Thursday, May 9, 2013

TV Everywhere isn't an Authentication Problem, its a Use Case Problem

John Ourand's recent column in Sports Business Journal (which I unfortunately didn't pick up in my Twitter feed until today) talks about the disappointing results of TV Everywhere.

TV Everywhere has been the big push from cable companies for years.  A system of subscriber verification which would enable paying customers to access their programming outside of the TV and set-top box.

With continuing penetration of smartphones, and the expansion of tablet devices (which I don't think were even top-of-mind for execs when they launched TV Everywhere), execs figured this would be a big way to keep customers from cutting cords.

But customers aren't using it.  And while Ourand doesn't have hard data to back this up, the quotes from industry executives speak for themselves.  There appears to be broad acknowledgement that TV Everywhere isn't really big, anywhere.

But the execs in Ourand's article attribute it to one specific aspect of the interface, subscription verification, and that's where I disagree.  I really don't think that's the issue.

Don't get me wrong, user authentication for a cable subscription is incredibly painful.  Just ask anyone who tries to use HBO Go, which has a similar process.  Find your cable provider, click, and figure out what your login credentials are.  I have Comcast, and never use my login information outside of every six months when I have to call their customer retention group to renegotiate my pricing.  So it's a huge pain, agreed.

But I feel like that's not the biggest problem.  To me, there are two issues that keep me from watching TV channels on my devices:

1 - Horrible wireless network speeds
2 - No clear use case

The first one is obvious.  Whenever I walk home from my office, I try and stream audio on my iphone, typically from Stitcher or Pandora or Songza or whatever.  And it never, EVER, works.

That's because thousands of other people are doing the same thing.

Now I don't have the newest iphone, so I'm not on LTE, and maybe that would make it easier.  But the fact remains that I'm constantly in densely populated areas with everyone trying to stream content at once. I love when people send me funny youtube videos, and they almost always take forever to load.  Now you want me to watch streaming television programming???  Which is likely 10x as long as your average internet video?

That brings me to the second issue.  What's the use case for TV Everywhere?

It let's me watch TV wherever I am.  OK.  A fine theory.  Follow-up question - where do I want to be watching TV???

At home?  Sure, but I have a TV for that...a couple of them.  In all major rooms of the house.

But I guess I'm being obtuse.  TV Everywhere is a mobile solution, so naturally it's not going to be primarily used at home.  Fine, so where do I spend my time apart from my house?

At work?  Well, my clients probably wouldn't like it

In the car? Ha, we already have a Driving While Texting problem, I'm not going to compound that with a Driving While Watching SportsCenter problem

When I'm out with friends?  It's not like we're going to gather around to watch Homeland on my ipad

Tell me a place you would absolutely use TV Everywhere to stream live TV?

Maybe you would want to do it at an airport waiting for a flight that's delayed.  Maybe.

But I don't see a clear use case.  At all.  Now, if there were TV you absolutely had to see live, I could imagine it being used.  But DVRs have solved that problem.  No traditional content needs to be consumed as its broadcast anymore, and with massive HDTVs relatively affordable, who would choose to watch Game of Thrones on their iphone when they can wait until they get home?

The time I spend on my devices (iphone, ipad) outside of my house is marked by one major theme.  Whether I'm waiting in line, on the bus, in the elevator, it's always for brief periods.  I've become conditioned to use my devices to fit the time period and attention span required.  Checking email, checking Twitter, checking news stories...those all take less than 30 seconds.  I've never had the sudden urge to immerse myself in Westeros while I'm waiting for a burrito at Chipotle.

To me, that's the real reason TV Everywhere isn't getting used.

There's just no real good place to use it, anywhere.

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