Scripps Networks was forced to make a big decision in 2012, when multichannel providers like Comcast and Time Warner Cable demanded that it supply them with versions of hit HGTV and Food Network shows for the industry’s first TV Everywhere Web sites and mobile video applications.
Many distributors whose contracts came up for renewal that year began inserting boilerplate language for TV Everywhere rights, recalls Alex Beach, Scripps director of new media. “We were asked for a lot of content that we were not capable of processing,” Beach said.
The topic of debate at strategy meetings for executives at Knoxville, Tenn-.based Scripps: should it build a platform from scratch that could ingest broadcast feeds, convert content to IP video, add metadata, and deliver programming to viewers watching shows like House Hunters on the Web and mobile devices? Or should it outsource its TV Everywhere process to another company?
“We knew we had to agree to get that massive amount of content out the door,” Beach said. Scripps ended up striking a deal with Atlanta-based technology vendor Clearleap, which was founded in 2007 by Braxton Jarratt, a Cox Communications and Tandberg Television (acquired by Ericsson) veteran. By the time TV Everywhere began to gain traction in 2012, Clearleap had built a platform designed to help programmers deliver the multiscreen content that distributors were demanding.
“It alleviated a lot of the resource challenges such as staffing, cloud storage, all of the other capital expenditures that we weren’t prepared to lay out right away,” Beach said. The deal Scripps struck with Clearleap in 2012 — and a contract renewal it announced last August — saw it beat rival programmers to market with a TVE solution that allows it to reach viewers on IP-connected devices and cable video-on-demand platforms. Executives told analysts on Scripps Networks Interactive’s third-quarter earnings call in November that it is the only major programmer with TVE rights included in 100 percent of its distribution deals.
Scripps also recently struck a licensing deal with Netflix, and was also one of the first programmers to license linear and on-demand content to Dish Network for the upcoming launch of its Sling TV over-the-top video service. “Going forward, both our distribution partners and us as content providers are going to be open to new and interesting ways to reach consumers. And the technology that is at our fingertips is going to allow us to expand that,” Scripps CEO Ken Lowe said on the Q3 call.
In the last two years, Clearleap has bet big that more programmers will use products like ClearFlow and ClearPlay to reach viewers on TV Everywhere and over-the-top video platforms. It’s now targeting programmers in Europe from an office in Amsterdam, and it has employees in Miami that pitch its services to content owners and distributors in Latin America.
Clearleap, whose customers include HBO, Time Warner Cable and Verizon, also launched a sports and live TV solution in December. The sports product could allow programmers to create personalized channels and playlists for subscribers that offer game recaps, highlights and VOD programs.
VP of Product Management David Mowrey said Clearleap also sees potential to help programmers drive increased viewing by using Clearleap’s platform to grab video clips from live sporting events, and promote videos through Twitter and other social media channels “in near real time.”
“If you can do that, you can generate buzz. That’s one of the major benefits of our platform – the scale and speed in which we can distribute content,” Mowrey added.
Jarratt, Clearleap’s co-founder, was one of the first industry executives to envision TV Everywhere distribution. The Clearleap CEO told The Donohue Report in September that he expects that the launch of virtual pay TV services from players like Dish Network, Verizon and major content providers will transform the industry.
“I think the notion of programmers and operators — I think that idea is going to change, or even go away over time,” Jarratt said. “The bundling of content, the pricing of content … that’s going to be where the major shifts are going to happen,” he added.