Remember when people watched TV shows only on traditional TV sets? Those days are gone. And as consumers seek to enjoy programming on a variety of devices, programmers must take advantage of such a major shift in consumer behavior. As these new habits weaken traditional relationships between viewers and cable providers, audience loyalty is increasingly up for grabs. Now is the time for programmers to build strong direct relationships with their viewers—or risk losing them to other services that get there first.
Viewers today expect to be able to watch high-quality, long-form content on any screen they choose, from laptops to tablets to connected TVs. As they embrace the multitude of options that exist to help them find their favorite shows online, they're forming habits that will define the way they watch video for years to come. Programmers and pay TV providers alike are moving quickly to introduce Web-only content and multi-platform distribution channels that provide the video people want to watch, wherever and however they want to watch it. TV Everywhere (TVE) services are front-and-center in this shift, giving pay-TV subscribers access to their content anywhere, anytime and on any device they choose.
For pay-TV companies such as Comcast, DirecTV and Time Warner Cable, TVE plays an essential role in meeting customer expectations. It also provides insurance for the future, extending subscriber relationships to new platforms, where they won't fall victim to cord-cutting. For programmers, this trend has important implications: do you really want cable companies to maintain control over viewers in the next era of video—or would you rather seize the opportunity to take control of those relationships yourself? For many programmers, the answer is clear. AMC, Showtime, IFC, Universal Sports and many others have already launched direct-to-consumer relationships through TVE services of their own.
The strategic value of this move is obvious. By using TVE to deal directly with viewers, programmers can lead their viewers to think of themselves as AMC or IFC customers—not Time Warner customers who happen to watch those channels. As broadcasting business models and distribution methods evolve in the years ahead—a given in our fast-changing media environment—viewers will be more likely to follow the actual content creator, bringing their loyalty, engagement and dollars with them. But this window of opportunity is closing fast. Consumers are making their choices now, and programmers who can’t provide the TVE services they want are essentially training them to use a cable provider’s alternative.
TVE also offers important near-term, meaningful benefits for programmers. These include:
More ad revenue—U.S. broadcasters are replicating traditional linear TV ad breaks by inserting multiple midrolls into their TVE content. Viewers have shown a high tolerance for this approach when used with long-form content; after all, it's what they're used to. Whether sold in a package with linear ads, or as a separate digital offering, TVE ad revenue delivers a direct bottom-line impact.
Higher linear ratings—Under the C3 metric, broadcasters in the U.S. can count delayed views via TVE up to three days after the air date as Nielsen views. This is also true for DVR views—but those depend on the subscriber having pre-set the show to record, and they're only available through the cable box. With TVE, delayed on-demand views are available to any subscriber, on any device, providing a frictionless boost to C3 ratings.
Increase demand via catch-up—Not every successful show is a hit right out of the gate; some of the biggest recent sensations took half a season or more to break through. TVE makes it easy for new viewers to catch up, increasing the chance they'll become fans for the long run. This strategy has been key for helping AMC capitalize on the unprecedented success of Breaking Bad in its final seasons. The network and producers of the series credited on-demand and streaming platforms for the success of the series, which gained momentum in later seasons but might have struggled if latecomers couldn't catch up on back episodes.
Drive ratings increase through digital—As previously discussed, big-name programmers have taken advantage of catch-up TV apps, and have seen success using this approach to promote shows that were previously underperforming. By encouraging binge viewing, programmers were able to drive "buzz" and create demand for the next episode. Through the use of "big data," programmers have been able to draw direct correlations between consumption of content via catch-up apps and a ratings increase within season. All of this translates to more advertising dollars.
Go digital first--Some programmers, such as Disney and Viacom, are taking digital demand one step further. Taking a page from the Netflix playbook, these media giants have been offering full seasons of content via app--before it airs on traditional TV. The long-term goal is to drive viewers back to the TV; but, digital access has proven to be a solid training ground for long-term affinity.
Enhanced customer satisfaction—EPIX, a joint venture between Viacom, MGM and Lionsgate, and an early pioneer in TVE, released a study finding that TVE enhances the customer's perception of value for both the TV provider and the content provider. Increasingly, the converse will be equally true: providers that fail to provide a TVE option will be seen as unsophisticated or insufficiently customer-oriented.
The above examples demonstrate that programmers are realizing the promise of digital and the influence of the crossover to the linear experience. We are past just experimenting with new models and have moved into full consumer expectations of these transformative digital experiences. Now is the time for content providers to train their users on their TVE offerings. It's the only way for programmers to maintain their brand for the long-term.
Brightcove can help programmers to realize the benefits of TVE; visit this link to learn more.