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Media Zone:Holding the Mirror up to TV Everywhere

11 Jun, 2010 By: Tara Walpert Levy, Visible World Response

TV Everywhere — the buzz behind cable’s new approach to multi-platform video — is cropping up, well, everywhere.

If you’re not familiar, “TV Everywhere” is a buzz phrase first coined by Time Warner Cable referring to its work with two major programming partners. Essentially, it would allow existing cable TV/Internet subscribers to watch many of their favorite shows online through a cable company Web site or on their phones at no additional cost — as long as they are properly verified as paying subscribers.

The concept is powerful because our society has increasingly been seeking on-demand TV viewing across platforms for a long time.

Call it Time Warner Cable’s TV Everywhere, Comcast’s XFinity, or Verizon’s adoption of HBO Go: This initiative is critical for all cable, satellite and phone companies — and their network partners.

The thinking behind TV Everywhere is clever and reflects the benefit of being the third content medium to be rocked by the impact of digital technology. TV industry leaders watched the music industry get decimated by failing to respond to the challenges of alternative distribution formats. Then, we all witnessed the failure of newspapers to thrive by trying to embrace digital distribution without creating an alternative business model. TV Everywhere is an intriguing middle ground, which has the potential to satiate consumer interest in on-demand content without letting distributors or content providers’ assets — and cash — get away.

TV Everywhere will face challenges. There is the question of timing: Will initiatives be rolled out quickly enough to prevent a backlash from consumers already used to free content from sites like Hulu or YouTube? I suspect the answer is yes. We are in the early days of online video, and multiple data sources indicate the early adopters who are cutting cable lines are not reflective of broader cable and satellite consumers.

The second and bigger challenge is how to address the rising cost base. Preserving and/or growing consumer subscription revenue will be a massive win for distributors and content providers alike, but the emerging costs of distributing multi-platform content are much higher than the simple broadcast or multicast world we’ve enjoyed for the past 80 years.

The focus on online video advertising is already underway. Nielsen recently announced an alliance with TV Everywhere to offer metrics that track shows (and of course ads) watched, exclusively on sites that carry the same exact commercials that originally aired with the show. This model has some consumer groups alarmed, as it would arguably threaten the current approach, which reduces commercial loads. But it makes sense for attracting Madison Avenue, for whom the scale of online video will not be sufficient to merit attention to unique strategies versus the core TV approach for quite some time.

So, video campaigns need to be executed the same way in both traditional TV and online video to drive Madison Avenue’s adoption. And the TV industry needs marketers to take advantage of targeting, customization, dynamism, interactivity and measurement online to grow revenues enough to cover their cost. That means traditional TV will have to accelerate adoption of these enhanced features and functionality for their own content, which represents 97 percent of nationwide viewing.

This need brings us back to my favorite topic: addressable advertising. Addressable advertising makes these enhanced marketing capabilities from the Internet available on traditional TV and is radically changing the way marketers create video campaigns. Biased? Maybe. But I believe that for TV Everywhere to be a success, we will first need “Addressable Advertising Everywhere.”

The good news is that traditional television players have been working hard to bring these capabilities to market and have made substantial progress in the past 12 months. The even better news is that the economic benefits of these efforts accrue to traditional television P&Ls as well, not just to those of their online counterparts. So we are even more likely to see significant advancements in the months ahead.

Between the consumer and advertiser developments planned for the rest of 2010 and 2011, the TV industry is well on its way to shifting its business model to be even more compelling in a world of digital technology — keeping TV the fairest medium of them all. n

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