Media

What the Olympics teach us about ‘TV everywhere’

2014 Winter Olympics
Image Credit: Winter Olympics photo via Mikhail Kolesnikov/Shutterstock

The next two years will bring more than the normal number of huge global sporting events to TV screens: Winter Olympics in Sochi are in full swing, June brings the World Cup to Brazil, and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio are around the corner.

We’re now launching into a trifecta of glitzy gatherings that will not only attract millions of viewers to their TV sets, but also serve as a way for service providers to showcase their TV Everywhere products — especially in the U.S. and Europe.

For instance, NBC is live streaming every event of the Winter Olympics (except for the opening ceremonies). Those streams include both raw footage of individual events and produced/edited content that’s broadcasted on television.

The caveat? You need to be a pay-TV subscriber to watch more than 30 minutes for your first session, and five-minute daily snacks after that. That means for many pay-TV subscribers, the end-to-end coverage of Sochi (and the extra content being planned for the World Cup and Rio’s Games) could go largely unnoticed in the grand scheme of things.

So far, access hasn’t equated to usage

More than 91 percent of pay-TV subscribers in North America have access to a TV Everywhere service from their providers. But, according to new numbers from Altman Vilandrie & Company, only about one of every three subscribers are aware it exists (just one in four viewers over 55). And that’s a missed opportunity.

A new Research & Markets report, meanwhile, takes those numbers even further, claiming that just 6 percent of adult Internet users in the U.S. view any online video from a pay-TV operator’s website.

Consumers, obviously, have adopted other online video services – whether to replace or to supplement their pay-TV service or to simply increase their content options. An increase in the number of alternative video delivery devices, as well as increased popularity and use of subscription- and free-video services has made an operator offering critical.

Since 2010, operators have aggressively responded by deploying TV Everywhere. In fact, TVE is the most-rapidly deployed new TV technology in the U.S., and, increasingly, globally.

Operators need to market TV Everywhere

While the industry may be off to the races with TVE offerings, it’s still in the first stretch.

TVE has been criticized for being confusing, and for having thin content libraries. But the biggest criticism is that operators can do a better job in making consumers more aware of, and more familiar with, the services. NBC for one, during its prime time broadcasts, has been trying to address that issue. Bob Costas has been spoon-feeding directions to viewers about where to find the content, and how to access it during these Olympic Games.

And so far, the streams have been pretty — if not, very — good.

If everything continues as planned, pay-TV subscribers will have access to hundreds of hours of Olympics coverage online and on their mobile devices.

But will consumers use it?

Here’s what Jonathan Hurd of Altman Vilandrie & Co. said about it in a recent discussion:

“Providers have a golden opportunity to raise awareness of TV Everywhere that only a unique event like the Olympics can deliver. [They] need to do a better job of promotion. The sheer volume of online and mobile content – and non-primetime scheduling – from the Olympics is a great opportunity for pay TV providers to get their customers hooked on TV Everywhere – a strategy that could help keep many consumers, especially younger ones, from ‘cord-shaving,’ or reducing the amount they spend on pay TV.”

Hurd also said cord-shaving has doubled between 2010-2013; that’s an issue operators say is more worrisome to them than cord cutting.

TVE was developed to help reduce churn, grow customer loyalty and to inflate the perceived value of pay-TV to subscribers. Multiscreen services also give a provider a tool to drive subscription growth, be more competitive and, ultimately, to create new revenues.

Ultimately, TVE is a path to operator dominance of the UI that will develop from the next-gen TV experience; an experience that will include multiple screens and that will be available anywhere inside – and outside – the home.

But to get there, to make TV Everywhere as popular as some of its better-known competition like Netflix and Hulu, operators are going to have to spend on education and marketing, helping themselves by getting the word out that, “Hey, you’re missing a pretty good thing here. Check it out!”

Only then will they be able to truly bring home the gold.

Jonathan WilnerJonathan Wilner leads Ooyala’s product strategy. He has more than 15 years of technology leadership experience in online video and interactive TV, and has helped Ooyala partner with some of the largest broadcasters in the world. Jonathan previously founded the broadband pay TV platform Unlimited Football and was VP of technology at Foxsports.com.

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