nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

thePlatform adds subscription support. Are U.S. operators ready?

As any video operator will tell you, there are only four ways to get a consumer to pay to watch a video: watch ads, pay-per-view, buy the show and subscribe. thePlatform has long supported the ad and rent models. In August 2012, the company added the ability to purchase single shows and complete seasons. Today, thePlatform announced the addition of the fourth method, subscription, to its mpx video commerce engine.

What’s less clear is if U.S. cable operators are ready to take advantage of the feature.

It’s no surprise that the company has made subscriptions the last pay model to be supported. thePlatform has made the pay-TV community its own, supporting most of the major TV-Everywhere deployments in North America, including Comcast Xfinity online, Cox’s TV Online  and Time Warner Cable’s TWC TV. Until now, U.S. cable companies, and their content partners like HBO and Disney, have had no interest in allowing customers to subscribe online. With 90% pay-TV penetration, there seemed to be little to gain, and much to lose, by allowing online subscriptions.

In this climate, there was simply no reason for thePlatform to rush to add the feature.

But the times they are a-changing. Netflix is starting to ratchet up the pressure on pay-TV operators around the globe. For example, Netflix launched service in Denmark last year forcing local operator YouSee to enter the market for pure-play OTT services with YouBio. Marty Roberts, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for thePlatform, told me that a number of the company’s customers in the Nordic region, Latin America and Canada are feeling the pressure from a Netflix launch. These local operators need to respond with OTT subscription packages and are looking to thePlatform to help.

It is these customers that thePlatform is targeting with a comprehensive set of subscription features covering most everything they might want to implement. The mpx platform allows users to define the subscription library, set availability windows and create access policies. Using this system it is possible to define a set of content packages, to rotate content in and out of the packages each month and also restrict access based on things like show rating. As well, an mpx user can allow free month subscriptions, rollover to a paid account, automatic renewals and upgrades.

Are U.S. operators ready to jump into OTT subscriptions? According to Marty, not quite. He said a couple of operators are exploring the possibilities. Operators have already introduced OTT tiers of service that customers get access to when they sign up for the more expensive tiers in the pay-TV service. Some operators even let customers at the lower tiers subscribe separately to the OTT service. Comcast Streampix is an example of such a service. However, in these cases a customer must have a regular pay-TV subscription. The final step will be when a U.S. operator allows a customer to subscriber by credit card online just for the OTT service without having a regular pay-TV subscription.

There are already operators taking this final step, just not in North America. For example, Sky in the UK already allows customers to subscribe to the OTT service NowTV without having a Sky satellite subscription.

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