TVE: The Best Trick You Never Saw

Ian Blaine, CEO of thePlatform, pulled a great trick last week when they launched their MPX Platform out of beta.   It was so good I wondered if he was related to master illusionist David Blaine!

His quote in Broadcast & Cable says it all: “…The promise of TV Everywhere is the everywhere part, which means getting content to more devices..” – now wait a minute!   Wasn’t it just last May that Comcast CEO Brian Roberts (as reported by NewTeeVee) talk about how TVE is really about “enabling them [the subscribers] to view on-demand content from premium cable channels for which they were already paying“?

The kick is of course that Comcast owns thePlatform and in only 6 months has done a great Now You See It, Now You Don’t.   A trick for all the ages with the benefit of elevating TVE into the distinguished class of Make Your Own Definition Acronyms like Web 2.0.    How quickly the hand changes to fool the eye: from multi device subscription to just getting your content out there.   TVE dead before it got out of the gates…

Underneath all this is a more serious matter, the challenge that TVE faces going into the future.   On the surface it’s a great idea: I pay my subscriber once, be it satellite, cable or in the UK the BBC, and I can watch all the premium content they license on any connected device (web, TV, mobile).

The problem is that of the uber decentralisation that the web offers connected video.   On the web there are no broadcasters, or more to the point EVERYONE is a broadcaster.   In the UK alone I can get the same long form entertainment content from at least 4 major categories of sites: catchup sites like iPlayer, Demand FIVE or 4OD; aggregate sites like SeeSaw; portals like YouTube and MSN Video; or digital goods shops like Amazon and iTunes.

It’s a content producer’s world to be sure.   To remain relevant broadcasters have been snapping up content production houses for some time now.   It’s no accident that some of the best shows on television come from named broadcasters: Lost was produced by ABC Studios for example.   But even now there are still too many sources to find quality content to warrant a true TVE scheme.   It’s too complex and traditional a model to overlay on a nascent and vibrant technology like the web.   Maybe in time it will come to pass but my thinking?  It won’t be the broadcasters that lay this out but the ISPs who control the pipes.  Even now large ISPs, like Bell Canada have seen the future and are buying up media shops like CTV.   They are the lynch pin to the supply chain.   If they’re smart they’ll charge me access to the content with a higher QoS on their network.   That’s how I’ll stay around with them… oh wait they already are!

In the end, the question being asked is where is the true source of any piece of content?  The studios?  The traditional broadcasters? YouTube? iTunes? ISPs?

The answer is: nowhere.   Content is now fully detached and autonomous.  It can come from anywhere and anyone.  The content is the channel.   The channel is the content.   All you can fight for is to control and operate a toll on part of the supply chain highway.

This is a great thing for the viewer who will benefit from the fight by the providers for their eyeballs.   It’s a bad thing for sites out there as they struggle to be the first port of call of the viewers.   No longer can sites just leverage the fact they have content.   Now they have to think about discoverability of that content, ease of access of that content, exclusivity arrangments, supporting material, loyalty building to name but a few!

It’s a brave new world, just don’t take your eye off the cups.

— Cameron Church

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