The Cable Show: Consumers want a seamless multiscreen experience

Mariko Hewer, FierceCable

This week, I attended my first trade show, the NCTA Cable Show, in Washington, D.C. Among all the products, vendors, solutions providers and cable networks, one common theme stood out to me: the importance of a seamlessly integrated multiscreen experience.

Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), Turner, NBC and Fox execs speaking on a panel called "Authenticate me, Baby: Consumer Behavior in the TV Everywhere Era" said their customers are increasingly demanding the ability to view the content they want anytime, anywhere.

"Consumption is up, live and on demand," said Mike Biard, EVP of distribution at Fox Networks. "The issue we have is the way people are consuming is very different than the way they have historically."

Just a few short years ago, the options for how to consume content, either on TV or from a smart device, were relatively limited—there was live, DVR and video on demand programming, but very little personalization or remote capabilities. Now, consumers want a viewing experience tailored directly to them, both in terms of content and location.

Some companies at the show demonstrated ways to provide one or both of those things. Most notably, Comcast debuted the newest version of its cloud-based interactive program guide, X2, which features a personalized interface including six different program guides.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts also addressed his company's commitment to making its content available as widely as possible, saying, "I think if you don't have your programming on every platform, you're missing a whole generation."

Roberts is probably right. The newest generation of viewers, many of whom are cord-cutters or cord-nevers who refrain altogether from subscribing to a pay TV service, will find ways to reach their content whether the cable companies give it to them or not. If Comcast and its competitors want to stay abreast of the rapidly changing video industry, they should work with, not against, that trend.

Consumer demand for accessing content is not limited to video streaming, however. Itaas, a software services and development company, demonstrated at the show how it helped Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) port its IntelligentHome solution from a mobile app onto a Samsung LG smart TV, thereby allowing customers to control such functions as temperature, video camera surveillance and lighting without leaving their couches.

One thing is clear from the demonstrations, products, solutions and announcements coming out of the 2013 Cable Show: Consumers are becoming ever more demanding about how, when and where they can access their content. And companies are certainly coming up with some innovative ways to deliver on that. --Mariko