TV Everywhere (TVE) should not be a way for pay-TV operators solely to deliver existing content to connected devices, but rather a whole new paradigm for offering subscribers targeted packages of custom content to drive new value and potentially incremental revenue. That's the message video management provider thePlatform is conveying this morning with updates to its mpx system. Though many operators are still early in their TVE rollouts, thePlatform is providing a tantalizing longer-term vision of how they can use TVE to greatly expand their video services in the broadband era, far beyond the traditional one-size-fits-all multichannel bundle.
I've been a TVE fan from the outset, but I've also argued that improved access to existing content alone is not going to be sufficient for pay-TV operators to meet consumers' rising expectations. What's really necessary is content packaging and pricing innovation. But doing so has been hard for at least three reasons: large cable programmers impose restrictive packaging obligations (e.g. to carry popular "channel A" the operator must also carry less popular "channel B"), traditional technologies (e.g. set-top boxes, network architecture and subscriber management systems) severely limited content delivery options, and the operators' own philosophy and business models didn't encourage much innovation beyond the bundle.
Now however, as thePlatform's updates demonstrate, the advent of end-to-end IP-based technology is making it possible for operators' TVE initiatives to become the avenue for dramatic new service flexibility (and possibly a peek into a long-term roadmap for operators to really revolutionize their video services).
At the heart of thePlatform's updates are two features - Subscription Packages and Subscriber Groups - enabling operators to offer additional, customized content to specific subscriber segments. The idea here is that mpx allows a new package of content (e.g. holiday-themed movies, a catalog of kids' programs, incremental sports highlights) to be created, and then married to a subscriber's profile (e.g. family with young kids, history buffs, sports fan, etc.) for access across multiple connected devices. Operators can treat subscribers more individually than they've ever been, creating new value in the relationship as well as incremental upsell opportunities.
The key enabler of all this is the video's metadata which gives the operator the ability to filter and create appropriate subscription packages. When the packages have been created, mpx allows the operator to set the business rules for them, such as which subscribers will be able to access, during which time periods, for which devices, and under what business model (free, incremental fee, etc.).
All of this is a huge leap forward from today's TV-based VOD experience, which involves laboriously navigating through a sea of content that is often irrelevant to the particular viewer. Rather, the mpx updates move the operator more toward a Netflix-type world where insight about a viewer's profile is combined with insight about the content catalog in order to present more targeted, relevant choices.
To be fair, this is relatively advanced stuff, especially for those operators who are still getting out of the gate with TVE. And of course any sort of new, custom content packages will inevitably lead to thorny rights and business issue discussions with content owners. It's also important to note that thePlatform sees these mpx updates as a way of enhancing the underlying multichannel video subscription. That means the fundamental requirement to subscribe to some tier of multichannel service would remain.
Notwithstanding all of that, I regard these mpx updates as a glimpse into how much more sophisticated the pay-TV industry could become long-term in how it delivers its services. The tools and technologies continue falling into place to make tomorrow's entertainment experiences look quite different than today's.
(Note: thePlatform is a VideoNuze sponsor)