Panelists: Authentication and Awareness Still Plaguing TV Everywhere

Long a dominant force in the content-delivery game, cable providers have seen their world rocked thanks to the rise of over-the-top (OTT) providers like Netflix, Hulu and Crackle. In order to fight fire with fire, and maintain their status as the juggernauts of the industry, cable providers have turned to TV Everywhere—the ability for customers to watch shows on any device whenever they want, so long as an Internet connection is available.

But according to a panel of industry movers and shakers at the 2014 Cable Show, authentication and awareness challenges still plague TV Everywhere. First, only some networks are participating in the movement, despite consumer demand for such services. Second, some consumers have a hard time accessing the functionality thanks to authentication problems—users having to sign into their accounts from multiple devices—another caveat that could be contributing to some of its problems relating to adoption.

“Authentication is a barrier to usage,” said John Martin, CEO of Turner Broadcasting. “If you poll most people in the audience and ask them their user name and password, most people don’t know it. I have three homes with three different cable providers and I don’t know any of them. I don’t have TV Everywhere because I can’t use it.”

Still, the content is great and customers want to watch it, according to Matt Bond, NBC Universal’s executive vice president of content distribution. But the infrastructure to deliver that content to multiple screens isn’t uniform, so authentication becomes a challenge as customers have to sign in to multiple apps to watch programs carried by different networks.

Echoing that sentiment, Martin said that programmers and distributors should work together to create a more cohesive ecosystem, ensuring that all customers are aware of TV Everywhere and have easier access to it.

Though still in its nascent stage, recent events like the Winter Olympics proved the potential of TV Everywhere as consumers were able to watch events when they wanted to, even those that weren’t televised in a traditional way, according to Shelly Wright Brindle, HBO’s executive vice president of domestic network distribution. This summer’s World Cup might serve as another great vehicle through which to drive more traffic to the new streaming television offering. In other words, if the content is there—which it isn’t quite yet—the consumers will follow.

“Is it really TV Everywhere?” she asked rhetorically. “It’s ‘Some TVs, Somewhere.’”

As it stands now, TV content from OTT is more popular than TV Everywhere, much to the chagrin of some cable executives who feel as though those companies wouldn’t even exist if not for cable providers building the broadband infrastructure necessary to power them. But not all proponents of cable view OTT providers as a threat. Rather, they view them as competitors that will encourage them to strive to improve their TV Everywhere offerings, thus ultimately delivering a better experience to the customer.

Because the need exists—the fact that consumers want to be able to watch their favorite shows from whichever device they prefer—expect that cable providers will figure out a way to meet it. One possible solution might involve a central TV Everywhere app through which consumers can access content from multiple networks, but only time will tell.