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OTT Players Clear Path to Disruption

NEW YORK — No programmer — or big cable operator — is immune to the slow but deliberate disruption being levied by over-the-top video services, according to Tom Rogers, the former NBC and TiVo exec who is now a key player at a startup called WinView.

“I’m not surprised, and I don’t think it’s been quick,” Rogers said of the growth of OTT video services, noting that TiVo and Netflix first agreed to an integration deal back in 2008. “We said, this is the model, this is what’s going to happen [and] the cable industry had better embrace it.”

Rogers, in a keynote discussion here at the Next TV Summit with Mark Robichaux, editorial director of Multichannel News, B&C and Next TV, said the disruption from OTT to the pay TV industry doesn’t look severe yet because the sources of advertising on the digital video side have yet to develop significantly; most of the disruption is coming from subscription-based services such as Netflix and Amazon.

Rogers said the impact of OTT will take longer to affect larger media companies, but will impact them just the same. “The fact that you’re a Fox, in and of itself, does not inoculate you from those trends,” he said, noting that OTT has already had a clear impact on The Walt Disney Co. and ESPN.

“This disruption, I think, is going to catapult,” Rogers said, adding that a big driver will be the emergence of new skinny bundles without sports programming.

Most skinny TV bundles in the U.S. today include sports programming and sell in the range of $30 to $40 per month, plus the cost of broadband, Rogers observed, stating that in other parts of the world, non-sports bundles have emerged that cost $8 to $10 per month. “You are going to [eventually] see a $10 non-sports skinny bundle develop and the acceleration of the breakup of the traditional channel world that it’s going to create.”

Several programmers appear to be on board with that idea. Viacom CEO Bob Bakish recently told an investor’s conference that the industry must develop a non-sports entertainment bundle at a lower price that will appeal to price-conscious consumers.

“Sports is key to this because it’s so much a function of the pricing on the current bundle and has so much to do with the disruption that’s to follow,” Rogers said.

Rogers also talked about the changing dynamics of sports programming as Amazon, Facebook and Twitter continue to swoop in and snag some streaming rights.

Those moves could cause leagues to bid out their traditional linear TV rights more aggrers-sively and their streaming rights separately. The networks, Rogers said, may respond by trying to outbid others for the streaming rights or not pursue them despite the threat of losing an increasing portion of the audience that is pivoting to OTT.

“Neither one of those is a good result” for those networks, Rogers said.

Sports programming is also critical to Rogers’s latest venture, WinView, a startup that has developed a free mobile app that lets users win cash by making situational predictions during live TV sports events, including the recent addition of Major League Baseball.