If linear channels were to become freely available over-the-top, would operators rewrite their contracts, asks Julian Clover?
Amid all the talk in the United States of ‘cord cutting’, the term given to describe the decision to churn out of cable in favour of an over-the-top movie service such as Netflix, little thought is being given to the pay-basic channels that are the staples in any pay-TV package.
Some channels demand little or no carriage fee and are happy to offer their service direct to operators to sit in their basic or starter packages. So what if some of these channels start to do deals directly with the manufacturers of Connected TVs? Well, Euronews has done just that, placing content from four of its language services into Panasonic Viera Cast TV sets. In addition to an up to date news bulletin, Panasonic owners will be able to pull in some of Euronews’ feature programming including No Comment, the programme that has turned the raw news feed into an art form.
You can read this one of two ways, on demand is the way to go and for Euronews, this is the way of the future. Or the channel is showcasing its best efforts in a way that will encourage people to view the regular linear transmissions. In a way this feels a little perverse, having installed a set-top box from the local cable or satellite provider, you switch it on to enjoy an array of linear channels but have to turn it off again to watch the VOD content that encouraged you to make the purchase.
It is however something of a logical move for multichannel broadcasters. Connected TVs already give access to on demand movies and content from some of the major national broadcasters, even if both the availability and breadth is patchy, so it follows that niche channels should be there too. You could say that channels like Discovery, Eurosport, ESPN and CNN, all of which have on demand content available on their websites, might also want to have a Connected TV presence, but then you have to decide if and how you might want to monetise that content.
But before all of this it might be time to check that contract. When broadband TV emerged as a viable distribution option a few years ago, cablecos not unreasonably began to decline carriage fees for channels that also had 24/7 distribution on the internet. After all how might you expect to make a business out of something that was being given away elsewhere, even if it was your cable modems that were assisting in the ‘free’ distribution model. Despite the current enthusiasm for multiscreen delivery it would come as no surprise were operators to adopt similar judgements for content available on a TV that was connected to something other than their set-top.