Tennis Channel's Ware pitches 'hybrid' a la carte model

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- One week after launching a subscription-based a la carte online channel, Tennis Channel digital media chief Adam Ware touted what he called "hybrid" TV Everywhere programming outlets as an effective offset to the forces of pay TV dis-aggregation.

Speaking on Wednesday morning panel at the BroadbandTVcon conference here alongside colleagues from across the pay TV spectrum, Ware elaborated on an innovative model that doesn't require subscribers to be pay TV customers, but lets the Tennis Channel's MVPD partners in on the profits.

Able to show only a small fraction of available match coverage, as well as interviews, archival footage and various other pro-tennis related video, launching a platform like Tennis Panel Plus seemed like a no-brainer for Ware and his colleagues.

However, as Ware noted, the independent Tennis Channel lacks the leverage enjoyed by one of his colleagues on Thursday morning's "Where Is TV Everywhere" panel, Watch ESPN VP Damon Phillips, who has the clout to negotiate the all-digital ESPN 3 as part of the pay TV bundle with every MVPD he's in the dealmaking room with.

"An option was to offer an authenticated channel, but we're not ESPN. Another option was to do what the WWE did [and launch an un-authenticated channel]. But we are proud participants in the TV ecosystem, so we went to the operators and gave them a piece of the profits."

Later, exchanging email with FierceCable, Ware elaborated on the specifics.

Any MPVD partner who is doing TV Everywhere with us will share in profits generated from Tennis Channel Plus subscriptions," he explained. "Profits will be distributed based on the total number of Tennis Channel subscribers per MPVD.

"MPVDs get a share of the profits and are not responsible for any costs or providing bandwidth. Tennis Channel subscriber fees would not cover the cost of an additional TV Everywhere channel and the ad-supported model in general would not support it, so a subscription model is the only one that makes sense. And even in that case, will operate at a deficit for the initial period."

Ware's insight into the Tennis Channel Plus launch highlighted a panel that spanned that gamut of TV Everywhere topics. Here are some other highlights:

> Addressing the fundamental problem of TV Everywhere consumer awareness and understanding, panel moderator Linda Abrams, chief marketing officer of marketing firm Xposure Media, outlined a specific concern: nomenclature. From HBO Go to Watch ESPN to DirecTV Anywhere, consumers are barraged with myriad product names, and many don't get the connection to the overall TV Everywhere initiative.

> The panelists -- which also included Scott Barton, VP of digital and on-demand programming for Starz; Niraj Desai, director of video product management for Canada's Rogers Communications; and Stuart Schneiderman, senior VP of consumer insights and measurement for Viacom Media Networks – universally agreed that tablet viewing is the fastest growing consumer video consumption habit. But it's coming at the expense of viewing on personal computers and notebooks, not the traditional living-room TV set.

> ESPN's Phillips says the upcoming World Cup soccer tournament, which kicks off later next week, will be a "watershed moment for TV Everywhere." Most of the matches, he notes, are scheduled during the American workday, and he predicts sports fans will actively seek out matches on PCs and mobile devices via ESPN's TV Everywhere offerings.

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