The cable initiative to stream any TV show, anytime, and anywhere remains spotty and confusing — and is progressing slowly — execs acknowledged in a panel on the subject today at the Cable Show in D.C. Thus far “it’s not a success,” says Fox Networks’ Mike Biard. NBCUniversal’s Ron Lamprecht rated the progress at no more than a 5 out of 10. There’s no turning back, though. “We see our consumers expecting that our content be everywhere,” he says. “There really isn’t any other choice. We have to be there.” But the industry faces a gauntlet of negotiations before it can hope to provide a service that will look the same across all TV networks, cable providers, and technology platforms. For example, Watch ESPN — the sports channel’s TV Everywhere service — “is almost exactly like what you see on ESPN, but there are blackouts because they don’t have the underlying rights” to all the games, Comcast Cable’s Marcien Jenckes says. Consumers also will find different shows when they use a network’s app compared with a cable company’s, and whether they’re used in or outside the home. “In a TNT application within the home you’re accessing TV Everywhere, but in an Xfinity application it could be [just the cable company’s] VOD” programming, says Turner Broadcasting’s Jeremy Legg. “Explain to a consumer why they can get TNT in the home but not out of the home.”

Execs agreed that the industry has to simplify the requirements made to verify that someone is a paid subscriber. Comcast is considering asking people to enter something that’s easy to remember — for example, a phone number plus the last four digits of a Social Security number — or signing in via Facebook Connect. But other processes are outside their control. Jenckes says advertisers need “to combine their digital and TV buying processes. Nielsen needs to offer dependable ratings for shows watched on portable devices. And tech companies need to play ball. Ever wonder why you can’t buy a Kindle book from a Kindle app on your iPad? Apple says, ‘If you do, I’m going to take 30% of that.’ “