Thursday, April 16, 2009
TV Everywhere: Long-Term Success Will Be All About The Interface
By Dave Morgan A few weeks ago, I wrote a post with some of my initial thoughts on "TV Everywhere," a strategy for the subscription-controlled Web distribution of premium cable network programming being touted by Time Warner's CEO Jeff Bewkes. Basically, Bewkes is proposing that consumers who want to view premium broadband content from Time Warner properties like HBO or TNT on their PC or mobile devices should be able to, but only if they can be verified as a subscriber to a multichannel video provider that carries that content.
Since my earlier post, not only has TV Everywhere received a lot of coverage in the trade and business press, but I've also spent some more time thinking about the topic, talking about it to folks in the industry. I decided to write another post on it, examining some of the high-level issues relative to its long-term success. (Disclosure; I am a shareholder of Time Warner (TWX) stock and was a senior executive at TWX subsidiary AOL for a short period of time.)
I am convinced that the key to TV Everywhere's long-term success will be its user interface. That point may seem obvious and common-sensical, but then again, obviousness and common sense are all too often forgotten when it comes to developing and implementing business strategies in large, multinational corporations. Here is why I believe that the user interface will be so critical to TV Everywhere:
· The brand is at risk; implementation matters. While the business driver behind TV Everywhere may be the need for video programmers to assure cable operators that they won't permit content that operators are paying many billions of dollars for to "leak" directly to viewers on the Internet for free, to viewers, it is all about them. To them, the gateways or interfaces that bring them the programming will directly affect their attitudes toward that content's brand, whether it be HBO or TNT or Court TV. When it is all about "me," the interface is the embodiment of the relationship.
· Intuitiveness, elegance and ease-of-use are critical. TV Everywhere will require some relatively complicated cross-platform rights management and real-time authentication. Bad, clunky interfaces create frustrated, unhappy viewers. Intuitive, elegant and easy-to-use interfaces not only create happy viewers, but real market separation. Just ask Apple and its customers.
· Critical step in another long-term programmer, operator tug-of-war. The history of the relationships between programmer and system operators has always been one of mutual envy, tension, fighting for leverage, standoffs, and gamesmanship. Managing the barrier between paid television and free Internet will be all of that and more. In the long term, both the programmers and system operators want direct relationships with the viewers. In a media world of scarce distribution -- the television landscape for the past several decades -- operators had the upper hand, which is why their ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) is so high. However, in a media world of plentiful distribution and scarce attention -- the television landscape that is emerging -- programmers may be able to take the upper hand. Issues like how authentication "keys" are managed will be crtical in new services like TV Everywhere.
No matter how you view it, TV Everywhere changes and expands the interfaces between viewers and branded video programming. In my mind, the quality of the interfaces and how they are controlled will determine how consumers view and use it and will determine how viewers will manage their long-term relationships with the operators and programmers. It will be all about the interface. What do you think?
Post your response to the public Online SPIN blog.
See what others are saying on the Online SPIN blog.
Dave Morgan is the CEO of Simulmedia. Previously, he founded and ran both TACODA and Real Media.
Online Spin for Thursday, April 16, 2009: