As consumers flock to streaming video services like Netflix, the cable industry has struggled to regularly attract customers to its own online viewing options. This summer, networks and distributors will unite in a marketing campaign to try and change that.
Studies show less than half of pay TV subscribers consistently use what media companies call TV Everywhere, a platform to watch live and on-demand programing on computers, tablets, Internet-connected TVs and mobile phones. Operators acknowledge that many customers do not know it exists.
From July 26 to August 8, cable distributors and networks will fill TV screens, websites and social media with messages encouraging customers to "watch on the go" through their apps and websites, Anne Cowan, a spokeswoman for the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM), told Reuters.
Participants include Comcast Corp and its NBCUniversal unit, Cox Communications, Mediacom, A&E Networks, Time Warner Inc's Turner Networks and HBO, and Univision.
The campaign is designed to catch people on summer vacation with phones and tablets in tow.
TV Everywhere began in 2009 as a response to on-demand services such as Netflix. Examples include the HBO Go, Watch ESPN and Xfinity TV apps.
Cable operators hope the platform will help prevent "cord cutting," or dropping of pay TV packages. The TV Everywhere capabilities are added to a pay TV subscription at no extra cost.
"We need to become much more consumer-centric and be where consumers want to be," said CTAM President and CEO John Lansing. "TV Everywhere is that product for our industry."
About 13 percent of pay TV accounts were logged in to TV Everywhere content at least once a month during the first quarter of 2015, according to Adobe, which provides software for the platform. It is unknown how many people watched each video.
In an online survey in January by HUB Research and commissioned by CTAM, 34 percent of pay TV subscribers said they had used TV Everywhere at least several times a month.
Proponents say awareness and use are rising quickly. The number of videos played on TV Everywhere platforms increased nearly 300 percent in the 12 months through March, Adobe said, lifted by sporting events such as the Olympics and World Cup.
Satisfaction surveys also show that people who use it are happier with their cable packages, Lansing said.
There are still holes in the offerings. Not all networks are watchable on all devices. Cable customers have an average of 60 networks available on five devices, CTAM said. Some can be watched only inside the home.
A complicated sign-in process also frustrated customers, and operators have moved to simplify it. Comcast, for example, no longer makes subscribers enter a customer number for the Xfinity TV app. It also automatically connects customers to the app when they use devices connected to their home wi-fi network.
Comcast promotes TV Everywhere through "watchathons" that offer a range of free content for a limited time. One-third of Comcast’s video customers use TV Everywhere each month, said Matt Strauss, executive vice president and general manager of Comcast Cable's video services.