Monday, August 3, 2009, 9:37 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
With momentum growing for "TV Everywhere" type services, it's to be expected that technology vendors will begin offering products that meet the evolving range of requirements video service providers will encounter. One example is ExtendMedia, which today is introducing OpenCase "Publisher." With TV Everywhere type services still so new, even labeling the various capabilities video service providers will require to succeed is still a work in process. In a meeting last week, Extend's executives helped me understand what will be needed and what the Publisher product provides.
To date, much attention around TV Everywhere has focused on "authentication" - how a service provider would implement credentials (e.g. logins and passwords) so only authorized users could access its online video catalog. This gatekeeping step has rightly received a lot of focus, because leakage of any premium video must be prevented. Authentication is tricky though, as users must be verified as being who they say they (e.g. passwords haven't been improperly shared). But assuming for a moment that tight authentication processes are implemented, other challenges and opportunities remain.
For example, once authenticated, service providers need to be able to expose only those parts of their overall catalog each specific user is entitled to view (e.g. if I'm not an HBO subscriber, I shouldn't get access to HBO programs online). This notion of "service management and provisioning" means service providers need to create different bundles online, just as they have done offline. And the bundles need to be easy to change: a service provider may want to change a channel lineup and/or a subscriber may want to add a new channel.
Service management and provisioning itself requires that there's a scalable content management system in place. The service provider will need to be able to ingest lots of premium video from many different sources while also and accepting and assigning specific rules to each program as needed (e.g. one program may be available immediately and indefinitely, while another will be available just for a week, but starting at a specified future time). In addition, metadata must be assigned so programs can be tracked, and searched by users.
The above requirements are further complicated because TV Everywhere services are envisioned to work across multiple devices as well. That means that authentication must also work on smartphones, gaming consoles, portable media players, etc. The devices themselves must be registered and recognized so they can be linked to users' accounts. In some cases license terms will further restrict how specific parts of services are accessible, and under what addition terms (in turn possibly requiring DRM).
Last but not least is monetization. Given current plans not to charge extra for TV Everywhere, advertising from online viewing is the main new revenue-generating opportunity. So integrations with ad servers already used by content providers, along with the ability to measure and report on usage, is another crucial capability. Separate, a totally new monetization opportunity will be trying to upsell online subscribers on new services. For instance, HBO might run a promotion offering a sneak peek of a "True Blood" premiere to all TV Everywhere users. The service provider needs to not only support the promotion, but also offer one-click upsell subscription to HBO, and dynamic provisioning of the whole HBO catalog to the new subscriber.
As I've written previously, TV Everywhere is an exciting step forward for both the broadband industry and video service providers. Yet it is a very new world where things get complicated very fast. Vendors like Extend - and other leaders like thePlatform and Irdeto to name two - which have traditionally focused on cross-platform support for video service providers are increasingly going to be called on to turn executives' visions into reality.
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(Note - ExtendMedia and thePlatform are VideoNuze sponsors)