Do you check email while watching the nightly news? Shop online through the movie of the week? Take a peek at your portfolio during “Monday Night Football?”  Of course you do.

And you’re not alone. According to Google, 90 percent of all media consumption – as much as 4.4 hours per person per day – takes place across four screens: smartphones, tablets, personal computers, and TVs. Recent research, including an independent survey conducted by CSG, confirms that the use of multiple devices to purchase and watch content is rapidly on the rise.

An argument can be made that second screens are far from a novel concept. In fact, it’s worth noting that mobility and the widespread use of smart devices have been major drivers of the emerging multi-screen world – a world that now includes mobile phones and tablets, streaming devices, gaming consoles, personal computers TV, Blu-ray, and more.  It’s no secret that today’s always-on-the-go consumers use their phones for much more than making calls or checking email or that they use as many screens as are available and convenient to engage.

More screens mean more opportunities for cable operators to create holistic and consistent customer experiences, to personalize experiences among multiple users in a single household, and to enable real-time transactions that support new revenue streams. 

One Door, Many Windows

To survive and thrive in the multi-screen world, providers must offer a seamless and consistent subscriber experience across all connected devices.  Leading over-the-top (OTT) providers allow customers to access the same content on all supported devices, including the ability to pause content on one screen and resume on another without having to reset or restart the content. Having access to the same content cannot be overstated – customers who purchase or view content from CSG 1a computer or a TV that find neither their purchased content nor their current view available from a mobile device may well shop around for a new provider. Cable operators that do not invest in these important synergistic capabilities risk losing mindshare and wallet-share to OTT and other ancillary providers.

Gone are the days when cable operators could interact with a household through a set-top box; the multi-screen world means a household is now a house with multiple discreet inhabitants. Operators that can navigate the needs of such households at the individual level and are willing and able to commit to an unprecedented era of personalization, will find new revenue streams not only from new or secondary  devices, but also through traditional services that together support
a more tailored and holistic customer experience.

Consider the multi-screen possibilities for a hypothetical family of four: each user has different preferences and different usage patterns. Catering to these individuals requires operators to offer a wider range of content and capabilities that appeal to the browsing patterns and filters of each. It also requires operators to present curated recommendations, related media, and a seamless viewing experience from device to device.

Better and more targeted content means a more profitable customer. Better and more targeted content also means better control. Personalization allows parents to manage viewing time and content by enabling them to set spending controls, time-based consumption limits, and viewing permissions. The result? The college-age daughter can’t burn the household budget on movies and the teenage son can’t buy a sporting event without first asking permission.

Operators that can tap the unique preferences and patterns of each household member in their subscriber universes will be in a strong position to provide access to the supplementary services and additional relevant content that enables them to increase per-household wallet share. This granular view is achieved with hierarchical household functionality. Within the hierarchy, each distinct member has their own credentials and thus an individual set of entitlements, attributes, purchase patterns, and business rules attached to them allowing for deep understanding of each individual member. Upon authentication that member can be presented with targets, and more importantly relevant offers.

Synergy and Symmetry

But winning in this market goes far beyond personalization. To remain competitive, service providers must build account-specific, transaction-based opportunities that grow revenue incrementally subscriber by subscriber. For example, a consumer who has just watched the latest “Star Trek” film might be interested in viewing other movies and content from that franchise. To capitalize on this type of impulse-buying opportunity, cable operators need to provide just-in-time access to related films or content, perhaps by extending their licensing windows in real time with potential TVOD and EST options.

Those just-in-time offers are driven by an understanding of the individual subscribers themselves, including the attributes associated to them, as well as their purchasing patterns. Based on those attributes, content can be both dynamically and statically driven to that subscriber to capture the up-sell and cross-sell potential of impulse buying.

In the way OTT providers use real-time predictive tools to offer discounts and additional purchase opportunities to buyers, operators can use expanded content availability to up-sell subscribers on digital box sets that include all of the films in a single franchise and cross-sell with branded merchandise such as toys and T-shirts. Operators can build revenue and loyalty by offering bundled packages that combine content and merchandise.  

The win-win comes from enabling real-time transactions through secondary screens. Consumers can buy content, order VOD, purchase merchandise, buy referral or affinity products through interactive ads, place orders for upcoming shows, or CSG 2take advantage of targeted promotions related to their subscriptions.

Secondary screens can also encourage customers to go back to the primary screen for redemption or promotional codes and other benefits, thus keeping subscribers engaged with their set-tops in new ways. Enabling consumers to purchase additional products or content after the premium content is sold offers a clear roadmap to additional revenue opportunities and illustrates quite plainly why retailers, movie studios, and other players have become increasingly interested in the adoption of multiscreen viewing.

Show Me the Money

Today’s hyper-connected, hyper-competitive world has created higher and more complex customer expectations. It’s not enough to provide suggested new or incremental products and content, however consistent and personalized the offerings may be, without also supporting payment options. All relevant forms of payment – credit, debit, coupon, reward redemption – need to be available directly and at the speed of machines from the customer’s device. The more real-time options of payment operators can offer, the more opportunity for transaction-based revenue they can tap.

While the majority of video content is still purchased in the household rather than over smart phones, consumers cite a growing number of purchasing devices in the home.  Seventy-nine percent of consumers use their personal computers to order digital content, while 39 percent also use tablets and 36 percent use Internet-connected TVs.  

Operators can maximize revenue potential and the customer experience by incorporating tools such as cloud-based management systems and digital lockers that recognize who the users are, what devices they have, and how to deliver the most appropriate content in the most efficient ways. Cloud-based smart lockers promote ease-of-use, provide password retrieval, and offer the transactional flexibility necessary to support a holistic direct-to-consumer platform.

That revenue growth opportunity can be seized by providing the customer with a seamless interaction across all devices and the “buy once, play anywhere” concept within the experience. The opportunity to start a title, and pick it up where you left off on any of your devices is a powerful tool to keep customers within your ecosystem.

Content-craving consumers need look no further for their fix than their current cable operators – provided, of course, that operators make the requisite investments in a comprehensive and personalized user experience. that includes real-time content and merchandise transactions over multiple screens.