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TV Everywhere Hits Snags

Rights deals, ratings standards and advertiser disinterest hinder growth

Faced with competition from Netflix and Hulu, cable companies have pegged TV Everywhere as a major strategic tool in the fight to retain influence. Yet the concept of TV Everywhere—cable packages that allow customers to access channels from any screen—is hindered by rights deals and advertiser disinterest, executives told The Hollywood Reporter.

"Guilty as charged. We haven’t made it as easy as we need to. There’s a lot of effort around that,” said Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts. “It’s a matter of focus and commitment to it. We’re now heading in a good direction. We’ve got more TV Everywhere usage, and a year from today we will have more than we have today.”

The top 10 ad-supported, paid TV networks offer mobile viewing to only 4 in 10 subscribers, according to data from research firm The Diffusion Group. Premium networks like HBO, Starz and Showtime offer mobile viewing to 7 in 10 subscribers. ABC, NBC and CBS offer mobile viewing to people without subscriptions, but only certain shows, and in the case of live TV, only certain cities.

Currently, most network shows that are available on mobile devices are only available inside the home via the user's WiFi connection.

“In a TNT application within the home you’re accessing TV Everywhere, but in an Xfinity application it could be [just the cable company's] VOD” programming," Jeremy Legg, vp of Time Warner Inc.'s Turner Broadcasting, told Deadline.

"Explain to a consumer why they can get TNT in the home and they can watch a basketball game but they can't get it out of the home," Legg added.

Another major hurdle for TV Everywhere initiatives is  advertising. Citing unreliable ratings standards for mobile viewing, advertisers are reluctant to pay for commercials on smartphones and tablets. TV executives voiced concern over online audience measurement during a panel at industry summit The Cable Show.

“We either don’t get any credit at all, or if we do get credit, it’s at a fraction of what we would have gotten if they first watched it live on the TV,” said Ron Lamprecht, NBCUniversal’s evp for digital distribution.

This dearth of advertising revenue leaves TV providers with little incentive to buy the rights to broadcast shows online. Faced with scant choices on network sites, viewers rely on Netflix with its array of content and availability on multiple devices.

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