There’s no denying the big topic of conversation here at the Cable Show is online video. Everyone is trying to figure out what it means and how cable providers and programmers can work together to give people what they want: access to TV shows and movies on whatever screen is handy (the TV, the computer, or the phone). I attended the Online, On Demand & On TV: Understanding the New Field of Television panel moderated by Imran Shah (IBB Consulting Group) and consisting of John Burke (Motorola, Inc.), Lynne Costantini (Scripps Networks), Rebecca Glashow (Discovery Communications, Inc.), William Leszinske (Intel Corporation), David Purdy (Rogers Communications, Inc.), Peter Stern (Time Warner Cable), and Sam Schwartz (Comcast Interactive Capital and CIM) to find out what they had to say on the subject.
Rebecca from Discovery talked about how her network is using online video to compliment their traditional programming. People go to Discovery because they want to learn about something, and that means most of their shows can be distilled into shorter video clips, perfect for web viewing. The clips contain a nugget of information which, it is hoped, will entice people to seek out the program either On Demand or when it airs normally.
No one thinks that having clips of shows online is a bad idea, but what about entire shows? Dave Purdy from Rogers pointed out that in Canada they have a very large amount of illegal file sharing on their network because there isn’t an easy, legal way for people to get the movies and tv shows they want to watch. The key to online video is making it easy to use, and convenient.
This thought was echoed by Time Warner’s Peter Stern. In order to get all the cable shows that you love, viewable in their entirety online, there has to be some sort of way to prove that you’re a subscriber entitled to that content. Peter stressed that this process of logging in has to be easy, or people won’t use it.
Sam Schwartz (who you might recall from his Intro to CIM post) said that Comcast went back to basics with Fancast. When you search for a show on Fancast you can watch it online (if it is available) but Fancast will also tell you if a new episode of that show is airing soon (and when), and it’ll tell you if the show is available On Demand (and give you what menu you can find the show on). In the future Fancast will have even more integration with the cable box, so you’ll be able to tell your DVR to record a show through Fancast (if you’re a Comcast subscriber, of course).
Something Sam said sums it up best for me. He pointed out that there are lots of flavors of ice cream and people will be trying lots of different things with online video in the coming months but it all boils down to giving people what they want: great content on whatever device you want to watch it on (yes, including your fancy HD TV.)