In a report to be published in the few days, my colleague Martin Olausson and I talk about the new challenges facing France Telecom (Orange), in light of a recent ruling by the French Competition Authority. According to a commission appointed by France's Competition Council, Orange’s exclusive carriage of channels on its “Orange TV” IPTV platform “has drawbacks in the short, medium, and long-term,” rendering it “undesirable to maintain.” This decision could potentially have repercussions on the entire industry, and Orange will need to fundamentally alter its marketing strategy to stay in the game. A few thoughts…
If not content, then what?
Strategy Analytics has long held that content—particularly exclusive content—would be a key differentiator and driver of IPTV uptake. Recent developments in the hyper-competitive French market threaten to change that model. Orange, which was unable to differentiate itself on the basic services level, has pursued an aggressive content strategy in recent years, spending over €200 million to acquire exclusive rights to sports and other content, packaged under its Orange Sport and Orange Cinéma Séries brands. The strategy has worked quite well for the operator, and utilizing exclusive content to market its pay TV services has led to rapid growth of its pay TV segments. Now all of that is in limbo, and the operator will need to find other ways to stand out.
Pricing matters…but differs by region
One of the takeaways of a report we published back in September was that platforms don’t matter to customers—features do. Well, features and price. Further customer survey work we have just completed confirms that price as a churn motivator depends largely on the individual market. Our research shows French consumers to be the least motivated by price, and those in the UK most influenced. Much of this has to do with consumer perception. In France, all the major triple play service providers offer very similar packages at essentially the same price. Our interpretation is that the typical French consumer might not feel it worth the time to make a switch—even for a 20% discount. The perceived disparity is much greater in markets such as the UK, where pricing and bundling disparities are much more pronounced.
Challenge is in finding ‘non-content differentiators’
The recent ruling by France's Competition Council suggests that the “traditional” differentiation through content may not be viable for much longer. As such, operators will be forced to find other ways to differentiate and “own” the customer. The easiest way to do this, in our opinion, is to control the gateway into the home and offer a better QoE, and more value for money (i.e. better bundles) for the consumers than the competition.