'TV Everywhere' is sometimes TV nowhere

United States v. Germany

Clint Dempsey of the United States competes for the ball with Per Mertesacker (L), Mats Hummels (2nd R) and Philipp Lahm of Germany during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil group G match between the United States and Germany at Arena Pernambuco on June 26, 2014 in Recife, Brazil- a moment you might have missed if you were live streaming the game online at WatchESPN.

At its peak during Thursday’s US-Germany World Cup game, ESPN was serving up a record 1.7 million streams of its channel over the internet. It was not without hiccups. 

A number of users had issues logging into the service. 

When I tried today — not a peak time for viewership — I, too, got an “authentication error” on my first attempt. 

All this logging in to prove we pay for cable is part of something the industry calls “TV Everywhere." It’s used by HBO GO, CNN, and others. 

It’s designed to give consumers what we want — the ability to watch live TV on computers, tablets, and smartphones — but also keeps us paying the cable company. 

But it’s rarely an easy experience.  

“it’s a huge issue,” says Daniel Frankel, editor of Fierce Cable, and online trade publication. “The problem is that it’s just not fully baked yet. It’s such a hugely complex initiative involving so many rights deals and so many technology deals, it’s bound to not work seamlessly for the consumer.” 

It’s a far cry from services like Netflix, Hulu, even the now illegal Aereo that all let you log in once and keep using the service. 

“The key to TV Everywhere’s future is removing authentication altogether,” says Michael Greeson, President of The Diffusion Group, which consults for the industry.  

TV Everywhere has been slow to catch on. After five years, most cable subscribers don’t know it exists. And, he says the industry has been so afraid of people stealing its content that it’s made it too hard to use. 

Similarly, the music industry initially put far more restrictions on downloads than it does today. Many predict the cable industry will relax its rules. 

ESPN says its working with cable companies to simplify things. Its own president, earlier this year, called today’s TV Everywhere setup, “clunky.”

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