It’s the ads — or, rather, the same ads over and over — BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield says in a report, and documents in this video of his experience when he caught up with The Americans on FX’s FXNow site. “Some days we were shown the same two commercials during every single ad break (Audi and Burger King),” he says. “Other days we ended up with the exact same ad (Audi) running three times during every commercial break (and remember fast-forwarding was disabled).” The problem isn’t limited to FX. It ”affects virtually all broadcast and basic cable networks….Beyond a few shows where the ‘watercooler buzz’ is too great to wait, we suspect consumers will increasingly opt to delay viewing toward ad-free platforms that enable binging.”
Seven of the top 10 cable operators already use Digitalsmiths’ service, the companies say in this morning’s deal announcement. The technology powers TV Everywhere video discovery for set top boxes and consumer electronics devices using iOS and Android as well as Roku, Xbox, PlayStation, and Kindle. What, exactly, does it do? The official boilerplate sounds a little creepy, but here it is: Digitalsmiths “offers personalized video search, recommendations and browsing, social trending, and mood-based discovery which can be used to instantly connect consumers to the most relevant movies, TV shows and live events available, at any time, on any screen including set-top boxes, tablets, smart phones, computers and gaming consoles.” In any event, TiVo CEO Tom Rogers says that the deal “opens new opportunities to commercialize and deploy TiVo’s cloud based services and technologies to operators, in an extremely cost effective way that can be offered either independently or in conjunction with TiVo’s renowned user interface.” What’s more, the deal could open doors for TiVo with large pay TV distributors. Up to now it has been most successful offering its DVRs and technologies to small and medium sized operators that don’t have the wherewithal to provide the state-of-the-art services available from big fish led by Comcast. TiVo tells shareholders not to worry: The deal will “help accelerate TiVo’s long-term Adjusted EBITDA [cash flow] growth.” Also helping the bottom line: Digitalsmiths has more than $20M in …
This is a surprise: Discovery has been slow to grant streaming rights to its programming, waiting to see how much extra distributors would be willing to pay — and when Nielsen would begin to measure viewing on iPads and other mobile devices. But the planets apparently aligned for a new carriage deal with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks that the companies struck before their previous one expired. The companies say this morning that subscribers will “enjoy authenticated access [that's industry jargon for TV Everywhere] to Discovery content in the near future” in a deal that I’m told runs through the end of the decade. Some of the details still need to be ironed out: Time Warner Cable SVP for Content Acquisition Andrew Rosenberg says the agreement will provide subscribers with “a robust VOD experience” as execs “look forward to continually working with Discovery to provide more expansive out of home access to their content.” Discovery CEO David Zaslav told analysts last month that TV Everywhere is “a real benefit to the cable operator” but so far there’s been “a little bit of an impasse on value.” Discovery had held back from granting rights because “our deals [with cable and satellite distributors] haven’t come up yet.” But he added that he might reach an agreement before a renewal came up saying that “if we get the right value, we’ll do it. …We’re in a very good position …
This is a big upgrade for Comcast subscribers who have Apple or Android mobile devices with the company’s Xfinity TV Go app — the new name for its Xfinity TV Player App. At some point over the next two weeks they’ll be able to stream about 35 channels and 25,000 VOD choices including when they’re away from home. In addition, Comcast says that thousands of movies and TV shows will be available to be downloaded. Cable and satellite companies consider out-of-home viewing to be a key feature for their TV Everywhere initiatives — but some programmers have insisted that they be paid extra for those rights. Channels available to mobile streamers will include BBC World News, beIN Sport, beIN Sport Español, Big Ten Network, CNBC, CNN, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes, ESPNews, ESPNU, Fox Business Channel, Fox News Channel, Fox Sports 1, FX, FXX, Golf Channel, HLN, MSNBC, National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo Wild, NBC Sports Network and Pac-12 Networks. “Television isn’t just about the living room anymore,” says Charlie Herrin, Comcast Cable’s SVP for Product Design and Development. There’s one quirk in the system, though: Streaming will be available via WiFi and Verizon Wireless’ broadband network — but not on AT&T, Sprint, or TMobile. The cable company and Verizon have an agreement to cross-promote each other’s services in markets where they don’t compete head-to-head.
This is notable because USA Network just topped all cable channels in ratings for the 28th consecutive quarter — and it is the first NBCUniversal cable property to dive into the space, which requires a subscription to a pay TV service to access content. Today’s announcement says the network’s shows like Royal Pains and Burn Notice can be seen online and via the new USA Now app for tablets and smartphones the day after they air on USA, and that NBCU is planning rollouts of similar apps for its other channels including Syfy and Telemundo. Today’s launch will be for iOS platforms only, with an Android version on its way later this month. Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, DirecTV, Dish Network, and FiOS are among the providers aboard so far — after the Android app is live, that means about half the 99 million U.S. households that get USA will have access to the content, with a ramp-up expected in the next year. In addition to streamed episodes, there will be the usual second screen experiences and social networking tie-ins. A second phase will incorporate more personalization and gamification elements. Viewers will receive show recommendations based on their viewing habits, and have the ability to sign up for alerts for new content.
This is a big step in Disney‘s effort to bring its TV Everywhere app to all of the markets where it owns TV stations, and to Hearst’s 13 ABC affiliates, by the beginning of the fall primetime season. WATCH ABC, which enables pay TV subscribers to stream live broadcasts from their local ABC stations, is already available in New York City and Philadelphia. Beginning today Disney’s expanding the service to Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Raleigh-Durham. It’s not for everybody, and doesn’t go everywhere: Users need to be customers of Comcast, Cablevision, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, Midcontinent Communications or AT&T U-verse. The app works on iOS mobile devices and the Kindle Fire — as well as some Android tablets including the Samsung Galaxy. You have to be in the local market to see the live, linear programming although travelers can access on demand some episodes of ABC’s daytime and primetime shows. The service should be up soon at the ABC-owned stations in Houston and Fresno; Hearst’s 13 ABC markets include Boston, Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Milwaukee. Disney says that it expects to announce additional agreements with station owners as the fall season begins.
Epix stands to benefit if cable operators conclude that they need more options for subscribers who want to stream movies. And the survey results released at the annual Cable Show in DC seem to help the premium channel’s cause. It found that 71% of pay TV subscribers consider it to be an “excellent/good” value when they can view their content on three devices in addition to the tube. In Epix’s case, 62% of its subscribers are satisfied with the service when they just receive it on TV. The number rises to 80% when they can watch the channel’s shows on two or three devices — and rises again to 94% when shows are available on four or more devices. “Flexibility is really important in the delivery and packaging of programming services and those distributors who recognize this will be able to increase the satisfaction levels of their customers,” says Epix Chief of Staff Nora Ryan. “We remain committed to working closely with our operating partners to provide our authenticated subscribers access to the best content and extra features in all the ways they want it.” The numbers come from a survey that Hub Entertainment Research conducted in March among 1,936 TV viewers ages 16 to 64 who also have home broadband.
The cable initiative to stream any TV show, anytime, and anywhere remains spotty and confusing — and is progressing slowly — execs acknowledged in a panel on the subject today at the Cable Show in D.C. Thus far “it’s not a success,” says Fox Networks’ Mike Biard. NBCUniversal’s Ron Lamprecht rated the progress at no more than a 5 out of 10. There’s no turning back, though. “We see our consumers expecting that our content be everywhere,” he says. “There really isn’t any other choice. We have to be there.” But the industry faces a gauntlet of negotiations before it can hope to provide a service that will look the same across all TV networks, cable providers, and technology platforms. For example, Watch ESPN — the sports channel’s TV Everywhere service — “is almost exactly like what you see on ESPN, but there are blackouts because they don’t have the underlying rights” to all the games, Comcast Cable’s Marcien Jenckes says. Consumers also will find different shows when they use a network’s app compared with a cable company’s, and whether they’re used in or outside the home. “In a TNT application within the home you’re accessing TV Everywhere, but in an Xfinity application it could be [just the cable company's] VOD” programming, says Turner Broadcasting’s Jeremy Legg. “Explain to a consumer why they can get TNT in the home but not out of the home.”
CBS Sports and Turner Sports scored last night. Their first-round coverage of the 2013 NCAA men’s basketball tournament on CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV averaged an overnight household rating/share of 5.8/14. That’s the highest first Thursday ratings of the tournament since 1991. It is also up 4% compared with the 5.6/13 that the tournament received on the comparable night of March 15th last year. This is the third year CBS and Turner are showing all 67 March Madness games across four networks. The first primetime slot (7-10:15 PM), which saw South Dakota State vs. Michigan on CBS, averaged a 7.4/14 to register the highest rating ever for the time slot and was up 9% over the 6.8/13 the first primetime game of the night got in 2012. The second primetime slot of the night (9:30 PM – 12:45 AM) averaged a 6.4/11, down from the 6.8/12 of 2012, but featured two blowouts: Virginia Commonwealth thrashing Akron by 46 points on CBS and Syracuse slamming Montana by 47 on TNT. So far, this year’s March Madness, which began Tuesday with the NCAA First Four, is averaging a 5.2/12, up 2% compared with a 5.1/12 at the same time last year.
This year’s March Madness will have a lot more eyeballs in play. Millions more, according to CBS Sports and Turner Sports execs who boast that the NCAA College Basketball Championships will be available to more viewers on more devices plus a larger TV Everywhere Universe, Multichannel.com reports. CBS and Turner also are confident that consumers’ increased familiarity with authentication process will expand the overall audience for the tourney. NCAA March Madness gets underway Tuesday following today’s announcement of the 68-team field on CBS’ NCAA Baskeball Championship Selection Show. The Turner-produced NCAA March Madness live will offer free streaming of the 67 games comprising the 2013 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship tournament across scads of online, mobile and tablet devices to pay TV subscribers. With social and interactive components, it will launch from ncaa.com/marchmadness, CBSSports.com and www.bleacherreport.com, along with Google Play and Apple’s App Store. The games beging with TruTV’s coverage of the First Four on March 19 and 20 and concludes with the national championship game in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome on April 8.
This may frustrate TV Everywhere evangelists including News Corp’s Chase Carey and Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes, who have have lamented the slow rollout of the pay TV streaming services. But Discovery CEO David Zaslav isn’t ready to join the parade yet. Although there’s a “good chance” he’ll grant some TV Everywhere rights this year, most deals enabling pay TV distributors to stream Discovery’s programming will “feather in” over the next few years, Zaslav told analysts this morning. The big problem: “We couldn’t determine what the right value was.” Nielsen still doesn’t provide ratings for shows streamed to iPads. “We feel like it needs to be measured.” Zaslav also wants to hold back on negotiations until he has a better handle on how valuable TV Everywhere will be for cable and satellite companies — for example by helping them to raise rates or reduce subscriber losses. “We just need to figure out how to apportion that value.” Once those issues are resolved, Discovery has to determine whether it should cut new TV Everywhere deals with cable and satellite companies, or make streaming part of a package of rights when it renews its current distribution pacts.
Related: Discovery’s Q4 Earnings Miss Expectations …
Cable and satellite companies have a well-deserved reputation for being terrible marketers. (How many other industries would describe consumer products with terms such as “DOCSIS 3.0″ and “EBIF-Enabled”?) Still, I thought the industry would do better with TV Everywhere. Execs sure talk enough about how quickly they need to offer subscribers cable shows streamed to their mobile devices. That’s why I was surprised to see this factoid today from SNL Kagan: The research firm says that in September, 3.1M unique users streamed TV Everywhere programming at AT&T, Cox, Comcast (Xfinity), Verizon, Cablevision (Optimum), Time Warner Cable, and Dish Network. That comes to just 5.1% of the roughly 60M customers who could have accessed TV Everywhere videos at those companies. The data suggest “relatively weak TV Everywhere awareness among cable, DBS and telco video subs, most likely due to the lack of any serious marketing campaigns to promote the product,” analyst Tony Lenoir says. It also means the services have a long way to go to catch up to other streaming video providers. For example, Hulu had 21.3M unique users in September, while Netflix had 16.2M.
Today’s announcement suggests that Viacom is warming to the idea of allowing its shows to appear on TV Everywhere platforms — but still with limits. The deal with AT&T doesn’t extend to mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. U-verse video subscribers can watch streamed shows, on-demand, both in and out of home on computers by accessing the TV Everywhere sites that Viacom runs for BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Spike, and VH1. The companies curiously say that AT&T customers “may” soon be able to access the shows on mobile devices via U-verse.com and U-verse apps. Pay TV execs consider mobile, out-of-home access critical for TV Everywhere to succeed. But Viacom has been tetchy about granting these rights, in part because it’s hard to measure the audience on mobile devices. Last year Viacom sued Time Warner Cable when it provided subscribers with an iPhone app that they could use to watch cable programming at home. They settled the case, enabling Time Warner Cable customers to watch Viacom shows on mobile devices at home. Last month they announced a deal that gives Time Warner Cable customers TV Everywhere rights on computers similar to the ones in the new arrangement with AT&T.
Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes and News Corp COO Chase Carey took the message to The Cable Show this morning, urging attendees to jump on the Internet video bandwagon — even if it means relaxing their grip on the relationship with their customers. “We’ve just got to do it faster,” Bewkes says about TV Everywhere, the service that enables subscribers to watch TV shows on mobile devices. Carey agreed that “it should go faster,” adding that “we get too hung up on protecting the rules of the past.” That was a subtle swipe at pay TV distributors who covet their gatekeeper role. Many fear that they could lose control once subscribers begin to use an iPad or other device to access shows directly from programmers — without a need for the operator’s set top box or on-screen guide. ”We’ve got to find a way to make all of these experiences easier to use and more accessible,” Carey says. “That requires us to work together.” Bewkes agreed. “Let consumers use the interfaces they want,” he says. “You’ll still have your subscriber relationship. We can’t develop the best, world-class interfaces at the scale that a distribution company has. Silicon Valley, the Internet industry, is a global industry and that’s what they do. We should harness that….Don’t try to hold that back. Consumers won’t allow it.”
This has been one of the big sticking points for TV Everywhere: Advertisers and programmers say they still can’t tell who’s watching when a show is streamed to online audiences. That could result in lots of lost ad revenues. It’s the opposite of what you might expect. Internet users give up gobs of information about themselves every time they click a keyboard or mouse, while ad rates for conventional TV depend on imperfect surveys. But Internet server measurement “systematically overstates audience because it cannot distinguish one person using multiple browsers, account for cookie deletion, or distinguish content served to non-human audiences (i.e. crawlers, bots),” Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger says this morning in a report. He provides the clearest explanation I’ve seen so far of what advertisers do and don’t know about viewers from different platforms. Here (with his permission) is how he explains what an advertiser on Glee might learn about the show’s multiple audiences:
BETHPAGE, NY – March 14, 2012 – Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) today announced the launch of HBO GO® and MAX GO®, expanding to 12 the number of mobile programming services available to iO TV digital cable customers. HBO GO and MAX GO make HBO® and Cinemax® content available on any Internet-connected computer and other portable devices like the iPad® and iPhone® and Android™ smartphones to customers who receive the channels as part of their cable service.
Comcast doesn’t seem to think that it’s one of the unnamed companies that Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes chided yesterday for dragging their feet on TV Everywhere — the emerging collection of streaming services for pay TV customers. “We’re big believers in TV Everywhere,” Comcast Cable CEO Neil Smit told investors this morning at the Deutsche Bank Media and Telecom Conference. He says that the No. 1 cable operator has focused making it easy for people to access programming on digital devices by proving that they’re subscribers: Comcast asks for the last four digits of their Social Security number and their phone number — and only requires the data to be input once every 30 days. Smit also cited what he says are Comcast’s “landmark deals” to secure programming from Disney, Turner, Viacom, and CBS. The cable company now has 30,000 on-demand programming choices, 200,000 XfinityTV.com choices, and 8,000 hours of programming available to iPads. The deals run longer than programming deals typically have; the one with Disney lasts 10 years. “We wanted predictability,” Smit says. He doesn’t think it will make his business riskier, though. In his TV Everywhere deals “we focused on flexibility… and it’s a partnership. We have mutual interests” with programmers. While relatively few people may use TV Everywhere initially, “it’s a growing trend” especially among adults under 40 and “we want to be there.” That’s also why Comcast is stepping up its efforts to …
The Time Warner chief delivered an unusually impassioned address today imploring investors to pressure everyone from pay TV distributors to Hollywood studios to deploy on-demand streaming initiatives including TV Everywhere and UltraViolet home video. “Not enough consumers are aware of these powerful enhancements and not enough consumers have them at their fingertips,” Bewkes told the Deutsche Bank Media & Telecom Conference. “We have to move much faster…You should absolutely demand that the companies in which you invest get serious and invest in this opportunity.” He’s most interested in television, the business that accounts for about 80% of Time Warner’s profits — and especially TV Everywhere, which gives pay TV subscribers the ability to watch shows on mobile devices on demand. ”The user experience today is really spotty. Some distributors make it easy and others don’t. You know who they are and so do they.” Specifically, Bewkes wants programmers to make more content available to TV Everywhere. He wants programs to be available on TV sets as well as tablets. He wants Nielsen to figure out how to measure the number of viewers on all digital platforms. And he wants distributors to make it easy to find and access programming. “You shouldn’t need to be knocked upside the head by an iPad to realize that consumers are demanding rich, flexible, intuitive user interfaces,” he says. Consumers “think they deserve it, and they do. And they’re voting with their finger tips everyday.”