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Post-game Review of the Sports Entertainment Summit: TV Everywhere (Part 1)

Post-game Review of the Sports Entertainment Summit: TV Everywhere (Part 1)

I recently had the opportunity to speak at Variety's Sports Entertainment Summit with industry colleagues, a day filled with great stories, insights from the business side of sports and digital media, discussions about the technology that enables engagement with audiences and post-production and even a surprise performance by the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

My panel - Can We Score with TV Everywhere and Sports Programming? - revisited a topic I touched on in my article I Was a Cord Cutter … But I Fell Off the Wagon for AllThingsD: TV Everywhere.

During the discussion, I shared a story that describes an inherent challenge with TV Everywhere. When I first discussed TV Everywhere with my European and Asia-Pacific colleagues they replied, "TV Everywhere - of course, we have television everywhere" or as I like to say, "TV everywhere" with the lowercase "e."

At its core, TV Everywhere is a model that is tied to the relationship between content programmers and content distributors. Originating from the U.S. in 2009 (Comcast and - at the time - Time Warner), the broadcast networks (e.g., ABC) and cable programmers (e.g., HBO) serve as programmers and the pay TV providers (cable, e.g., Comcast and DBS, e.g., DirecTV) serve as content distributors.

The intent of TV Everywhere was to increase the availability and accessibility of digital content to consumers, with one caveat: programmers could only provide their digital video content to consumers if they were a paid subscriber of a pay TV provider with which the programmer had a broadcast agreement. If that agreement wasn't in place, the programmer would be limited as to which digital video content could be accessed by their general audience.

On the panel, I was joined by a representative from ESPN and a representative from the NFL. ESPN, with its WatchESPN property, has been one (along with HBO and Showtime) of the innovators and fast-movers in the TV Everywhere ecosystem. The NFL, as one of the strongest content brands, has a varied programming strategy that includes a unique partnership with a pay TV provider (i.e., Sunday Ticket via DirecTV), direct-to-consumer digital products (e.g., GamePass, GameRewind), and device-specific distribution (i.e., smartphone exclusivity via Verizon).

Both face similar TV Everywhere challenges as other programmers: awareness, conversion and mobile.

Driving Awareness
TV Everywhere remains a concept that is primarily U.S.-centric, though it's being adopted (through licensing agreements with U.S. content providers) by Canadian programmers and broadcasting distribution undertakings (BDUs)--their equivalent of MVPDs; however, the participants in the ecosystem need to continue educating consumers about TV Everywhere.

The underlying agreement between the programmer and the pay TV provider defines the content rights, i.e., what content is available, when and where.

Consumers, on the other hand, don't care.

Consumers shouldn't be expected to understand the nuances or revenue model of the industry. Distribution windows, device restrictions and regional blackouts are foreign concepts to most consumers. Consequently, consumers become collateral damage in the disagreements between programmers and pay TV providers, e.g., the ongoing blackouts in major markets resulting from the TWC and CBS spat.

Consistent and continual education is needed to ease the discovery of content, decrease confusion and dissatisfaction and increase consumption.

The latter two issues bring me to the next topic of how we can increase usage of TV Everywhere, which I will discuss in part two of this post.