Thursday, September 6, 2012, 10:45 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
The process of authenticating users for TV Everywhere content access is improving yet again, as Synacor announced this morning that users will be able to log in via their Facebook, Twitter and Google accounts. The use of social IDs has become widely deployed by web services providers, but had not yet been made available in the TV Everywhere world. With the feature, users will be able to tie their pay-TV accounts to their social media accounts which means they'll no longer have to remember pay-TV specific login credentials to gain access to TV Everywhere content. This will reduce friction and should drive higher TV Everywhere adoption.
Synacor, which has long provided white-label portal and content services to dozens of pay-TV operators/broadband ISPs, has emerged as one of the key enablers of TV Everywhere as well. It provides back-end TV Everywhere services to 40 different pay-TV operators with 25 million subscribers and has integrated with numerous cable TV networks. For its customers, Synacor recently authenticated TV Everywhere access to the London 2012 Olympics and earlier this year for March Madness on Demand. Although Synacor didn't announce any particular customers that have yet adopted the social login feature, no doubt this is imminent.
TV Everywhere authentication has been one of the key adoption barriers as users, who have long been accustomed to freely available ad-supported sites like YouTube, have needed to learn and remember their pay-TV usernames and passwords. This is new for many people because there hasn't been a reason to know these credentials in the past unless they were using their pay-TV provider's email system.
Synacor's social login feature is the latest step in improving the TV Everywhere authentication process. For last month's Olympics, Comcast and Cablevision enabled "auto-verification" for the first time, a process which recognizes the user's IP or MAC address and validates it against their pay-TV subscription plan to eliminate log in altogether. However this only works for subscribers with both pay-TV and broadband Internet service from the same provider and also only when accessing content from their home.
Cloud-based identity management systems have received further attention recently. Adobe revealed last week that its Adobe Pass system handled 10 times more authentications in the first half of 2012 than in 2011. And yesterday Akamai announced its own identity management system for TV Everywhere.
All of the authentication progress is hugely important in accelerating TV Everywhere's adoption. Nonetheless, the industry has several key business issues that still must be resolved in order to unlock more content for viewers. And despite its launch over 3 years ago, TV Everywhere is still a nascent initiative; a recent survey showed just 20% of consumers are even aware of TV Everywhere. Nonetheless, as the technology building blocks like Synacor's social login continue to fall into place, TV Everywhere momentum should build.
Below is a video interview I did with Synacor's president and CEO Ron Frankel at the Cable Show this past May.