TV Everywhere Travails Aired at TCA Tour

PASADENA, Calif. — The cable industry is making strides in its effort to promote TV everywhere services, but more work needs to be done to educate subscribers in light of competition from over-the-top streaming services, executives said in kicking off the latest Television Critics Association tour.

Subscribers are increasingly embracing and viewing free content from cable network apps on tablets, mobile phones and computers, according to the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Markeeting, which presented the session. Nearly 55% of subscribers have heard of TV everywhere, up from 15% a year ago.

Further, 49% of consumers said they’ve watched OTT content from a network or via their cable provider in the past six months, up from 14% of consumers a year ago. CTAM had set a goal of 55% usage by the end of January.

Still, the industry has some challenges with customer awareness of TVE and the user experience in authenticating TVE services. The industry also has to battle the misconception that TV everywhere carries an added cost beyond the cable subscription.

“One of the most misconstrued things [about] TV everywhere is it’s an added thing that they have to pay for,” Mark Garner, senior vice president of distribution for A+E Networks, said. “That’s one of the messaging points that we’re trying to get across very clearly to consumers … it’s part of your subscription.”

Erik Flannigan, executive vice president of multiplatform strategy and development for Viacom Entertainment Group, added that the experience of accessing TV everywhere content still causes a lot of friction, although CTAM and networks have worked together to educate consumers about the service.

“I think we’re all aware of the friction; the good news is, there are tangible things that are going to happen here in the 24-month time frame,” Flannigan said.

The continued success of subscription OTT services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime are not significantly hurting TV everywhere, but it contributes to the market confusion. Dish Network’s new Sling TV service, which will stream 12 channels of cable for $20, also won’t hurt the value of TV everywhere or the traditional cable bundle, according to James Rollins vice president of digital distribution for ESPN.

“We see this as being an additive service,” Rollins said. “We still firmly see the value in the traditional multi-channel video service.”

Multichannel video service will be enhanced by new programming coming from cable networks in the upcoming year, many of which were presented during the Winter TCA tour.

Discovery Targets Scripted: Newly minted Discovery Channel president Rich Ross said the network is looking to add as many as two scripted shows to its lineup in an effort to broaden the network’s audience reach. “The most important thing is authenticity,” he said. “It’s really important that we look into the brand and make sure that’s what we stand for.” Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav said the company will spend $2 billion on original programming in 2015 as it continues to program both its domestic and international channels. He added that the company makes more money from its international business than it does from its domestic channels.

HBO Circles April 12 on the Calendar: HBO announced an April 12 return date for three of its most popular series: Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley and Veep. The premium service also said talk show Real Time With Bill Maher will return for seasons 14 and 15. HBO will also premiere its miniseries Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst on Feb. 8 and two other projects on May 4: Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief and Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck. Also on tap for the network are original movie Bess, starring Queen Latifah, and original documentary CitizenFour, which chronicles the Edward Snowden story.

Nat Geo Adds Talker: National Geographic Television will launch its first-ever late-night series this April based on astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s podcast Star Talk. The series will feature Tyson — who hosted Nat Geo and Fox broadcasting’s miniseries Cosmos: A Space Odyssey — and will feature celebrities, comedians and scientists discussing the latest developments in science.

No Ratings for Netflix: Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said during the OTT service’s presentation last Wednesday (Jan. 7) that Netflix will not release viewership stats for its original series, adding that ratings do not reflect the success or failure of its original shows.

Sarandos would not comment on the service’s decision not to distribute Sony’s controversial movie The Interview, but said the film’s digital distribution success bodes well for streaming big-ticket films day-and-date with the movie’s theatrical release. The service also picked up original drama Marco Polo for a second season.

ESPN Creates Super-Hero Athletes: ESPN Films has partnered with Marvel Entertainment to create a short film series and a full-length documentary that both connect superheroes with great athletes. The shorts in the “1 of 1 — Origins” film series launching this summer will focus on a single athlete who has a defining story about the origin of their powers in the sports world, while a full-length documentary, 1 of 1 — Genesis, currently available on Digital HD through select digital retailers, explores the connections between Marvel Super Heroes and today’s athletes.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.