How telcos will evolve the world of television

Vodafone UK announced last year that it will launch pay TV services in 2016 and Vodafone’s operations in Spain have already scored great success with over 1 million TV subscribers signed up.

Meanwhile Orange, T-Mobile and Telefonica are all making moves in their respective key markets to offer quad play services. As existing service providers it’s easy to see why Telcos are well placed, and keen, to enter the TV industry.

Consumers are streaming more on-demand TV series and programmes than ever before, and Ericsson’s ConsumerLab study in 2015 found that consumers are now watching six hours of premium content a week on demand – an increase of 121% since 2011. Superfast broadband and 4G are providing consumers with access to content, regardless of device and location.

>See also: Why UK network operators have to switch on to the quad play opportunity

The research also found that 61% of consumers now watch video content on their mobile phones. If service providers are smart with their bundled propositions, this could prompt an ever-increasing usage of data.

So given the obvious synergies, what should these service providers keep in mind as they move into the world of anywhere, anytime TV?

Finding content

Providing the best possible user experience is an obvious and important objective. Yet according to Ericsson’s research, over half of consumers say that they can’t find anything to watch at least once a day. This figure goes up to 85% on a weekly basis.

Given the huge amount of content now readily available at people’s fingertips, it’s clear this is a real problem, and there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done.

Recent studies have shown that churn, in some cases, could actually have been prevented if consumers were able to discover content more easily. Fundamental to this is enriched metadata.

Metadata is the fuel that powers the content discovery process. Imagine a world without detailed synopses, film or programme information, cast and crew details, images or trailers – viewing experiences would be brought back to the 1980s.

However the real challenge lies in getting a service provider that can source, format and deliver the deep, broad and rich datasets which are necessary to find and personalise the content audiences are searching for.

With the power of social media, consumers’ voices can be readily heard. They aren’t afraid to ‘cut the cord’ if their experience does not live up to their expectations. That’s why it’s so crucial to make sure that metadata is at the centre of any content discovery strategy.

Accessing content

Traditionally, consumers used to embark on their content journey through the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG). With the advent of IP-based TV, these traditions have been challenged and consumers can now access content from any connected device.

So how can telcos give consumers what they want and replicate the simplicity of the over-the-top environment? For Pay TV operators moving to an IPTV/cloud environment, this makes true multi-screen TV significantly easier whilst also helping them to compete against the OTT players.

For telcos, another important opportunity today is getting smarter about video strategies. Service providers need to know how to leverage timely events, tap into new advertising technology, understand how their audience is engaging with content, and optimise their video business accordingly to maximise returns.

Another key consideration that cannot be ignored is accessibility for all. TV watches are all very familiar with subtitles on linear programmes, but legislation is now being introduced in some markets that will also require online video content to carry subtitles. Each market comes with a different regulatory framework, and this is something that must be kept front of mind as new directives are announced.

Investing in the right technology

The internet has had a huge impact on what consumers expect when looking for content. While an attractive, more graphically rich layout is important, functionality is what matters.

The objective for all telcos is to personalise the content discovery journey through the delivery of rich, detailed data delivered in the correct format to any screen. Cloud-based technology is central here.

There are two clear benefits to getting this right: ‘sticky customers’ who don’t want to leave, and monetisation opportunities, which boost returns. The latter is achieved by collecting information about consumer behavior and using that data to deliver targeted content, promotional offers and advertising.

In an interview with the BBC, Netflix’s chief executive Reed Hastings stated that Netflix will be spending over a billion dollars a year on technology improvements. He mentioned two areas for improvement: ‘buffering’ and ‘suggestions’, more often referred to as content recommendations.

>See also: The convenience of convergence: an enterprise view of the BT-EE deal

For service providers this means the deployment of faster internet, smarter APIs, innovative cloud services and better recommendations algorithms fed by enriched metadata.

There is no doubt that the first thing on this list will be accomplished as we move into a world of 5G, global-reach and fibre-optic broadband. The biggest challenge will then be content management and deploying algorithms that use relevant and smart data to provide the audience with exactly what they want to see.

In the meantime, it will be very interesting to see how the telco entrants fare. The approach to engagement, marketing, packaging and delivery are all very different in the traditional TV sector. They will need to change from being mobile service providers with ‘pipes and devices’ to becoming credible content aggregator and delivery brands.

However one thing is certain: with exposure to the cloud and consumer centric propositions, there is no doubt that telcos are well placed to face – and address – the technology challenges that lie ahead and realise seamless anywhere, anytime TV.


Sourced from Jennifer Walker, Ericsson Broadcast and Media Services

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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