Just as multiscreen video takes its place centre stage the edges of this new proposition are beginning to blur, writes Julian Clover.
New York was the destination for a day of discussion on the monetisation of multiscreen video. The event had been organised by technology company SeaChange international, which preferred to leave the talking to a cast largely made up of practitioners of the new artform.
Companion devices, particularly the iPad but not excluding those on the Android platform, are beginning to make their mark and strategies are evolving. In a move from the Multiroom philosophy, that’ll be £10 please, operators prefer to use the added value to increase charges overall.
Christine Mitchell, a former UK cable hand, now group head of video content for the Vodafone Group explained the telco’s model was about extending content to other devices. “The relationship we have with rights holders is for three screen deals, so the intention is to have people subscribe to one service and keep them within the family.”
This is not as straightforward as it sounds, the highly publicised US spats between cablenets and content owners have been mooted in Europe, though Comcast’s Mark Hess called on operators to be sensitive to the needs of content providers. The Comcast Xfinity service is already on the third iteration of its iPad app, despite only having launched it last November.
What isn’t entirely clear is how many of the multiscreen services can actually be taken out of the home, the anytime, any place, anywhere concept is in danger of falling flat if the content is electronically tagged.
There was some explanation of Ultraviolet, the scheme designed to allow customers to view pre-purchased content on other platforms. Hess explained how his daughter had paid for a PPV movie even though the DVD was elsewhere in the house. It was, recalling her explanation, more convenient. But Ultraviolet would only come into play if the operator had the title on offer. For Comcast this might not be too much of a problem with 60,000 assets on offer.
The new connected boxes, exemplified by TiVo and UPC’s Horizon, are not only designed to work with multiple screens but also distribute content that the consumer might otherwise look to the internet to view. Liberty Global’s VP technology Bill Warga reiterated previous statements by CEO Mike Fries that a deal with a Netflix type service might be considered, but suggested this would not be an exclusive arrangement.
All of this points to cable being in the pipe business rather than vaudeville.