Does BT’s willingness to shed customers by axing its ageing Vision service offer any clues about the future of EE’s TV platform?
The mobile firm is currently being integrated into the wider BT family and has been trialling the selling of BT TV and BT branded broadband in a small number of its high street stores.
During a Q&A session last week, EE CEO Marc Allera said the trial had been “successful,” although he stressed it would be “quite a big operational change” to sell BT branded products in all of its stores.
However with BT taking the decision to finally kill off its older Vision set top boxes, despite acknowledging this will probably cost it some customers, it’s worth asking again whether EE’s TV platform has a long term future.
Unlike the TV service offered by BT and is sub-brand Plusnet, both of which are based on the YouView platform, EE TV uses Netgem’s rival software and set top boxes.
Axing the Netgem platform and using YouView, which BT part owns, would help realise ambitions to eliminate duplicate and unnecessary costs from the combined business and deliver greater value from its investment in YouView.
Yes, it could possibly lose a few customers in the process but we can see from the Vision switch-off that this isn’t a barrier to BT taking action which simplifies its cost base and makes it easier to support customers.
And it’s probable that in the longterm BT would make more money from EE customers paying for BT TV than it does from EE TV where it covers the cost of loaning a set top box to customers taking broadband but then watches on as they hand money over to NOW TV, Wuaki.tv and hayu whose apps provide the platform’s premium content.
Even if EE was on commission with some of those services, and I’ve been unable to find any hint that they are, they’d still be making very little – if anything – from the EE TV platform and certainly less than on BT TV where they have their own buy to keep and PPV store.
And, instead of serving as a gateway to Sky’s channels via the NOW TV app, BT could be selling its own sport channels – which are currently unavailable on EE TV – as well as the third party channels such as Discovery, SyFy and Universal which it also offers.
As well as cutting overheads, this would help BT achieve another important goal – driving up the average income it earns from each customer or, as telcos prefer, the average revenue per unit (ARPU).
BT has already folded EE TV subscriber numbers into its BT TV numbers for reporting purposes so it’s already starting to treat the two competing platforms as a single business unit.
It therefore makes sense to take this approach to its logical conclusion and have a single TV business with one technology platform, one set of overheads and a broadly similar channel offering which allowed BT to recoup its significant investment in sports and, through AMC, drama content.