What’s your TV Everywhere strategy?

Posted 8/18/2009
by Marty Roberts, Co-CEO

Two business models, two technical decisions

The time has arrived to enable consumers to watch their favorite cable programs online. As of June 2009, a US audience of 157 million is waiting (comScore), and the business justifications for meeting their demands are clear:

  • Adding value to cable subscription packages
  • Tapping into the growing online video advertising opportunity, estimated at $5.8 billion in the U.S. by 2013 (eMarketer)
  • Preventing piracy; in the absence of a viable, legitimate service, consumers may turn to alternative sources like BitTorrent to catch up on their favorite shows
  • Eventually offering a subscription package to those customers who have canceled their cable TV in favor of viewing content through their broadband connection

Our goal is to help you get your TV Everywhere strategy to market as quickly and efficiently as possible. If you’d like to dive deeper on this topic, contact thePlatform for a briefing.

How do I start?

Getting started requires a few fundamental decisions.

What business model are you pursuing?

MSOs are deciding if they should enhance their own video portals with entitled video, work with cable networks to present premium videos on the network’s web site, or pursue both. A couple of the factors influencing business model decisions include the investment a MSO has in its existing video portal, and the desire to enhance the relationship with their customers.

On the other hand, one argument for enabling entitled video playback on the programmer web sites is that you can reach those sites’ audiences and avoid the cost of hosting a video site. The good news is that, in either scenario, the underlying technology can be the same, which brings us to the next set of decisions.

How will you authenticate users and respect subscription boundaries?

Today’s cable infrastructure knows about your house as defined by an account, but it doesn’t have a relationship with the people in the household. It also knows what channel a set-top box is allowed to access, but it doesn’t know what show is on. To figure out who’s watching what, the cable system can look at the channel that was watched at a particular time, and then use a TV guide service to figure out what show was on after the fact. This leads us to two technical decisions.

First up: how will we authenticate consumers against a valid account? The good news is that many MSOs have already built a billing system web adaptor that allows an authentication system to make web service calls to check a consumer’s credentials. To support authentication on the MSO’s video portal, a direct connection can be made between the web site and billing system web adaptor.

To enable authentication on programmer web sites, we believe a federated approach is the best for all parties. The MSO retains control over their customer relationship and validating credentials can be done in real time. For programmers working with multiple MSOs, an authentication proxy can be deployed to interact with the MSO’s various Auth standards.

The second technical decision: How will we ensure that the consumer is only watching content that falls under their subscription package and enforce the media rights agreed to by the MSO and cable network? Unlike the cable system, broadband video requires a hard link be set up between each video asset and the approved subscription package in advance of playback. Video management systems like thePlatform’s can establish this link and respect the airdates and geographic restrictions that are defined for each video. Stream encryption or digital rights management can be added to increase the security of this valuable media.

What’s next?

After the big decisions are made, there are lots of little ones. We recommend the following:

1. Start small. Define initial success with a trial to thousands of people. Learn from each stage and take an iterative approach to adding capabilities.
2. Use your existing assets. Between the web site and MSO’s billing system, there is a good foundation for extending both to meet the needs of this project.
3. Find a partner you trust. thePlatform has years of experience in this space and there are many good consultancies and vendors to help your organization through the decisions that need to be made.
4. Start today. Even with a narrow scope, these projects can take months to implement. By starting this project soon, you can ensure that your offering stays competitive with the rest of the market.

Our goal is to help you get your TV Everywhere strategy to market as quickly and efficiently as possible. If you’d like to dive deeper on this topic, contact thePlatform for a briefing.


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