Comcast, The Weather Company, Sling TV say mobile platforms drive changing TV Everywhere viewing behaviors

BOSTON -- While the chatter for months has revolved around the way that millennials – that coveted, 18–36-year-old age demographic – view out-of-home video content, industry players Comcast and The Weather Company are finding that different TV Everywhere platforms, such as smartphones or tablets, are driving viewer behavior more than age groups do.

That was a key observation during a FierceCable panel here at INTX titled "Delivering on the Mobile Video Dream," which featured a cross-section of content providers and distributors including Dish Network-owned Sling TV, The Weather Company and Comcast Cable.

"I don't think [the target audience] is driven by age, but by the platform they're using," said Neil Katz, SVP of global content and editor in chief at The Weather Company.

Comcast Cable head of TV Everywhere Content & Product Strategy, Vito Forlenza, agreed with Katz, as did Sling TV SVP and Chief Product Officer Ben Weinberger.

"We're seeing more live streaming," said Forlenza of how Comcast subscribers are using their TVE apps. He added that sports and news are viewed more on mobile devices than on home TV screens, and that total viewing hours on the MSO's TVE app were up significantly year over year.  

However, video on demand (VOD) still rules in terms of most-viewed TVE content, Forlenza said.

Weinberger said that the actual audience for Sling TV is somewhat different from the viewers they thought would sign up. Ahead of its launch in 2015, Sling TV's base price was set at $20 to appeal to millennials and established cord-cutters looking for a better deal on linear television. "We found that it really appeals to a broad audience," he said, including families and adults who wanted out-of-home viewing capability, for which Sling TV's new multi-stream subscription option is popular.

Another evolving audience behavior – one that Sling TV has openly embraced – is subscriber churn. "Live (TV) is the reason people sign up for Sling TV initially," Weinberger said, adding that live sports is one of the biggest subscription drivers, and also one of the biggest reasons that viewers disconnect. For example, the linear OTT service will see an increase in signups ahead of the March Madness basketball tournament, followed by viewers not renewing their subscription once the tourney is over – at least until next season.

However, TV Everywhere still hasn't quite met the promise espoused by the original concept, "Project Infinity," touted some seven or eight years ago at an earlier INTX incarnation, The Cable Show. The reasons panelist noted, lie mainly in the technology requirements for delivering TVE to multiple devices, and in content licensing and rights agreements between distributors and content owners.

For example, "I can watch an NFL game on this," Forlenza said, holding up a tablet, "but not on my mobile phone." That is due to differing rights agreements: Verizon currently has mobile streaming rights to NFL games, leaving other providers out of the running for now.

Such agreements are also affected by geographic location, a challenge for Sling TV, Weinberger noted: a subscriber traveling from his or her home market to, say, Denver and wanting to watch their home team may not be able to get the game in that location.

Achieving ubiquitous content on TV Everwhere apps will take some time to work out. "We just want it to work, and we just want consumers to get what they want. I think (rights holders) understand that," said Weinberger.

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