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Is The TV Everywhere Authentication “Problem” a Myth?


Authentication – the login and verification process a subscriber completes to get access to content – has consistently been called out as a major barrier to TVE adoption by industry executives. The perception of TV Everywhere authentication as a key challenge is pervasive enough that it was cited within the Top 10 challenges the industry faces; within the top 5 for those already offering OTT services.

TV Everywhere Case Study
But is TV Everywhere authentication really as big of a challenge as it’s made out to be? It depends on how you look at it.


The TV Everywhere authentication “problem” needs to be viewed from a user adoption, product, and technical perspective.

User Adoption

The User Adoption Myth

Authentication has been a popular industry scapegoat, blamed for slow user adoption rates of TV Everywhere services. However, a report by industry research firm The Diffusion Group suggests the argument that authentication is a barrier to user adoption is highly exaggerated. According to TDG’s research:


  • Only 7% of TVE users think the TV Everywhere authentication process is “difficult” to “very difficult”
  • More than two-thirds said it’s “easy” or “very easy”
  • Just 9% of those who haven’t used TVE cited authentication as the reason for not doing so





The data has prompted some to label the TV Everywhere authentication problem a red herring, a misdirect that downplays more critical barriers like poor marketing or lack of content choice.

It’s All About User Experience

User adoption is only hampered by authentication if the process does not provide a seamless experience to the user. This is a truth that extends well beyond TVE – it’s the same issue that mobile apps face with poor user onboarding processes. If authentication is too cumbersome or complex, users will lose interest.


The key to dealing with the TV Everywhere authentication problem from a user perspective is to make sure authentication is as easy and intuitive as possible, becoming part of the experience as opposed to interrupting it.


This is accomplished through strong design that drives the flow of information and makes it easy for users to navigate the process. For many TVE services (specifically for broadcasters/content providers), the user will need to be presented a login screen that lets them select their cable service provider and authenticate using the account connected to it. Any confusion surrounding this can be mitigated with effective design.


From a user experience standpoint, authentication should adopt a “just get them in” strategy. Make it as easy as possible. Inform the user adequately, keep the authentication process simple, and remove as many fields as possible while still demanding the data needed to authenticate the user.


Ensuring that this process is easy is partially a design issue, but more so a product/technical challenge.


TV Everywhere authentication becomes more of a challenge when you consider the business objectives behind the product. The product team needs to understand each stakeholder, their investment in the product, and what they want out of it.


The authentication process will be significantly affected by what stakeholders require from the user in the sign-in process; monetization models; variations in authentication levels/use cases; and the necessity of linking with third party services.


For example, if the business logic requires tiered subscriber usage – where some users have access to certain types of content based on subscription level – or geo-location authentication, it’s more difficult to keep the authentication process simple.


The key is to find a balance between the product requirements based on your business objectives, and the ease of use from a user perspective.


Product and technical considerations are interrelated. The more use cases and levels of authentication the product requires, the more challenging the implementation. If you require authentication for Video-On-Demand, Live TV, different subscription levels, and geo-location, implementing effective TV Everywhere authentication that is user-friendly is more complex than a single authentication case that provides all content to all users.


Overcoming the product and technical challenges with TV Everywhere authentication is where media companies have experienced the most difficulty. This is particularly true of large organizations with location-specific content, tiered user bases, and other aspects that increase the number of authentication cases that need to be addressed.


The onus of handling the back-end authentication criteria – location of the user, subscription package, and access to content based on these kinds of parameters – lies with the content provider. Technical complexities in the back-end should not be reflected in the user interface.  

Simplifying TV Everywhere Authentication

Authentication isn’t the main barrier to user adoption of TV Everywhere, despite what many claim. But if the authentication process isn’t user-friendly, it can certainly affect the performance of a TVE app in the marketplace.

From a design, product, and technical perspective, the goal should be the same: simple and strong authentication for the user. This is the real challenge of TV Everywhere authentication – balancing product needs with technical implementations in a way that keeps the process easy and intuitive for users. 

TV Everywhere Case Study


Dan Kosir

Director of Marketing