What Is Stopping ‘TV Everywhere’ From Catching On?

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A panel discussing the burgeoning concept of TV Everywhere was held at the National Cable & Telecommunications conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday. The event’s speakers came to the conclusion that TV Everywhere is the future of television and needs to be made easier to use for consumers, according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter.

TV Everywhere is the concept of networks allowing people who already subscribe to their channels to access content online and via mobile devices; it has been criticized for being complicated for people to use. In 2011, Fox (NASDAQ:FOX) even aired an ad starring Glee’s Jane Lynch, who told audiences that signing up for Fox’s TV Everywhere site is less painful than waterboarding. The big problem is the complicated authentication process consumers have to go through in order to get set up to view content online.

NBC’s TV Everywhere coverage of the Winter Olympics at Sochi was a huge success for the network, showing that viewers are interested in the offering and won’t just ignore it for online streaming services such as Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) or Hulu. TV Everywhere services have the added advantage of offering live programming and coverage of events like March Madness or the Olympics that on-demand sites don’t have.

At the end of February, Steve Burke, CEO of Comcast’s (NASDAQ:CMCSA) NBC Universal, said that coverage of the Winter Olympics more than doubled the network’s nightly ratings. TV Everywhere was a large part of NBC’s efforts with the Olympics. NBC put engineers in charge of developing an impressive Olympics website and apps that have drawn close to 45 million unique visitors, up from the 2010 games in Vancouver. NBC put almost every event online and was careful to construct its video clips so they had the ability to easily be shared via various social media outlets like Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB).

“Sochi [results] were beyond our expectations. … And we are at the point now where we have a full portfolio approach,” said Ron Lamprecht, NBCUniversal’s executive vice president of digital distribution, at the conference, per The Hollywood Reporter. “We aim to complete TV Everywhere (services) for all of NBC Universal’s brands (in the coming months).”

Time Warner’s (NYSE:TWX) Turner Broadcasting executive Jeremy Legg said that the network saw 69 million streams from March Madness but pointed out that there’s still much work to be done. “But March Madness is a big deal anyway. [TV Everywhere] is still lacking in other areas,” he said, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“Tentpole events bring customers in. [Then we need to] get them hooked and once they have those credentials, then they will use more,” said Michael Angus, senior vice president and general manager of video at Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), per The Hollywood Reporter. “Finding ways to drive awareness, make it easier for [consumers to use], and then eliminating the friction is the key to success.”

TV Everywhere has been criticized by media activists, who say that cable companies are trying to extend their unfair domination to the Internet in order to stop people from cutting the cord, as a cable subscription is still needed to access the online content. “This business plan, which transposes the existing cable TV model onto the online TV market, can only exist with collusion among competitors. As a result, TV Everywhere appears to violate several serious antitrust laws. Stripped of slick marketing, TV Everywhere consists of agreements among competitors to divide markets, raise prices, exclude new competitors, and tie products,” said the group Free Press in a statement lambasting TV Everywhere.

Consumer frustration with and distrust of the cable industry has only grown in recent years, as Netflix changed the TV landscape by making content cheap and easy to watch, and Comcast and Time Warner Cable look to complete a mega-merger that industry commentators have said will be bad for consumers.

Networks are hoping they can parlay the one area in which they still have an advantage — live and, in particular, sports-related programming — to encourage users to go to them for online content, rather than a separate streaming service. But if they can’t figure out the technology to make TV Everywhere more accessible, then users are unlikely to get on board.

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