Multiscreen Goes Mainstream


By Ron Hendrickson

It looks like the "new" has worn off multiscreen video. Even though the paint on the technology is barely dry, it's no longer cutting-edge, nor is it a killer app. It's still cool, but it's now mainstream and is increasingly becoming table stakes.

On the upside, the content owners are playing ball in increasing numbers. In the last few weeks, numerous content agreement announcements have come across the wires, most recently between Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Fox. Comcast also just bought out GE's share of NBCUniversal, further nailing down access to that content. In addition, pretty much all the other big North American operators have recently inked multiscreen content deals - Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), Rogers (TSE:RCI), Shaw (TSX:SJR), Cablevision (NYSE:CVC), Charter (NASDAQ:CHTR), Cox, and even the NCTC.

However, cable operators are still shedding video subscribers, as typified by the most recent quarterly reports from Comcast and TWC. Multiscreen isn't keeping the subs on board. This is partly because cable isn't the only multiscreen game in town. AT&T's (NYSE:T) U-verse has multiscreen, as does Verizon's (NYSE:VZ) FiOS. DBS providers DISH (NASDAQ:DISH) and DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) have it, too. Even traditional broadcasters such as ABC and NBC have multiscreen offerings.

In short, multiscreen video's not a differentiator any more. It's a "must have" simply because everyone else has it. That this has happened isn't a big surprise, really. It's the natural order of things - a good idea comes out, and pretty soon everyone else copies it. What is surprising is how quickly it happened.

Ron Hendrickson is BTR's managing editor. Reach him at

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