TV Everywhere Is Top Of Everyone's Mind
During the dramatic search for the Boston Marathon bombers in April, CNN saw a massive usage spike, maybe the biggest ever, for its authenticated TV Everywhere live-streaming service.
CNN had recorded other surges on the service since its launch in July 2011, Alex Wellen says, VP of business products and strategy at CNN Digital. "But we'd never quite seen anything like what happened with the Boston manhunt. It had the hallmarks of a story made for CNN and told through technology."
Multichannel video programming distributors — aka cable and satellite operators — began launching TVE services four years ago, offering "authenticated" subscribers the ability to receive popular cable programming networks on their tablets and smartphones by downloading an app. The intent was to discourage cord-cutting, which was just beginning to rear its head.
Today, in partnership with programmers like CNN, the top 10 MVPDs (including DirecTV and Dish), some second-tier cable operators, AT&T U-Verse and Verizon FiOS all offer flavors of TVE. They haven't set the world on fire. After all, pay TV operators were simply giving subscribers another way to access what they were already receiving on their big screens.
But for the most part so far, TVE has been a video-on-demand service, a way for subscribers to cherry pick their favorite shows to watch on second screens. But with CNN and a handful of others leading the way, live-streaming of linear channels is starting to get traction. Even broadcasters are getting in on the act.
"With TV Everywhere, I think the next major move is the out-of-home linear offering," says Bruce Eisen, president of Digital Advisors, and former VP of online content development and strategy at Dish Network.
Disney/ABC has been early proponent of TVE streaming, offering ESPN, ESPN3, Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior.
Fox has been streaming the Big Ten Network for a couple of years and Time Warner plans to offer TBS and TNT later this year.
Intrigued by the opportunity to reach mobile devices, three of the Big Four broadcast networks — ABC, NBC and Fox — have said they will offer their O&Os over the platform and encourage their affiliates to do the same. Only CBS remains on the sideline.
"The piece that becomes more important for broadcasters is going to be whatever happens with mobile, the ability to get live broadcast signals on a mobile device," says Barry Lucas, SVP-research, Gabelli & Co., who has been following the TVE action.
"I think we're likely to see all of the networks make live TV Everywhere available," adds Will Richmond, who writes about digital video on his VideoNuze blog. "It's a way of bringing back some of the live viewership and blunt some of the appeal Aereo is sucking out of the market."
Aereo is the Barry Diller-backed IP service that is offering all consumers access to signals of local network affiliates for a monthly fee. It has drawn legal challenges from the networks because of its refusal to pay rights fees to them.
ABC got a jump on the other two broadcast networks in May when it began streaming its O&Os in New York (WABC) and Philadelphia (WPVI). An open-access introductory period that runs until the end of June allows anyone with a broadband connection to watch the stations. Thereafter, the live-streaming service will be available only to authenticated cable and satellite customers.
ABC said that its other six stations will join the party later this year. Also later this year, Hearst Television will put its 13 ABC affiliates on the platform.
Disney/ABC's decision to serve up its stations via TVE stems from the success that it has had with its cable networks. According to the company, authenticated MVPD subscribers have downloaded more than 15 million apps to get the Disney cable networks over the past year.
"While we are still in the very early days, the feedback we’ve received has been very positive and we are working diligently towards increasing distribution of these services in more markets across the country," says Ben Pyne, president, global distribution, Disney/ABC Television Group.
Mike Biard, EVP-distribution, Fox Networks, says his early experience with the Big Ten Network and TVE has been positive, too.
"Access to local news programming on whatever device is in hand will be huge, but we think sports is the giant killer app for live streaming," he says.