Multi-screen delivery is about as complicated an endeavor as an operator can get involved in, requiring the involvement of almost every aspect of the business, from network engineering to call centers to the legal department, according to a group of executives from both MSOs and vendors assembled Tuesday for the second of at least three SCTE Cable-Tec panels on the subject.
Planning is critical, but at a certain point, you just have to L-A-U-N-C-H, said Matt Zelesko, senior vice president of Web services and technology at Time Warner Cable, one of the first MSOs to go live with a TV Everywhere service.
MSOs that are used to moving in cycles of about a year need to get used to shipping cycles of months, or even weeks, Zelesko explained. "That takes some courage," he said, but it can work if the company is prepared to get immediate customer feedback and adjust accordingly. TWC is now delivering about 140 channels to iPads and is working on a similar app for Android devices.
There is clearly subscriber demand for such services, but how are they to be paid for? Revenue is possible but still speculative, agreed panelists from Cox Communications, Suddenlink, Avail-TVN, SeaChange and BigBand.
Steve Necessary, vice president of video product development and management at Cox, said: "There might be applications that some people might pay for, just like there are some free apps and some you pay for. But we didn't factor those into our business plan."
There are opportunities through social media and possibilities with micropayments, said Steve Davi, senior vice president of advanced technology at SeaChange. People have been known to pay real money for virtual goods online, he noted.
Advertising will be a cornerstone of the service with targeted ads, observed Rajive Dhar, senior vice president of corporate development and strategic planning at BigBand.
"But at this point, it's table stakes," said Kevin Parks, director of technology at Avail-TVN. The comment drew nods from his fellow panelists.
Clearly there are costs. Where TWC could afford to build, Suddenlink could not; it had to buy. The company cut a deal with TiVo, which Suddenlink vice president of advanced technology Gregg Grigaitis said was only a first step. A subsequent step will be to introduce gateways with built-in transcoding. This means the company will be able to roll out delivery of video to IP devices (tablets, smartphones) on a subscriber-by-subscriber basis.
Cox's initial foray was to run a middle course with a broadband-based service, TV Online, that includes over-the-top content.
"Is there a threat? Yeah," Necessary said. "But if you stand back far enough, we're here to serve our customers. It's a shrug of the shoulders."
Cox is working on more screens, he said.