Can Cable Providers Monetize Second-Screen Experiences?


There was an awful lot of sexy new navigation technology demonstrated at this year’s Cable Show and it seems there’s a new gesture on the scene – “the fling.” This is a simple upward swipe of the finger while one is using a tablet or smartphone to search and browse video content. “The fling” takes a content item from the mobile device experience and “flings” it up onto the main screen for viewing. This can be Live, DVR, or VOD content. Though I didn’t see it demonstrated, I’ll guess it could also work with an ad pushed to the second screen. But here’s the question – and excuse the horrific upcoming pun – but can the “fling” bring the bling? In other words – can that gesture trigger a purchase or real-time charging event?

Think about it – you snag a pay-per VOD title off of your tablet and fling it onto your TV to watch now, or onto your DVR to store for later. That immediately triggers a direct-to-bill purchase that is pushed to your cable bill. You don’t give it a second thought after that.

Now, you’d have to have some protection here, but I’ll argue you don’t want to stop the purchase in mid-stride. The “fling” is quite a deliberate gesture, so chances are good someone intends to buy an item that’s clearly marked with a “$” before they fling it. Rather than interrupt the experience with an “are you sure?” it makes more sense to overlay a message as the video continues to roll that says “you just charged $5.99 for a movie – press ‘back’ if you didn’t mean it?” Whatever the counter gesture is, the point is you want to let someone back out from an erroneous fling – but that’s different from interrupting the purchase and playback experience.

With that set of capabilities running, what else could cable operators do to drive revenue? Why not let someone opt-in to an offer with a fling, or build up a shopping cart with a bunch of flings. And – here’s the beauty – charge it all right to the cable bill (which someone is free to pay with one or more credit cards anyway; longer float, double the points, etc.).

This approach would have to be secured, so identity and user authentication plays a major role here. Concepts like “in home authentication” have been kicked around. If you think about it, it would make sense to use a combination of location and proximity to help simplify user authentication (i.e. don’t make me remember yet another login) while enforcing some level of security (i.e. someone would have to break into your house, steal your tablet, turn on your TV, and then have their shopping spree to steal from you…then again they might be able to do it from the front porch…). Whatever the approach (and I’ll tackle this soon in an upcoming post) security always needs to be addressed when transactions are involved, though that security often seems to interfere with the user experience and can undermine conversion rates.

The overarching thesis here, however, is that Pay TV (and therefore cable and its many old and new competitors) is entering an age where new forms of user interaction are going to emerge constantly. The intent to purchase or opt-in may be inherent in new actions, gestures, and behaviors, like “the fling.” Though operators should not get too tricky or complex with customers, it does make sense to look at how they can integrate their billing and payment capabilities directly into these new behaviors. It seems wise to investigate ways to  make purchasing, opting-in, sharing, and redeeming rewards seamless aspects of the service experience. Today, these actions are too often governed by disjointed, dissuasive steps and checks that disengage users from the enticing navigation and content playback experiences operators are working so hard to make escapist and exciting.

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About Edward Finegold 122 Articles
Ed is now Director, Strategy for NetCracker. Previously, for 15 years he was a reporter, analyst and consultant focused on the OSS/BSS industry and a regular contributor to BillingViews.

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