With much of the focus on broadband access over the last few days, it is easy to forget that there’s little point in operators investing in super-fast next gen pipes if they have not got the right strategy in place to offer the content and services that will benefit both themselves and their customers.
In common with the many flavours of access that operators are rolling out, there are many different ways they are choosing to engage with content and services.
However, there is still more certainty about access than content.
When European Communications asked the CEO of Telekom Austria to define what his company’s broadband content and services strategy is, the initial answer was “convergence”.
Important, yes, but not an answer that is going to have any of TA’s competitors quaking with fear or customers getting overly excited.
When pressed, Hannes Ametsreiter said that a mix of global and local content is “important” but it is “wrong” for operators to enter too far into content creation such as programming.
“You need a framework that includes the right platform(s), the right offers and a good QoE to enable you to succeed,” Ametsreiter continued.
In common with many other European operators, TA is focusing a lot of its energies on an IPTV service to differentiate itself.
Things seem to be going well: in its home market, TA’s A1 TV subscriber base grew over 18 percent in the first half of 2012 to total 206,000.
Earlier this month, the company unveiled a completely redesigned service for A1 TV including over 180 channels, time-delay features, the country’s largest video library and integrated apps as it attempts to draw more people into a triple-play fixed, mobile and TV package.
But it’s not all about TV and video; Ametsreiter also highlighted the apps “explosion” and the need to create platforms to attract developers.
Here, however, the CEO seemed on shaky ground.
Would TA consider joining a platform such as BlueVia – Telefónica's year-old global developer platform that Telenor joined last week, which aims to help operators monetise their assets and make it easier for customers to purchase content?
Ametsreiter admitted he had never heard of it, proving there are clear limits to how innovative some operators are willing to be or able to go to.
During a later panel discussion involving Belgacom and Telecom Italia, executives talked about their evolving relationship with those arch content and service creators – the OTT players.
There was the welcome admission that operators had “a lot to learn” from the myriad of providers disrupting the content space.
“The OTT players have taught us the importance of simplicity and usability,” said Gianfranco Ciccarella of TI’s strategy division.
However, there was still talk of “owning the customer”, “leveraging the value of the distribution channel” and worries about OTT’s “always living on the edge”, which suggests old, conservative telco habits are still prevalent.
Nevertheless there were some useful points that could be drawn from their experiences.
Belgacom strategist Matteo Gatta spoke of the need for a clear roadmap that included specific commitments from operator and OTT provider alike.
“You have to constantly recognise each other's skill sets,” he added.
TI’s Ciccarella warned that “size does matter” and said in his experience it was much easier to deal with smaller start-ups that bigger ones with “overwhelming power”.
Pointing to his company’s partnership with music streaming service Deezer, Gatta said exclusivity in the market was a good differentiator.
Getting predictable QoE across multiple screens was another key area of focus, according to Gatta.
It is becoming a well-worn cliché that operators simply do not get content but there are some excellent examples of those that do.
The feeling from the Broadband World Forum is that there is still much learning to be done.
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