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DirecTV Highlights Hurdles and Flaws of TV Everywhere Access

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Pay TV subscriptions are declining in the face of easy and inexpensive streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, leaving the entrenched pay TV companies struggling to provide streaming access to subscription content. The industry’s answer is TV Everywhere (TVE), which provides some content to some viewers over some devices. Six members of the OATC (Open Authentication Technology Committee) took the stage at today’s sunny Streaming Media West conference to talk about advances in TVE authentication and access, but their words did a better job of highlighting just how far TVE has to go.

“The challenge is technology is moving quicker than we’re able to pick up,” noted David Schlacht, senior director of technology ventures for DirecTV. Consumers want access to all content at any time, he said. Rather than meeting existing needs, he said the OATC was trying to look ahead to future needs.

The panel moderator, Peter Rosenberg, enterprise architect for digital media at NBC Universal, pointed out that users fall away at every step of the “authentication funnel.” That funnel includes discovering TVE content, discovering which provider can deliver that content, authenticating an account, and finally playing back the content. The process is a chore, offering many ways for consumers to encounter problems.

Authentication is especially difficult on mobile devices, the panel pointed out. People get confused and think they need to authenticate with their phone service, not their pay TV service.

In one of the stranger exchanges, the panel showed that pay TV companies are more concerned with the specter of viewer fraud that in simply providing easy access. One answer to the problem of mobile access is to use a token system where devices would have to be re-authenticated periodically to deliver new tokens. But if the system uses 30-day tokens, panelists said, people would have monthly token parties and invite 30 friends over to get new tokens. Yes, executives at major pay TV companies think that people will have monthly token parties to provide mobile access to all their friends.

The TV networks often aren’t concerned about fraud, one panelist pointed out, since they want to get people viewing their ads and one viewer is as good as another. Plus, they’ve already made their TVE deals. It’s the cable and satellite companies that are concerned with fraud.

“We don’t have he ability to identify people based on their IP address,” Schlacht pointed out, showing why authentication is a bigger hurdle for satellite services. Of DirecTV’s 20 million subscribers, only 4.5 million have their satellite boxes connected to the internet. If the company provides authentication, kids might go to HBO and watch mature content, Schlacht said.

One option is to use social network sign-ins for access control, but Schlacht pointed out why that won’t work for everyone.

“We’ve got to remember that the TV audience has a big share of the audience that doesn’t use Facebook or Twitter,” Schlacht said. Plus, children often don’t have those types of accounts. Still, he thinks this flawed system will see a release in the next 12 to 24 months, saying that everyone he knows is working on this type of a solution.

Schlacht also pointed out the problems that people have with content directories such as Fanhattan (now FanTV). Viewers enter DirecTV as their content provider, and are then directed to content they can’t view unless they authenticate. It’s up to the pay TV companies to work with directories and ensure a seamless viewer hand-off.

“It’s a combination of technology and business,” Schlacht said, adding that it requires more business arrangements then technology arrangements. Once people get to content, they should be able to play it, he said.

The panel also addressed the resource usage monitor (RUM) specification that aims to prevent TVE fraud. The spec should go into broad usage in the next 90 days.

“All you people stealing HBO better get ready,” Schlacht warned the Streaming Media West audience.

Scroll down to watch the full panel discussion:

 

Requirements for TV Everywhere Enablement

This panel discussion by members of the Open Authentication Technology Committee (OATC) provides an insight into how authorization will be critical to future TVE implementations. Speakers discuss topics including how best to determine a user’s entitlement to view content, how enabling visibility to viewing behaviors benefits both research metrics gathering and credential sharing prevention, and how a common approach to live signaling allows for stream restrictions and digital program insertion. The panel also discusses efforts around improving and harmonizing user experience and TV Everywhere authentication.

Moderator: Peter Rosenberg, Enterprise Architect, Digital Media, NBC Universal
Speaker: Christen Chambers, VP Business Operations and Software Solutions, Fox Networks Group
Speaker: Michael Wise, VP, Multi-Platform Distribution Technologies, Turner Broadcasting System
Speaker: David Schlacht, Senior Director, Technology Ventures, DirecTV
Speaker: Hillary Henderson, Director of Product, Clearleap
Speaker: Joel Huff, Group Product Manager, Primetime, Adobe

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