Top executives from Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and Charter Communications (Nasdaq: CHTR) offered a sneak peek this week at how cable operators will attempt to use TV Everywhere rights deals they've stuck with programmers to poach subscribers from DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) and Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH).
For years, the potential of TV Everywhere technology overshadowed the rights that operators had to offer subscribers the ability to watch subscription video programming on mobile phones, tablets, PCs and other devices connected to the Internet. When Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) launched their first iPad apps in 2011, programmers such as Viacom fought the idea of even allowing subscribers to watch live video on the iPad within their own homes. No distributor could allow subscribers to download content for offline viewing, or stream linear channels to subscribers outside the home.
As cable carriage deals have come up for renewal, operators are securing rights to distribute live programming and video-on-demand content to subscribers wherever they are. And MSOs are beginning to use their two-way networks as a competitive advantage over one-way satellite technology to market their triple plays to DirecTV and Dish subscribers. Comcast Cable CEO Neil Smit told investors at a Deutsche Bank conference earlier this week that Comcast will run a week-long "Watchathon" promotion at the end of the month, during which it will allow all subscribers to access programming from its Xfinity On Demand library, its Xfinity TV Player apps for mobile devices and Xfinity TV.com, including TV shows and movies from broadcast networks and premium networks.
DirecTV has a new TV Everywhere service called DirecTV Everywhere, but it consists mostly of pay-per-view movies that subscribers can watch on tablets or smartphones. DirecTV and Dish can't offer subscribers the extensive free VOD libraries marketed by cable MSOs that include primetime series from ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, along with dozens of cable networks. Instead, DirecTV and Dish are restricted to touting the capabilities of their respective Genie and Hopper DVRs, which can record more programming from multiple tuners than those offered by most cable operators.
When asked this morning at the DB conference if selling cable programming has become a commodity, Charter CEO Tom Rutledge pointed to cable's VOD platform as the key advantage over satellite rivals. "We're fundamentally moving to a server-based architecture," Rutledge said. Both Rutledge and Time Warner Cable COO Rob Marcus touted multiplatform rights deals that their companies have signed with programmers. Marcus said at the DB confab Tuesday that Time Warner Cable will add out-of-home viewing capabilities to its TWC TV apps for mobile devices during the second quarter. Comcast has already added some out-of-home viewing options to its Xfinity TV Player app, including the ability to download programming from Showtime and Starz for offline viewing.
TV Everywhere is a big focus of today's issue of FierceCable. Check out Mari Silbey's Q&A with David Aufhauser, the VP and general manager of digital media at Pac-12 Enterprises, which has made multiplatform distribution a key focus since the launch of Pac-12 Network last summer. We've also published a new eBook this week, "TV Everywhere Gets Personal." To download this free eBook, click here. – Steve