Pay TV models are evolving more rapidly than infrastructure can keep up. In simple terms, Pay TV customers have gone rapidly from faceless households to unique individuals. Personalization is in its infancy; content owners are concerned about maintaining content rights; and Pay TV providers are working through the details on how revamp advertising models and the best ways to monetize services like TV Everywhere. BillingViews sat down with Dwayne Ruffin, Senior Vice President of Product Strategy for CSG International to discuss the massive changes occurring in the global Pay TV industry and how they are reflected in the changing role for BSS systems and processes.
BV: Are cable operators making the shift from seeing subscribers as a household to seeing and treating them as individual consumers?
Ruffin: Because of licensing constraints a customer is still tied to a rooftop today, but things are changing to support one-to-many relationships in the household. Operators are looking at where content flows over the in-house wireless network to devices and they want to personalize those experiences. We haven’t heard North American MSOs announce those plans, but we spoke in Dublin about this and there were many European and South American operators wrestling with it and budgeting to address those issues, so we know they are moving in that direction.
BV: What are some of the impacts on billing infrastructure if and when this change is made?
Ruffin: Today it’s all about collecting events and sending them through in a post paid manner. But moving forward, I think the strategic intersection becomes the consumer and the things you know about them – both explicitly and implicitly provided attributes about the consumer.
That will move intelligence into new portions of BSS and there will be a need to “flip” CRM. Today CRM looks at the consumer, their intent, and at deriving value. You use consumption to try to see what interests the consumer. But I think that will flip. Consumers are comfortable sharing information in exchange for value. So there will be a need to capture preferences and interests, not just at the content level, but lifestyle interests, and then leverage that to drive interactions. As far as the consumer is comfortable with that, I think they may let you do more to share information about them – in exchange for value. Whatever you’ve told the operator is important to you they will have a chance to act on (to improve the customer experience).
BV: What’s holding back TV Everywhere?
Ruffin: Outside the home I think people are still wrestling with content concerns, but most of that has been alleviated. It hasn’t progressed as quickly as advertised and it’s not clear why it’s being slow rolled. But I can absolutely see where that is the intended end state of every provider and the value will be where you connect consumers to interest, and a lot of interest is in the content consumer. This is a must, specifically if the world moves to where you have bifurcated interest between content and access; if you are a provider that owns both, you can lever that against those who have only one or the other.
I think arm wrestling over authentication subsides once they know how these models emerge. Once the models shake out a little bit and content providers become comfortable in knowing, in tandem with operators, that they create a strengthened relationship with the end consumer (by having multiple members in a household providing information to you in context about what content they prefer and their lifestyle interests) I think that wrestling goes away. But until we can get them (content providers) comfortable, and consumers get comfortable with sharing, I think we will see content providers walk slowly.
BV: How do ad models change when subscribers become individuals who consume content on multiple screens and mobile devices?
Ruffin: I’m not certain how much clarity there is around this, but when you have companies like Aereo and Simple TV (two providers of broadcast TV over Internet with cloud-based DVR functionality) they are gearing their services towards a consumer who have never subscribed to cable – college students who are accustomed to aggregating their own content. Those people, when they connect to Aereo to get all of their live broadcast TV over the Internet and use the cloud to store and record, it creates a great opportunity for companies like them to act on what these customers view and share about themselves so they can more effectively target advertising. Canoe fell down because they tried to create consortiums with buying power, and it sounded good, but if you go beyond big blocks of assumed interest and move to personalization on an individual level that’s tied to value, you’ve got something.
I saw a vendor that lets ads be served to consumers based on personal preferences and allows people to be rewarded based on what they saw. Those are models that I think will work. If I see an ad that really appeals to me and lets me drill into some multi-media pieces…? I’m interested if you marry up my interests with that capability.
I think it’s these small upstarts who have the ability to move the space who will define how those models take shape. When you talk to small innovative companies who aren’t constrained by legacy, they are focused on the interests of the consumer, and they look at the new consumer – not someone who sits back and passively views.
BV: What do you think of the data that shows people are using multiple screens at once to consume content, shop, and look up information simultaneously?
Ruffin: I think ACR (automatic content recognition) and the second screen-applications stuff is going to be huge. People are using ‘other devices’ simultaneously so they may look things up, but they aren’t necessarily synced with the content being displayed. But now you have companies meta-tagging content so they can sync up the second screen and have an application in the background capturing what you’re watching, because it’s listening, and marrying that up because it listens to you. I see ACR with a lot of potential to let me as a consumer find content and things related to my lifestyle that are more interesting to me.
And, don’t forget the payment leg in this stool. What am I watching? What do I prefer to consume and buy? What ads do I want? And then, what’s the best way for me to pay for this in terms of the benefits I get as a result? We do see MSOs making payment partnerships. They are figuring out how to correlate payments and loyalty for redemption and also for charitable causes.
BV: Where do the OTT content players fit into this?
Ruffin: If you think about these multi-party relationships, I think the operators have a chance to partner with OTT content providers like Netflix for guaranteed QoS around the pipe, but they’re also in a position to help them cater to the consumer so they can tell you what they prefer. A lot of that information flows over the cable pipe. Those things that you can do with infrastructure to drive personalization is what OTT can’t do.