A converging distribution network is posing big questions about the relationships between broadcasters and telco operators. Accenture’s Anders Linblad explains. 

Accenture Anders Lindblad

Anders Lindblad

Telco operators have huge sunk investments. They face disruption from OTT players. And they are looking to find new business models and new value from their networks. 

For broadcasters, this all sounds very familiar.

Anders Lindblad was recently appointed Managing Director Europe, Accenture Communications and Media practice.

After over 20 years at Ericsson, Lindblad knows the telco operator scene intimately.

Telco operators, he says, must seek ways to become part of the daily digital routine of the consumer and that means going beyond providing connectivity.

And Lindblad believes that for media players the challenge is even greater.

“They don’t have and have never had a one to one connection with the consumers. Today that is to a large extent owned by the telco players and cable operators.”

“The way to create data and knowledge is to have some kind of physical device in the home. Whether that is a smart TV or the set top box or an intelligent virtual home gateway that is the way I see cable and satellite players and operators play that game of getting integrated into consumers’ lives,” he says.

The value, he says, will be driven through ‘micro segmentation’.

”There are a few telco operators with enough scale and economic strength to dig deep into the content play.”

“This requires spending a lot of money making sure that you match the behaviours of your consumers with an offering that feels like it is unique.

“That’s what consumers expect. Consumers want an experience that they really like. Look at how Netflix understands what they offer. It is completely different from what is offered on a linear TV experience.”

Telco and content combined?

Some telco operators are making the move to become content owners. Lindblad describes AT&T as being a vertically integrated business which has the scale and the deep pockets to make a huge content play. (AT&T’s proposed merger with Time Warner is the subject of a legal challenge from the US Justice Department).

Tv channels watching tv

So can content save the operators or give them the opportunity to find that new value? Will they turn into new competitors for broadcasters?

He says: “They need to choose what play to do. There are a few telco operators with enough scale and economic strength to dig deep into the content play and differentiate by creating an experience for the consumer that is viable.”

He says even an AT&T can’t have totally exclusive content. They may have some exclusive content and distribute it on different channels.

“But the way AT&T is approaching it probably gives them a higher chance to be successful by creating and controlling the experience.

“Will that be something that is going to be repeated more broadly, across every market, in every part of the world? I don’t think so. I think that is for very few, very large operators to be able to engage in that kind of a play,” he says.

He believes most operators will focus on connectivity and giving consumers extremely good service in the home and on the move. They must support that digital experience by having the right kind of interfaces and the right kind of throughput on services and quality to differentiate from their rivals.

Two sides of the same coin?

Like broadcasters facing digital disruption challenges there are questions about whether telco operators are truly ready for big changes.

The challenges for telco operators, says Lindblad, are that we are in an industry revolution.

“Rotating to the new is starting to become more and more important.”

And it is at the consumer level that the challenge for telcos and broadcasters is most obvious.

He says: “We see some movement. There are always really great ideas but very seldom have we as an industry been able to make a difference in the consumer behaviour space. Do I believe that there will be casualties? Yes, some operators will contract and become more of a commodity network play. And even then in the end, they may have to find economies by digitising their operating models and becoming leaner and quicker.”

There are 400 operators across the globe. The digitisation of the network may see operators having to aggregate across geographies. Some of these will do the shift into the new economy and find new ways of serving the clients, he says.

These new ways do not rely on waiting for the advent of 5G. What Lindblad expects is a multi-speed evolution of the platform.

“Developing that value chain and invest in infrastructure that will create more distributed assets.”

“The technology exists to use existing network assets and complement them with very smart software and that means you typically start with new ways that customers experience your services.”

“As you start to develop that value chain and invest in infrastructure that will create more distributed assets. You can offer store and compute with greater proximity to the consumer. Soon you will see 8K video being distributed on mobile networks.” 

What this requires is exposing the underlying infrastructure in a smart way.

As for the question as to which way the broadcasters will go and whether the future means more partnerships or more competition, Lindblad sees the following:

“The question for broadcasters is do they need to learn [about the new network technologies] or should they partner with other distribution channels which can support them? So far it seems to be the telco players that are building the platform to distribute media while not trying to become media players.”

Lindblad says he has not seen many of media players looking to become a new distribution chain for content.

But what they may do is a more commercial play similar to mobile virtual network operators, which resell wholesale services from operators that own the infrastructure.

Distribution is converging on the same type of IP-based platforms that both broadcasters and telcos are utilising.

The key point for operators and media companies is that everything is going IP and cloud and becoming much more efficient.

And in the end for broadcasters the value is in what they have to send across a network. And that is unique content.

“I think I see the same from the telco operator environment. I see some operators say ‘I’m going to go from connecting places and people to be part of a new value chain of experience.’ But if you do not have deep understanding of that vertical, it is very hard to add value there.”

They key is playing to your strengths and understanding how the new technology and digital age is affecting the way you are exposing that strength.

Linblad points to the humble typewriter to underline his point that it is important to view change from a customer’s perspective.

If you’re strong in making type writers and the computer comes along, Lindblad says ask yourself: “What does it mean for you? What is your strength? Are you making good type writers? Or do you need to understand why people need to write?  It is not always about making a better type writer.”