As a proud “QuickPlayer,” I felt very much at home at the recent Cable Show in Boston. It seemed that in every booth there was some demonstration that included cloud-based capabilities for multiscreen video. The cloud was also described in session after session as being a valuable way to for cable providers to increase the speed of innovation. References to TV everywhere were also, well, everywhere with cable providers and content providers all talking to the importance of enabling consumers to access all of their content across multiple platforms as quickly as possible. The consensus seemed to be that providers will enable multiscreen access now, drive adoption and then determine how to best monetize later.
Collaboration in order to protect market share was another theme, with five of the largest cable operators (Cablevision, Comcast, Cox Communications, Bright House Networks and Time Warner Cable) announcing an agreement to provide their customers with reciprocal access to their 50,000 metro area Wi-Fi hotspots.
Enabling live multiscreen access to major sporting events was, as expected, another hot topic.
Key takeaways from the sessions I attended are as follows:
Multiscreen consumption of TV is becoming mainstream. At the “Glass Act: Video Viewers and Televisions Changing Picture” session, Motorola’s Dan Moloney talked about the results of a recent global consumer survey. The survey revealed that 25 percent of respondents had watched a form of TV on their smartphones or tablets – 5x more than had reported doing so in the survey from the previous year. This growth is consistent with results that we’ve seen in a number of studies, including our recent survey of U.S. mobile subscribers in which 81 percent of mobile TV and/or video users reported watching more mobile video than the year before.
Improving consumer access and increasing adoption of multiscreen services was also a key topic for the industry panel at the May 22 general session. In his remarks regarding Verizon’s newly announced Viewdini mobile search feature, Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead said, “We are just seeing a hunger for people wanting to watch video.”
Tablets continue to alter video consumption behavior. At the “Glass Act..” session, the Platform’s Ian Blaine discussed the impact of tablets on consumers’ attention spans, indicating that 85 percent of tablet owners use their device while watching TV. We’ve certainly seen some of our own customers cleverly leveraging this trend by providing second screen services to their subscribers. The Verizon IndyCar App, for example, enables Verizon Wireless subscribers to view races from in-car cameras and access additional behind the scenes audio and video using smartphones and tablets.
Drive adoption now and fully monetize later. The theme of driving adoption for multiscreen now and then determining monetization strategies down the road was a key topic of discussion at a number of sessions. At “Is This Hotspot Taken? New Directions in Cables Mobility Play,” Mike Roudi of Time Warner described the user-focused strategy driving the agreement to share Wi-Fi hotspots with Cox, Cablevision, Comcast and Bright Vision, stating, “User experience is best served by keeping consumers on our networks for as long as possible.” Tom Nagel of Comcast indicated that they entered the agreement for both customer retention and acquisition. He stated that people are consuming more and more data outside of the home – video in particular – and that over time they will identify areas for payment. Cox’s Brian Wilson echoed this thought at the “Video that goes ‘Click’ – TV Everywhere and the Connected Viewer” session. Responding to a question about monetization from moderator Brian Stelter of the New York Times, Wilson responded, “We need to get customers using and figure out charging later on.”
Shift in consumer demand from media ownership to access. At the May 22 general session, Vevo’s Rio Careff made the insightful observation that “we are going through a generational shift, from a generation that values ownership to a generation that values access.”
Demand for Live TV remains strong. Speaking at the “Dispatches from Screenland: Changing Technologies and Audiences” session, Univision’s Cesar Conde noted that over 90 percent of Univision viewing is done live – a surprising stat in an age of time-shifted viewing for most content. This was echoed at by NBC’s Matt Bond (“Video that goes ‘Click’”). “Even with all of time shifting options, Live TV continues to be the predominant way that viewers consume their content,” said Bond. 92 percent of NBC content viewing is live (six percent on demand, two percent streaming).
Live TV is key to multiscreen adoption, with live sports being critical to success. A number of sessions very clearly illustrated that multiscreen viewing is not leading to cord cutting and that the inclusion of Live TV is a key driver of multiscreen adoption. “We are now confident that live streaming does not cannibalize our primetime audience,” said NBC’s Gary Zenkel at “Dispatches from Screenland.” Zenkel went on to announce that NBC would make 5,535 hours of Olympic coverage available across multiple screens, stating that NBC’s Olympic coverage would be the best example of TV everywhere.
At the sports focused general session on the last day of the conference, panelists from Fox, Turner, the NBA, and ESPN discussed the importance of live sports viewing, agreeing that sports are one of the few types of content that consumers must see live. ESPN’s John Skipper expressed the value of sports stating, “Sports are unique. You cannot replicate them, you must experience them live.” Turner’s David Levy agreed, stating, “Sport is the last appointment viewing.” Illustrating the high level of interest in multiscreen viewing of sports. Skipper stated that 8 million consumers have downloaded the WatchESPN mobile app,
Rights and technology remain key impediments to rapid roll-out of multiscreen services. At “Video that goes ‘Click’,” both NBC and HBO discussed the conflict between the desire to bring content to as many screens as possible as quickly as possible and the challenges of implementation. NBC’s Bond said one of the biggest challenges is the length of time it takes to negotiate rights for various programs across multiple platforms. HBO described its biggest challenge as the weeks it takes to complete encoding when new devices come to market.
Pay TV providers still have advantage over OTT providers. Panelists at “Video that goes ‘Click’” provided their views on the best way for a content provider to distribute their content. HBO’s Eric Kessler that HBO GO will not be available as an OTT service. He explained that by working with Pay TV providers, HBO has access to the largest possible audience (102 million subscribers), and is able to optimize the promotional support provided by Pay TV providers.