Downloads can save TV Everywhere, Penthera exec says

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- In order for TV Everywhere's consumer-satisfaction potential to fully be realized, pay-TV operators must integrate the ability to download content rather than just stream it.

That was the message presented Tuesday by Melani Griffith, executive VP and board member for Penthera, a privately funded Pittsburgh-based firm specializing in content distribution solutions for mobile platforms.

Speaking at the BroadbandTVcon conference here in an afternoon session period that was equal parts industry technology overview and product pitch, Griffith put forth a rather straightforward agenda:

Ultimately, she argued, consumers will demand that TV Everywhere live up to its billing, providing rich content experiences on mobile devices anywhere and everywhere. The problem is, as Griffith explained, "There are 19,000 American cities, and we are a long way off before [free public Wi-Fi] is available everywhere, and I don't think it ever will be."

The solution, Griffith said, is to integrate technology that lets subscribers temporarily download video content to mobile devices rather than just stream it.

Griffith noted that while 40 percent of pay-TV consumers Panthera polled are interested in downloading content, only one major pay-TV provider, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA), is offering even limited download capabilities as part of its TV Everywhere offerings.

Among the benefits to pay-TV operators, she added, is the ability to integrate the value proposition offered by transactional video services under the pay TV umbrella. In other words, pay-TV subscribers might not feel their cable bill is so high if they're not spending $20 or more every month at iTunes or Vudu.

"You have 575 million iTunes users spending $20.3 billion a year and downloading 350 million movies a day," she said. "Pay-TV consumers shouldn't have to resort to these transactional services."

Griffith acknowledged limitations to the download model: It's tougher to integrate advertising into downloaded content, for one, and rights battles with content owners for mere streaming rights have been contentious enough without downloads thrown into the negotiating mix.

Further, content owners have become reliant on the revenue they're generating from transactional services and are reluctant to license the same content to pay-TV operators.

And beyond that, with many owners of mobile devices limited to 8 gigabytes or less of digital storage, downloading might not always be technologically practical.

However, Griffith countered that technology exists that partitions only a finite segment of the user's storage for temporary downloads, erasing previously viewed content as new video is added, while never compromising other apps or data.

And while conceding that some content might not be monetarily appropriate for downloading, she added, "News and sports highlights and kids content are perfect for temporary downloading."

Griffith--a former senior VP of programming and video product for Insight, which was acquired in 2012 by Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) for $3 billion--put coda to her pitch with a bold forecast: "I predict that by the end of the year, downloading will be a staple of every major [TV Everywhere] content negotiation."

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