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Cable Technology Feature Article

June 25, 2012

Cable Customers Largely Unaware of TV Everywhere

By Jacqueline Lee, Contributing Writer

In June 2010, cable providers Time Warner and Comcast (News - Alert) announced the TV Everywhere concept, which would allow cable subscribers to access content online for no extra charge. However, two years later, only 1 in 5 cable subscribers is aware of the program, according to a survey from Parks Associates (News - Alert).

Time Warner subscribers are the least informed; only 12 percent of their subscribers are able to explain TV Everywhere. Comcast subscribers fared a little better, with 24 percent of subscribers able to explain the TV Everywhere service. Time Warner (News - Alert) CEO Jeff Bewkes cites fears over loss of advertising, disputes over programming deals and lack of measurement tools as the primary reasons that TV Everywhere has failed to catch on with subscribers.

“Content providers have dragged their feet and distributors have been hesitant to promote a product that only has half of the content it should have,” Craig Moffett, a telecommunications analyst for Bernstein Research, told The New York Post. “It’s too soon to call it anything like a failure, but it’s not too soon to call it a disappointment.”

In 2010, groups like Free Press came out swinging against TV Everywhere, saying that cable providers were colluding to kill low-cost online TV alternatives. Cable companies shot back, saying that they were merely offering their subscribers more value for their subscription dollars.

Free Press says that cable companies are not only migrating content online; they’re also bringing their regional monopolies to the online sphere. The cable industry is giving content to subscribers only while shutting online TV providers out of original programming and other broadcasts.

“Instead of being offered to all Americans, including those living in Cox (News - Alert), Cablevision and Time Warner Cable regions, Fancast Xfinity is only available in Comcast regions,” notes Free Press. “This eliminates competition between cable TV distributors’ sites and cable programmers’ sites online, which has existed for years.”

By offering content on multiple screens, including television sets, tablets and smartphones, cable companies deploying TV Everywhere can actually increase their advertising revenue and advertisement exposure.

However, many cable subscribers continue to cut the cord, opting for basic cable packages and jettisoning expensive HD packages in favor of viewing streaming content from free or discount sources. The Parks survey found that 12 percent of broadband households that subscribed to pay TV had already downgraded their service, while another 8 percent planned to do so by the end of the year.

“This lack of subscriber awareness negates the efficacy of TV Everywhere as a tool to combat OTT services and underscores the marketing challenges for providers going forward,” writes Brett Sappington of Parks Associates. “The task to retain customers with unique multiscreen services will be a strategic and marketing challenge as much as a technological challenge.”

Edited by Juliana Kenny

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