ThePlatform co-CEO: TV Everywhere is maturing, but ad strategy still unclear

CHICAGO--The cable industry's TV Everywhere business is finally starting to shed the awkwardness that hobbled its initial launch efforts, according to thePlatform's co-CEO Marty Roberts. However, one major issue still needs to be ironed out: Exactly which ads will users see when they log into their TV Everywhere services?

"It's unclear" how the advertising situation will play out in TV Everywhere, Roberts said here on the sidelines of the cable industry's INTX trade show.

Roberts explained that, after several years of stops and starts, the TV Everywhere business has been largely built out by most cable companies. "It's been evolving and getting better over time," Roberts said. "Most TV Everywhere strategies have been worked out."

And users appear to be embracing the services, albeit somewhat slowly. For example, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) earlier this year said that more than 30 percent of its Xfinity TV customers are now using its authenticated TV Everywhere app to watch shows, representing about 20 percent year-over-year growth. However, Adobe in March said that only 12.5 percent of cable, satellite and IPTV customers regularly use TV Everywhere services.

Nonetheless, Roberts explained that most cable operators and content programmers have embraced the TV Everywhere service and strategy. "It's pretty well established," Roberts said, adding that, now, "there's a more nuanced conversation going on around TV Everywhere."

Roberts explained that cable operators and content companies are now turning their attention to the advertising situation in TV Everywhere. He said that in most standard cable systems, cable companies are generally able to control two of the 16 advertisements shown during a standard 30-minute TV show--that's why, Roberts said, users mostly see nationwide ads during commercial breaks alongside a handful of ads for local businesses, like car dealerships.

However, in most TV Everywhere services today, cable operators are controlling the bulk of the advertisements that are shown inside of broadcast TV shows. Roberts said that TV Everywhere technology is capable of supporting a wide range of advertising strategies, and so the issue largely centers on cable companies and content providers settling the contractual aspects of the situation.

"They're figuring out what is the right mix," Roberts said.

thePlatform sits in a unique position to watch the evolution of the TV Everywhere market. The company, a subsidiary of Comcast that operates largely independently, provides the backend support for most video streaming to PCs, mobile devices and TVs--ensuring the rights to the content are properly maintained and users are accurately authenticated. The company powers the services of roughly half of the top 50 cable channels, and handles 12 billion video views annually.

Roberts noted that conversations around the TV Everywhere advertising situation have picked up in recent months as advertisers' spending on traditional TV ads has showed signs of decline. TV broadcasters are concerned that ad dollars are migrating to online platforms, and they want to shore up their position there.

Show coverage: INTX Live 2015

Related articles:
Adobe: Only 12.5 percent of pay-TV subscribers are 'active TV Everywhere users'
DirecTV adds 22 out-of-home TVE channels, including TNT, Comedy Central, Nick
Comcast says TV Everywhere use has reached 30% of Xfinity TV subscriber base