Telecoms.com got its first experience of IBC this year and while it was a very interesting experience, it raised more questions than answers around what role telcos have in the world of content.
First of all, let’s have a look at the basics. The telcos want to be involved in content because it is a value add, and the only way the telcos are going to avoid commoditization of their services is by finding value in what they add to the consumers life. Right now data is not a value add, it’s a basic need. What this says about the consumers of today is beside the point, but the experience of data consumption is a secondary concern; quantity is king.
This means a race to the bottom and a direct line to commoditization. It is unavoidable unless trends are broken. So content seems to be the answer. But how?
One option which is yet to really appear is becoming a super-aggregator of content. A couple of telcos seem to be trying out the idea, and Facebook is also making a stab at it with its Watch proposition, but there does seem to be a whole in the market for someone to collect all this content into one place.
During the conference, one point was made very clear; there is so much content out there. There are so many channels, so many OTT services and so many new content studios appearing all over the place. The gluttony of channels is offering so much choice to the consumer, which could be a good thing, but also could be a negative. It’s confusing and fragmented. Finding this fantastic content can be a complicated and frustrating job.
Fox Networks’ COO Brian Sullivan raised one idea during his keynote; super-aggregators. As an industry we are offering too many windows for the consumer to navigate. We’re also duplicating content too much as well. Maybe the next super-power of the content world won’t be the one who creates the next blockbuster, but the one who controls access to the consumer. Now this could be a new player, or an established player in the content arena, or how about this for an idea, a telco.
Think about it this way, what is the one thing which (almost) every single millennial has in common? They have a smartphone. It doesn’t matter which device, or through which operator, but they have a device and a single relationship with an operator. This is a unique relationship and one which could be very powerful.
In other areas of the world, your average consumer has several relationships with providers. Whether it is several social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.) or content provider subscriptions (Netflix, Spotify etc.), there is no central point of access. To access content it means going on Netflix, or turning on the TV, or going to BBC iPlayer. The relationship with the operator is singular and definite. It only changes with a new contract and it is rare two overlap (excluding those who have work and personal contracts).
Surely there is an opportunity for operators, or device manufacturers perhaps, to create a super-aggregator window, where the consumer accesses content. Customers could purchase and manage subscriptions through the application, while also consuming the content at the same time. Imagine an Expedia for content, but consumption not comparison.
Admittedly relationships would need to be developed, but the telcos need to do something differently. Taking on established players in the content world, whether it would be distribution or creation, is likely only to end in tears, but adding value on top works. The consumer could find value in a single super-aggregator and the players in the content world could benefit from simpler access to the consumer.
If there is a need and a benefit, there is usually someone who will gain. Operators have a good relationship with the consumer, which goes everywhere and anywhere – when was the last time you left your phone at home?
Facebook is already trying to muscle in on this area, but there have been questions on how suitable long-form video is for social media. But it does offer an interesting idea for the telcos. Why compete with the established content players when you can offer them a service and add worth to the value chain?