TV, Telecoms and a Dangerous Technology Obsession

I am fascinated by the similarities between the telecoms industry and the TV industry. They are both obsessed by technology – they should be, they live or die by it. They are both technology not customer lead. The TV industry is worrying almost as much as the telecoms industry  – perhaps more so – about OTT players (that means telecoms companies). Both are now looking at centralized product catalogues as the way out of the current cul-de-sac.

And sometimes both get it hopelessly wrong.

Two articles caught my eye yesterday. One said that Microsoft was retiring MSN TV, the product formerly known as WebTV, the other that the BBC was stopping producing 3D TV.

The article about MSN TV was a bit ‘ha, they can’t even….’ but I felt a little sad. Thinking about it a little further, retiring MSN TV was inevitable and caused by the huge success of another product – the XBOX.

The BBC (and ESPN) stopping producing 3D programmes is a classic example of an industry that launches stuff because they can, not because their customers want them to. To begin with it seemed to go well. It was an excellent gimmick and the perfect opportunity for programme producers to scare small children. Once they had stopped laughing like drains, the novelty wore off and people got fed up with watching a movie with a pair of glasses on, particularly if you had to wear them over their, er, glasses.

Stepping back, or sitting down, for a while, customers know what TV is not. The TV is just not a big PC. A remote control as a mouse is as useful as a chocolate tea pot. The arm of a sofa is not a touchscreen. Getting headaches from wearing glasses is not fun. TV should be.

The reason that the clever content and device producers are now looking at tablets and smartphones as the ‘first screen’ (not the second one), is that it is where we control what we watch. It is easy, there is a touchscreen, all your information is in there, it is easy to search and choose and you can now ‘fling’ your choice onto to the big screen. And relax.

Pay TV households grew from 585 million to 772 million in 2012, and revenues are now some $184 billion, according to Statista. With these numbers demonstrating the size of the prize it will benefit technology companies to think like their customers if they want a chance of winning.

Maybe they should watch some TV and forget technology for a while.




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About Alex Leslie 400 Articles
Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet.

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