TV is the new ‘mobile’

A version of this article is also published on TM Forum’s, site.

We need to watch TV. It is rapidly becoming the new opportunity for the communications industry and everyone in it. Research house Infonetics predicts that the global pay-TV market, including cable, satellite, and telco IPTV video services, which totaled $261 billion in 2011 will grow to $371 billion by 2016. Meanwhile a cumulative $43 billion will be spent on home networking devices over the five years from 2012 to 2016, on the back of global sales that grew 20 percent in 2011. Pay TV itself is booming and the number of accounts is set to pass a billion in just two years’ time, according to analysts at Pyramid Research.

With this growth and imminent change, we need to reinvent TV. Unlike the wheel, which does a great job, the potential of TV is not only growing but its role is changing dramatically. Think of TV and an image of the big screen in the living room springs to mind. Think of TV companies and names such as BBC, ABC, CNN and ESPN spring to mind. TV is what brings us soaps and sport, films and finance, it is how we unwind in the evening. Until now.

Now, we watch soaps and sport on all shapes and sizes of screens and the BBC’s web site is text based, with video and audio clips and adverts and links embedded in it. Rather like the TM Forum’s web site, or the GSMA, or Vodafone or, your own. Are we all TV companies? Or are TV companies publishing companies? Or are we all media companies?

The device we call TV is something that we seem to work around. It has always been there. It sits in the corner. We watch it in the evening. It should stay where it is. Now, however, we are watching other screens at the same time, delving into related content, or researching and possibly buying stuff we see on the TV in the corner.

Let us think of TV as a smartphone instead. It just happens to be bigger. The ABCs, BBCs and others produce just one part of the content we watch on our big smartphones.

The rest of what we do on our big smartphones is only limited by our imagination. At the moment, we use second screens – tablets and ‘conventional’ smartphones – to do the interactive things we like doing. Nielsen did a survey about our use of second screens and found that the combination of TV and mobile increases brand recall by 69 percent and purchase intent by 72 percent. That is a significant statistic and a big – a huge – opportunity.

Adverts, a large part of what ‘TV’ is, are changing. Adverts are becoming stories, and those stories now include us. Coca Cola and other big brands are now aware that the personalization involved with a phone (a small TV) is the biggest opportunity to develop ‘pin point’ marketing campaigns they have ever had. Expand that thought into the big smartphone world of ‘TV’ and the advert becomes the shop. Take a slightly tangential view and anything can become a shop, your living room, or even a taxi. L’Oreal recently made some New York taxis into shops with remarkable success, using barcodes, posters and compelling messages. A quarter of people who were part of the trial bought something while in the ‘shop’.

Commerce via the ‘TV’ is here. Now, you can buy things from within programmes using your remote control. PayPal is getting involved, believing that “TV-based commerce could be as big an opportunity as mobile.” PayPal’s differentiator is this: they understand that what they do is about enhancing shopping, not simply about shifting money between accounts.

Soon, with the advent of holographic images, there is no reason your living room cannot become any shop you want it to be, allowing you to browse, buy and bankrupt yourself at will. The billing will not be about location, because the shop can come to you, it is not about personalization, because it is not about ‘me’. Billing, finally, will be about context, putting everything in the right place, at the right time, with the right tools and making it simple.

Back in the real world of 2012 however, there are some immediate issues to resolve. Amongst these device-catalogue and content issues are some BSS ones. TV’s next step is to become a platform on which a host of applications can run – Skype, Facebook, ‘one click’ shopping. Suddenly the TV platform looks very like the telecoms platform which is our usual discussion focus, complete with the nervous discussions about OTT threats and zero rated Facebook. This means, though, that telcos have as much ‘right’ to play in this space as anyone else, and the toys they should bring are the billing ones.

Who will bill the customer? In the ‘telecoms’ world, Direct Operator Billing (DOB) is the most intuitive and simplest method of billing. Even though some stories of BillShock will continue to reach us, it turns out that most customers know what they spend and where and so BillShock is not as much of an issue as we thought. Operators have a huge opportunity to leverage their billing knowledge. We ‘do’ the kind of billing – and product and catalogue management – that is now required, TV does not.

So, here are the questions: Will DOB work on ‘TV’? Or will PayPal with its increasingly simple processes take over? How will Google, now about to launch its TV in the UK, handle the billing? Will they promote Direct Operator Billing in TV/Big Smartphone land? Or will they do something that is intuitive to the TV world because they, unlike us, literally think outside the box?

The excuse that TV is ‘different’ will not work any longer. It is not foreign territory, and its development is similar to the way that telecoms has developed over the last few years. With the swift new giants of the communications world getting in on the act, the thinking needs to realigned to what telcos can offer ‘TV/Big Smartphone’ customers.

We need think outside the box, even the cable companies. We need to move fast, otherwise the swift new giants, or those masters of simplicity, Apple, will show us how to get into TV, and they will leave us staring at the wall…



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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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