Wetpaint CEO Ben Elowitz on the Future of Digital Media
Video technology company Brightcove has now proposed the latest idea to monetize network TV content online: creating paywalls on each major TV network’s own site. Building on the cable industry’s TV Everywhere idea, they’ve tilted it toward “TV Here” at the content owners’ websites — all, of course, powered by Brightcove technology.
This is a crafty move, as it appeals to the TV content owners’ goals of increasing their relationship with the consumer. And on the surface it might make sense to the networks since Brightcove is in a behind-the-scenes technology role, solving a real potential problem for the content providers — authentication — real quickly.
But this idea probably won’t go anywhere.
The reason is clear: This is a case where the business proposition for the content owner is strong, but there’s not enough in it for the consumer. Let’s face it – consumers don’t have a relationship with the content owners. They don’t have accounts and passwords; they don’t have email subscriptions; and they don’t have affinity to the network.
What do consumers like in TV? They like their shows, and they like lots and lots of choice — as demonstrated by the more than 153 hours per month that the average American watches; and the 14 to 15 pages YouTube viewers look at on a daily basis in their browser. Consumers like to consume – and they like to consume a lot of variety.
But it’s just a small number of consumers that wants to establish a deep relationship with the networks — and that means this TV Here strategy won’t get the masses registering.
Here at Wetpaint, we run some of the largest and most successful communities for a variety of network shows, with many of these sites sponsored by major networks, such as Fox, HBO, and Showtime. On many of these sites, tens of thousands of registered users have signed up for accounts so they can chat with each other, receive email updates, and comment on and create content about the show they love. And while that is significant, these tens of thousands pale in comparison to the hundreds of thousands who come each month to passively consume the content that is there — without registering.
The irony is that that just a couple percent of any given audience are interested enough to give their email address to a typical show online, while an impressive half of all households are willing to reach into their wallets to pay a cable TV bill each month.
The difference is the experience. That cable subscription fee is a direct enabler one of the most important entertainment experiences we have: sitting on the sofa with the remote control. But individual network-driven access portals to particular shows? That’s the opposite of the control experience that consumers crave — it would be the online equivalent of asking consumers to buy a different remote control for every channel they want to watch. What a hassle.
That’s why this would be the wrong model for the networks: it doesn’t serve the experience that consumers want. And further, it undermines the whole promise of what TV Everywhere could do to create a destination with the access and choice that consumers want.
In this new product offering, it’s clear see what Brightcove gets out of it: it’s an appealing and opportunistic move for the technology provider to win some stopgap business by playing to every content owner’s dream of being a destination. It’s an easy seduction for the networks to imagine building that relationship directly right on their own sites.
But it is fraught. By ignoring the consumer experience, they’re bound to be creating a destination that nobody comes to — a “TV Nowhere” in the end.