TV Everywhere

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TV Everywhere (also sometimes known as authenticated streaming or authenticated video on-demand)[1] refers to a business model wherein television broadcasters—particularly cable networks, allow their customers to access content from their network through internet-based services—either live or on-demand, as an aspect of their subscription to the service.

TV Everywhere systems utilize accounts provided by a user's respective television provider—which are used to verify whether the user is a subscriber to a particular channel, thus allowing or denying access to the content. The U.S. provider Time Warner Cable first introduced the concept in 2009; in 2010, many television providers and networks began to roll out TV Everywhere services for their subscribers, including major networks such as ESPN, HBO, and NBC (particularly for its Olympics coverage).

Although providers of these services have touted the advantages of being able to access content across multiple platforms (including on the internet, and on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets through special apps) as part of their television subscription, TV Everywhere services have been criticized for being difficult for end-users to set up, while media activists have criticized the concept for merely extending the existing oligarchy of incumbent television providers to the internet, and colluding against "cord cutters"—those who drop cable and satellite entirely in favor of accessing content via terrestrial television, the internet, and subscription video on demand (SVOD) services.

Rationale[edit]

TV Everywhere services were developed in an attempt to compete with the market trend of "cord cutting", where consumers drop traditional pay television subscriptions in favor of accessing TV content exclusively through over-the-air television and/or online on-demand services, including Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, and other sources. Authenticated streaming and video on-demand services allow traditional television providers to directly compete with these disruptive competitors, and add value to existing television subscriptions in an effort to retain subscribers.[2][3]

In particular, broadcasters and providers have emphasized the use of TV Everywhere services to allow multi-platform access to their content, on devices such as personal computers, smartphones, tablets, and video game consoles.[3]

History[edit]

Precursors[edit]

ESPN first introduced a TV Everywhere-like concept with ESPN360, a service which allowed users to stream sports programming from its networks either live or on-demand through a website. However, access to ESPN360 was restricted to the users of internet service providers who had negotiated deals with ESPN to offer the service; a model closer in nature to cable television carriage. Similar tactics were soon used by several other channels, such as NFL Network (who used the technique to restrict access to its Game Extra service for Thursday Night Football) and Epix. David Preschlack, ESPN's executive vice president for affiliate sales and marketing, foresaw a future in the model, believing that access to exclusive content would soon play a greater role in competition between high-speed internet providers. Although the model was deemed a violation of the principles of net neutrality by critics, the FCC's policies on net neutrality only apply to ISPs and not content providers.[4][5][6]

Introduction and adoption[edit]

In 2009, Time Warner Cable announced an initiative known as TV Everywhere, a set of principles which were "designed to serve as a framework to facilitate deployment of online television content in a way that is consumer friendly, pro-competitive." The concept would enable users of their respective cable television services to access live and on-demand online content from channels that they subscribe to by using an account-based authentication system. TWC CEO Jeffrey Bewkes believed that the TV Everywhere principles were "good concepts" that "[are] likely to be the general direction for all TV networks and all the distribution connections that are out there." That summer, both TWC and Comcast began trials of services based off the system; Turner Broadcasting was an early supporter of the system, providing access to TBS and TNT content as part of the trials. Comcast officially launched a public beta of its TV Everywhere-based portal, Xfinity Fancast, in December 2009 for all double-play television and internet customers. Afterwards, other providers began to follow suit.[3][5][7]

In 2010, broadcasters and television providers began a wider roll-out of TV Everywhere-based services; for the 2010 Winter Olympics, NBC Sports offered live and video on-demand access to events throughout the Games that required users to authenticate for access.[8] Also in February, HBO launched HBO Go, a video on demand service exclusive to HBO subscribers on participating providers.[9] In September 2010, Disney would begin launching an array of TV Everywhere-based services, including WatchESPN (allowing users to stream ESPN's entire suite of channels), accompanied by the later launches of Watch Disney Channel and Watch Disney XD.[10]

In August 2011, Fox became the first over-the-air network to restrict on-demand access with a TV Everywhere-based system; "next day" on-demand episodes (either through its website or Hulu, itself a joint venture between Fox, NBC, and ABC at the time) would only be available online to users authenticating themselves as a subscriber to a cable or satellite provider, or those who subscribe to the Hulu Plus service. All other users would be subject to an 8-day delay.[11] On September 1, 2011, fellow Fox property Big Ten Network (a college sports network dedicated to the Big Ten Conference, operated in partnership with Fox Sports) also launched a TV Everywhere service known as BTN2Go.[12]

Expansion[edit]

Matt Strauss, Comcast senior vice president of digital and emerging platforms, considered the 2012 Summer Olympics to be a "watershed" event for TV Everywhere services; NBCUniversal announced that a total of nearly 10 million authenticated devices accessed its online coverage during the Games across both the NBCOlympics.com site and NBC Olympics Live Extra app; in particular, parent company Comcast accounted for 3.3 million devices from 1.5 million users.[13] Following the Games, the NBC Olympics Live Extra app was re-launched as NBC Sports Live Extra, serving as a general TV Everywhere app for NBC Sports.[14] TV Everywhere services also began to appear in Canada, with the Canadian launch of HBO Go in 2012,[15] and the 2013 announcement of TV Everywhere services from Bell Media (beginning with Bravo Go, and also including CTV Go and TSN Go) and Shaw Media (beginning with Global). The majority of Canadian broadcasters are vertically integrated; both Bell and Shaw operate internet, and national satellite television services.[16][17][18]

In May 2013, ABC released its Watch ABC mobile app, which allows viewers on participating providers to access live streams from participating ABC affiliates.[19][20] In December 2013, ABC confirmed that it would impose a similar restriction to Fox for "next day" on-demand episodes beginning on January 6, 2014, with 7-day exclusivity for authenticated users and Hulu Plus subscribers.[21] NBC unveiled its own plans for a similar TV Everywhere app to its affiliate board in April 2014.[22]

Reception[edit]

The TV Everywhere concept has been met with mixed reception. Some broadcasters have been hesitant to introduce TV Everywhere services, with concerns that they may affect advertising revenue and not be adequately counted by Nielsen ratings.[3] Media activists have criticized the system for protecting the existing closed, regionalized oligarchy of multichannel television by tying internet-based content to traditional television providers, thus harming competitors that are purely internet-based. Public Knowledge believed that "under the 'TV Everywhere' plan, no other program distributors would be able to emerge, and no consumers will be able to 'cut the cord' because they find what they want online. As a result, consumers will be the losers."[5]

In 2010, Free Press released a report entitled "TV Nowhere: How the Cable Industry Is Colluding to Kill Online TV", contending that "under TV Everywhere, traditional cable TV distributors will continue to serve only consumers within their current geographically limited footprints, not competing with providers in other areas" and that "by tying programming to local cable subscriptions, while denying content to pure online TV distributors, the incumbent industry hopes to artificially reproduce the lack of competition for TV distribution to which it is accustomed, based on geographical fiefdoms and turf." The National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) denied many of Free Press' arguments, stating that "[TV Everywhere] is an effort to ensure more content than ever is distributed over the Internet at no extra charge to consumers." On the other hand, Songwriters Guild of America president Rick Carnes praised the TV Everywhere concept and other recent developments for helping to provide easier, legal access to premium content online.[23]

In July 2014, BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield criticized the video on demand services offered through TV Everywhere systems for being ad-supported. In examples from FX and TNT, he noticed that ads often repeated, and that in TNT's case, its version of an episode of The Last Ship included 20 minutes of unskippable ads across 45 minutes of programming. In conclusion, he contended that viewers would rather wait for programs to appear on SVOD services rather than use TV Everywhere services.[24][25]

Viewer awareness[edit]

Despite efforts by broadcasters to educate viewers (including Fox, who featured a promotional video with Jane Lynch as her Glee character Sue Sylvester, describing the process as being less painful than waterboarding),[26] critics and end-users criticized the registration and authentication process for being frustrating and difficult. In response, providers took steps to improve the user experience of the process; Disney reported that use of its TV Everywhere services increased after it simply changed its process to use the term "verify" instead of "authenticate", Comcast and Cablevision introduced systems that automatically verify users with their residential gateways, and Synacor (a provider of authentication platforms used by providers) added the ability for users to link their provider account to a social network login, such as Facebook or Twitter.[13][26][27][28]

For the 2012 Summer Olympics and 2014 Winter Olympics, NBC worked closer with providers to help educate users, and produced customized marketing materials and video tutorials featuring Carson Daly (2012) and Ryan Seacrest (2014) to help inform users. As an incentive, NBC also allowed authenticated users to enter a sweepstakes to win a trip to London (2012) or Rio de Janeiro (2014).[29][30] Still, dissatisfaction with the system and the quality of NBC's overall coverage led to an increase in the use of virtual private network (VPN) services to access the more comprehensive online coverage of the Games being provided by broadcasters in the United Kingdom (BBC) or Canada (CTV in London, CBC in Sochi), which did not use authentication, but cannot normally be viewed inside the United States due to rights restrictions.[31][32]

In April 2014, the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) unveiled an industry-wide initiative for marketing and educating subscribers about TV Everywhere services provided by broadcasters and providers; these efforts include a stylized "tv everywhere" logo which the organization intends providers to use as a unified brand to denote TV Everywhere services, and design recommendations on the user experience for the authentication process to alleviate the confusion experienced by users when using poor TV Everywhere implementations.[33][34]

Adoption[edit]

In a December 2013 survey of 4,205 pay television subscribers, NPD Group found that 21% of them used a TV Everywhere service at least once per month, and that 90% of them were satisfied with the experience. NPD analyst Russ Crupnick felt that "aggressive" use of the model was helping to counter cord cutting, which "speaks to the level of engagement they have with programming and a comfort in using the Internet to both access and interact with that programming." The study also found that 3 out of 10 pay television subscribers who were also subscribed to an SVOD service used TV Everywhere services at least once a week (in comparison to 2 out of 10 for those who were not).[35]

Amid criticism of NBC's coverage, adoption of NBC's TV Everywhere services during the 2014 Winter Olympics was still significantly large: on February 21, 2014, coverage of the Men's hockey semi-final featuring the U.S. and Canada recorded the largest TV Everywhere audience in NBC Sports history, with 2.12 million unique viewers, augmenting the average NBCSN television audience of 3.9 million.[36][37] ESPN's coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup drew similarly heavy online viewership: during a group stage match between the U.S. and Portugal, at least 1.7 million concurrent viewers were using WatchESPN (though, not all of the viewers were necessarily watching the game).[38]

References[edit]

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