Shifting consumer behavior driving personalization of pay-TV content

LOS ANGELES--Consumers are behaving differently than in past years, as more content is viewed by more people over more devices.

That shifting behavior is presenting some tricky challenges for cable's ecosystem. It's also presenting some appealing opportunities, according to panelists at the Meet the New Consumer Behavior panel at The Cable Show here.

"The more content we give consumers, the more ways we give them to consume. But as customers consume in different ways, it becomes more fragmented," said Andrew Goldberg, VP of strategic planning and analysis for Cox Communications.

That shift in consumption moved Cox to launch its personalized recommendation engine, Contour. And it's paying off, Goldberg noted.

"It's been a pleasant surprise how much people want to engage with that. We are  getting 300 data points of feedback per customer per month. The lines between lean-in and lean-back are blurring."

So are any lines between mobile devices and traditional TV, and consumer behaviors for both. "There was talk that when we put content on tablets from the London Olympics it would cannibalize TV. But people tended to watch more during the evening after watching on their devices during the day. A lot of those dynamics are going on where platforms support each other," explained Sam Schwartz, EVP of business development for Comcast Cable (NASDAQ: CMCSA).

Supporting all of these different devices can be challenging, says Kristin Dolan, president of Optimum Services for Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC)

"We're looking at the implications on operations and the products we offer, along with the service equation for front line personnel, especially for second screens. It takes a whole different set of front line skills."

Comcast, noted Schwartz, has similar concerns. "The content grew much faster than the tools we had to handle it, like navigation and search engines. We're watching the eco-system for better tools."

The shifting behavior of consumers towards viewing content over multiple devices is also sparking the need for better awareness campaigns, according to Michael Quigley, VP of business and multi-screen development for Turner Broadcasting.

"We've long been advocates of customers having access to great content. Each year, consumers are responding to greater access to content across multiple platforms. But we need to do a better job of getting that message out," he explained.

In Europe, says James Ryan of Liberty Global, consumer behavior is different towards TV Everywhere. "There are different motivations because the big four broadcasters aren't driving hard on TV Everywhere. It's about the bundle."

And where is this consumer behavior headed? Concluded Quigley: "We saw record numbers on the TV side for March Madness on digital platforms. We knew mobile was growing, but not like this."

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