TV Everywhere's conundrum continues. Data from Viacom late last week again showed that people who actually use TVE appear to really value it, plus it improves their perceptions of their pay-TV operator. Nonetheless, other recent research and comments from industry executives themselves show that relatively few people have tried TVE and still fewer use it consistently.
First the Viacom data. Sampling 1,300 Viacom viewers ages 13-49, and 600 kids, ages 2-12, Viacom found that TVE users watch 64% more TV (72% for millennials), as 98% said TVE adds to their pay-TV subscription and 93% said they're more likely to stay with their pay-TV operator as a result of TVE. Respondents said the main reasons for TVE use were to re-watch/replay TV episodes, view flexibly and be an early adopter of new services.
For industry proponents of TVE, all of that is good news. But one data point that Viacom did not reveal was how many of the respondents actually use TVE. That's likely because the answer is not many. The most recent update on TVE usage came a few weeks ago from research firm NPD, which found 21% of pay-TV subscribers use TVE at least once per month. NPD also found SVOD users were the most active TVE users, and that 90% of this group was satisfied with their TVE experience.
Nearly 5 years since TV Everywhere was unveiled by Comcast and Time Warner, the 21% usage rate is nothing to write home about, though it is certainly trending in the right direction, up from the single digits usage a study by Digitalsmiths found last Fall (caveat, it's hard to directly compare these types of studies).
Pay-TV industry executives themselves pin the blame for low adoption on low consumer awareness due to poor marketing of TVE. And poor marketing is directly related to not having a consistent content and user experience across all cable and broadcast TV networks (it's hard to promote "TV Everywhere when, for example, half the networks carried don't provide programming, or if they do, severely limit their access).
Of course, the lack of a consistent content experience is directly related to rights issues that are caught up between networks and pay-TV operators, another point industry executives underscored. In fact, all the top TVE experiences have been focused on big-time sports events (e.g. Olympics, March Madness, upcoming World Cup for certain), where rights are pre-cleared for digital platforms and passionate fans pro-actively search out multi-screen access.
Ultimately this may be the secret sauce to TVE gaining improved adoption - using big events to pull more subscribers into TVE and then using these moments to cross-promote availability of entertainment programming as rights clear. But there are no silver bullets here. It's going to be a long slog on the rights front, which means comprehensive TVE offerings will be rare, promotion will be limited and adoption relatively low for a long time to come.