On Demand Summit: VOD Still Figuring Out Best Way to Provide Services

New York - While video on demand is growing and finding new ways to service viewers, there is still a lot to be figured out, according to the "Distribution, Deals, Windows and More!" panelists at the B&C/Multichannel News On Demand Summit 3.0 here Wednesday at the Sentry Center.

Channels like IFC, which primarily airs hard-to-find movies, see VOD as an aid to programming. "From my perspective, the glass is overflowing," said Lisa Schwartz, EVP of distribution, operations and business development for IFC Entertainment.

"The physical video stores [had] controlled the market," Schwartz added, whereas the emergence of VOD allows the consumers to bring the video store to their couch.

Operators that are adopting TV Everywhere are still figuring out the best way to provide the most content they can on the most devices possible. "At the end of the day, it's all about watching content, valuable content, on whatever screen you want," said Steve Necessary, VP, video product development and management, Cox Communications. "We do wanna get the best value to our customers."

The call for on demand is partially driven by consumers' waning desire to deal with the stress of movie-going, noted Richard Buchanan, VP/GM, content operations and engineering, Comcast Media Center. "It's a delicate ecosystem," he said.  "Do you still wanna go have that big-screen, theatrical experience?"

Getting distribution deals and squaring away the content rights still prove to be the biggest roadblocks. "Securing the rights is the longest step for getting VOD," said John Woods, VP, advanced consumer services, Mediacom Communications Corp.

The emergence of Netflix as a go-to on-demand service has certainly made the industry take notice. Woods said it is "raising the bar in regards to how content is presented." The panelists were in agreement however, that Netflix will never completely replace them, but it has caused them to step up their game.

Another issue facing VOD providers is consumers' willingness to adapt to the changing technology, something that Netflix doesn't have a problem with due to its easy-to-use interface. Buchanan said providers need only to ask themselves one question: "Are you enabling the consumer the ability to find what they want?" Woods said that regardless of what device the user is on--television, tablet or iPad--the experience must be uniform across all platforms.

Necessary argued that of all the VOD services, premium services are the most vulnerable to becoming outdated. New services like HBOGo are giving on-demand operators some fits because those offer more programming than regular on demand, and also may lead to "cord-cutting" (when cable/satellite consumers discontinue their service). Necessary said that while cord-cutting remains an option for viewers, he doesn't see it becoming any sort of threat.

Even so, the panelists were in agreement that VOD is becoming the de-facto replacement for the now-outdated video stores.

"Physical video stores just don't exist anymore," Schwartz said.