Born in July 2006 from the merger of NTL, Telewest and Virgin Mobile, Virgin Media was the first provider in the UK to offer ‘quad play’ services (as it has now become known). This is to say that for the first time in the UK you could get your fixed line broadband, home phone, TV package and mobile from one provider.
At the time, this was novel and if you wanted to take advantage of the savings this option offered, you had no choice but to sign up with Virgin Media. This is no longer the case. There are now a number of options available to UK consumers with the latest entrant being TalkTalk who have announced they will be teaming up with Telefonica to provide ‘quad play’ services. TalkTalk’s announcement follows hot on the heels of Vodafone’s news that they plan to launch their own domestic broadband and TV service next year. Once these services are underway, UK consumers will have yet another option for ‘quad play’ packages.
‘Quad play’ is already very popular in a number of European countries including France, Spain, Belgium, Portugal and the Netherlands. According to Analysis Mason, 40% of French households with broadband are subscribed to a bundled package. Iliad, a major player in French telecoms have seen great success with ‘quad play’ offerings through their ‘Free Mobile’ brand. Launching in 2012, the company reported several million bundle subscribers in the first year and over 300,000 fixed broadband subscribers in the first six months. The Liberty Global owned UPC brand in the Netherlands has also seen a high level of take up for their ‘quad play’ package since the introduction of their ‘Horizon’ TV package which offers customers the chance to record and replay television as it is aired, as well as offering access to a wide range of on-demand channels.
By contrast, only 5% of UK households are subscribed to a ‘quad play’ package. While no one expects it to take off at quite the same rate in the UK as it did in France, it clearly offers a great opportunity for increased subscribers and increased revenue. The drawback from the point of view of the operators is that integrating back office systems across disparate business units and unifying billing and subscriber data is a huge undertaking.
With the benefits to the operators and the cost saving it will offer consumers, it is unsurprising that so many people believe that single service providers may struggle to compete in a world where ‘quad play’ offerings are ubiquitous. I however am not so sure.
The ‘quad play’ model is attractive because it offers consumers the chance to save money by getting all of their services from one place. However, what if you don’t need a fixed line home phone? I don’t know anyone under the age of 30 that has a fixed line phone in their home or why you’d really ever need one. Likewise with TV services, with so many streaming services online such as Netflix and Amazon and channels having their own on-demand service, more and more people are getting by without a conventional TV package. If you only need two or three of the services, is it really a saving?
Don’t get me wrong, I think being able to provide a greater number of services will give operators an advantage over their competitors, I just don’t believe it will be the death knell for single service operators that some expect it to be. People want different things from their personal digital ecosystem and while a generic ‘quad play’ offering may attract a large number of consumers, there will always be people who fall through the cracks. There will always be a place in this world for smaller providers that offer cheaper, higher quality or more niche services than their multinational counterparts.
Source: Vine 14