Keeping ahead of your technological rivals is all a part of the game, and to start with you don’t even need to sell anything, writes Julian Clover.
It is unlikely that many operators will admit to it, but you just know that most keep an eye on what their competitors are up to. In some instances it manifests itself in a marketing campaign, such as when Telenet responded to Belgacom’s acquisition of Belgian top-flight football with the suggestion it had the best Belgian players – within the international leagues, or with a plain tit for tat offering.
This week we have Canal+ Nordic ensuring that its subscribers do not believe it is out of step with technological trends, or for that matter falling behind Viasat, with its first 3D transmissions. Given the sales of 3DTV sets to date it seems unlikely that this is for the benefit of the premium channel’s subscribers, though those in the pubs that will also screen the ice hockey and Spanish football may at least appreciate the experience.
It also of course gets the press writing about it, and the trade are just as guilty as the nationals, after all we all like something that is new and shiny.
The same can be said for broadband speeds. When you analyse the figures the number of subscribers that are actually taking the 100 Mbps are at present few and far between. There are other benefits to be had. Putting aside the technical benefits of a configuration that separates the customers on DOCSIS 2 from DOCSIS 3, the former taking advantage of the fact that the latter is no longer eating up the benefit. There is much to be said for heading to an operator that potentially offers 100 Mbps, even if you only choose to go for 25 Mbps yourself.
The scenario that always raises my suspicions is when I’m told that ‘this is a service that customers are asking for’. Exactly how might that be? While the better operators will run customer focus groups, we all know that this is normally a euphemism for engineers that have got so excited that they’ve managed to convince the marketing department how clever they are.
Turning this excitement into a workable proposition is where the fun really starts. But opinions change fast in this world. One minute we’re being told that Facebook and social networking as a whole will be an essential part of the TV experience, the next Facebook is being consigned to companion devices (the name given to such goodies as the Apple iPad as if they’ve been manufactured by the Acme Company), while the important elements such as content recommendation remain on the big screen. At least, that’s what it says in the marketing materials.