing.”

Moreover, given the back-engine capabilities of Comcast Media Center, In Demand and Vubiquity, coupled with the development of appropriate guides, there could be “a massive overhaul” in the delivery of linear networks and a reduction in the 500-channel universe. 

She said Verizon currently offers some 55,000 VOD titles at any one time, while Comcast offers 100,000. She said that over the next few years, those totals will be in the 100,000 to 200,000 range.

Nicholas Savoie, vice president of global sales at Stingray Digital Group, a content provider whose assets includes Galaxie Music Service, the Karaoke Channel and ConcertTV, said that in three years providers will have to ask themselves everyday how they’re differentiating their online store offering, versus iTunes and Amazon. He said that may play out on price, the kind of content available, the totality of 100,000 assets, and access to the fare on various devices. But he said another driver may be viewer experience, which becomes even more important “as you increase the number of assets.”

Savoie talked about consumers being able "to access the content, find it," and that comes down to applications. He said more providers are allowing for apps and “that’s a great way for programmers and MPVDS to work together" to make those experiences happen.