As Mobile World Congress Americas was taking place in Los Angeles, we took time to attend IBC 2018 in Amsterdam. While the events were far apart geographically, both pointed to a common theme: the increasing relevance of (and opportunities for) operators in the media industry.
From the operator perspective, there was a sense of realism about the challenge they face in attracting audiences from social media platforms. In part, this is because their organisational structures and cultures can be a barrier to the agility that newer media players enjoy. Anette Schaefer, VP of TV Business Europe at Deutsche Telekom, for example, stressed the importance of being open to new business models and not being afraid to test them out. In the same vein, then, Christian Harris, head of digital entertainment at 3 UK, explained how it is working towards “virtualising” the organisation and partnering with social media platforms including Snapchat.
Not surprisingly, vendors were present and active in messaging their support (products and solutions) for operator media services. The solutions ranged from content manipulation and distribution (for example, delivery of highlights of a live event to mobile devices in real time), to white-label platform-as-a-service offers delivering OTT media services, to end-to-end services often delivered by a vendor and diverse partners (TV box, platform, user interface, analytics, multi-device distribution and systems integration).
But, let’s put aside the specific messages vendors and operators showed up to convey to ask a simple question. What was the overarching, organic message from the event? Was there one?
Looking across the presentations, case studies and success stories, one message shone through. Leading from the search for a strategy operators can to pursue to be competitive in the media space, IBC’s core story was a simple one. To be successful in media, operators need to first excel at delivering an outstanding customer experience.
But how can you actually do this?
Across the diverse players at IBC, you could piece together a straightforward strategy for delivering this type of customer experience. It starts with attracting an audience, then learning about them and, finally, tailoring offers to their interests (see figure, below, click to enlarge).
Attracting the audience, of course, is where it all starts. Here, operators are looking at various strategies.
Connectivity. All operators agreed that good quality of service (QoS) is their top priority. It’s pointless to have the best content if it cannot be delivered properly to customers. Yet, executing on this isn’t always easy. Delivering good connectivity is still a challenge even in cities like London. In addition, average data traffic per customer continues to increase sharply and operators need to be prepared for that. 5G will play a key role to address this situation. As Matt Stagg, director of Mobile Strategy at BT Sport, explained: “Someone will invent the 5G killer app and we need to be ready for it”.
Content. In a world of so much content, operators need to offer choice to their customers. This means developing partnerships with third parties such as content providers including Netflix, and social media platforms including Instagram and Facebook. The partnerships should complement any existing exclusive content owned by the operator. Kelly Day, president of Viacom Digital Studios explained it is very hard for any single organisation to attract large audiences using solely its own channel (for example, a website). Operators should not be afraid to open up to other platforms. By doing so, they will reduce churn and learn more about their customers.
Service Management. Despite the plethora of content options, operators can offer the convenience of having everything in one place. However, that increases complexity to the customer if we think about content and service management going hand-in-hand. To truly be sticky, it must be easy for customers to manage all their services (connectivity, media, and smart home, for example) from a common platform. It must be easy for customers to access multiple content sources, but also allocate mobile data allowance across household members; understand how much of their allowance has been used; and pay for services.
This is a lot to ask, sure. To achieve it, operators will need to have a very good user interface (UI). And then, they need a strategy for what comes next: learning about your customers and then giving them what they want.
As operators grow the number of services they provide to customers, so does the understanding of their needs. Differentiating around the needs of a specific household member is typically difficult: given a single account login to access and manage all services, there is only so much that can be done. Vendors pointed to examples of operators that succeed in having each household member using their own login as being in a strong position to gain insights and retain household members as new customers over the course of their life. Think sons and daughters moving out of their parents’ home.
Of course, there needs to be a balance on how much customer data is collected. This view was perhaps best shared by Stagg who noted: “no one likes to share their metadata”.
With all of this data in hand, operators then need to know what to do with the new understanding about their customers. Here, the options are many. Perhaps they have a view on how to segment customers, or new propositions that cater for their customers’ specific needs. Maybe it’s contextualised advertising. Something else? Only time will tell.
Delivering on all of the above is no doubt a massive challenge, but there are operators already executing on the opportunity. Reliance Jio and True, for example, more than having the definitive answer, provide lessons for others to follow. Reliance Jio offers a vast choice of content including video, music and magazines through its own apps. True leverages its platform and customer understanding to cross-sell products from retail companies which are part of the same group.
Not every operator can do the same, but these lessons (and other success points) will be key as operators find their way in the media landscape.
– Nuno Afonso, senior analyst – Multiplay, GSMA Intelligence
The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back