Why TV Everywhere…isn’t.

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According to everybody, TV viewers in 2014 demand the ability to “watch what they want, when they want, on whatever device they want.” Traditional broadcast TV can’t do that, so conventional broadcasters and distributors in North America have spent millions of dollars building a service that is usually known as TV Everywhere. The TV industry folks I talk to are convinced that TV Everywhere will be the salvation of traditional TV, and defend them from cord-cutting (although cord-cutting isn’t happening in size…yet.) And they are really upset: it isn’t going as well as they hoped.

There’s no need for the “TV Nowhere” headlines to start flying. A recent survey from NPD Group found that 21% of Americans who subscribe to pay TV use their provider’s TV Everywhere service at least once a month, and 90% of those are happy with the service. Hooray! Problem solved, right?

Not so fast. The average American watches TV daily, not monthly. Next, my skeptic alarm goes off when I don’t see data released around the number of hours of TV Everywhere being watched. According to the latest Nielsen numbers, the average American watched 155 hours of traditional TV per month, almost 15 hours of time shifted TV on PVRs, and about 9 hours watching TV on the internet or on a smartphone. Where does TV Everywhere stand? No one is saying, and that’s usually not a good sign.

To be clear, I am sure TV Everywhere is being used, it will grow year over year, and it will represent an increasing number of viewing hours over time. But I think there are two big problems.

You can’t watch ‘what you want’ if you don’t know what you want!

I will use my own viewing habits as an example. About half my TV watching is on the big screen TV, with a signal from my cable company. I like NFL football, but I never watch it on a tablet, PC or smartphone. Instead I watch it live and on the big set – as most people do with sports. I like playing along with Jeopardy! while I am making dinner: Mondays through Saturday, 7:30 pm on Channel 11, with the TV pointed towards the kitchen. I could put it on the PC behind me, but the screen is too small to read the clues, while the TV set is perfect.

The other half of my viewing is mainly Internet video grazing (a funny video of pets interfering with their owners doing yoga; that really strong girl on American Ninja; or John Oliver doing a takedown on Dr. Oz) or occasionally a show that a search algorithm has recommended to me and that I watch on streaming Video-On-Demand (a la Netflix.)

I discover the first category primarily through social media like Facebook and Twitter. People I like and trust, and who have similar tastes, recommend videos, I click on them, and share. I have never seen the John Oliver show before, but not only did I like his Dr. Oz segment, I also loved the FIFA rant. So why don’t I use my version of TV Everywhere to watch Last Week Tonight With John Oliver any time I want?

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Because life is too short, and not every episode is funny. So I let the Internet curate the content, and have my social peeps be my recommendation engine and filter.

TV Everywhere doesn’t do that.

Once you’re off the freeway, you don’t want to eat at Denny’s

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I have driven from Vancouver to Toronto six times now: about 4,400 km each way, and I drove through the US for better highways and cheaper gas. I-90, with a swing down to I-80 to avoid the traffic around Chicago. I was young and poor, and trying to make good time: breakfast and lunch were at McDonalds right beside the freeway, the motels (or campgrounds) at night were beside the freeway, and my dinners were at “restaurants” beside the freeway. This was back in the 1980s, and the choice of restaurants was VERY limited. One time, I was driving though Iowa, and was well into Day 3 of driving. I couldn’t take one more dinner at Denny’s, so actually LEFT THE HIGHWAY and drove into town down Route 61, aka Welcome Way.

All of my usual freeway dining choices were there too, but once I had made the decision to leave the highway, I became effectively ‘blind’ to them as possible dining options.

In the same way, once viewers decide to watch something on a PC, tablet or smartphone, they are looking for something different than regular TV. For many of them, the idea of watching the same stuff as on traditional TV, but now on demand (i.e. TV Everywhere) is as useful as still going to Denny’s…but getting the Thousand Island dressing instead of the Ranch. It is different, but it’s not different enough.

 

 

 

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