T-Mobile US ditches streaming for aggregator TV play

After T-Mobile acquired Layer123 back in 2017, the US has been holding its breath for another Uncarrier move to disrupt the content world, but its not going to be as glitzy as some would have hoped.

Speaking on the latest earnings call, the management team indicated there will be a foray into the content world, but it appears to be leaning more onto the idea of aggregation than creation and ownership.

“It’s subscription palooza out there,” said COO Mike Sievert. “Every single media brand is, either has or is developing an OTT solution and most of these companies don’t have a way to bring these products to market. They’re learning about that. They don’t have distributed networks like us. They don’t have access to the phones like we have.

“And we think we can play a role for our customers as I’ve been saying in the past at bringing these worlds of media and the rest of your digital and social and mobile life together. Helping you choose the subscriptions that makes sense, building for those things, search and discovery of content. We think there’s a big role for our brand to play in helping you.”

The T-Mobile US management team might be antagonistic, aggressive and disruptive, but ultimately you have to remember they are very talented and resourceful businessmen. A content aggregation play leans on the strengths of a telco, allowing the business to add value to a booming industry instead of disrupting themselves culturally trying to steal business.

Content streaming platforms have been an immense successful not only because of our desire to consume content in a completely different way, but also due to the companies who are leading the disruption. The likes of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon are agile, creative and risk-welcoming organizations. Such a disruption worked because the culture of these businesses enabled it. Telcos are not part of the same breed.

However, this is not a bad thing. The basic telco business model is connecting one party to another and this can be of benefit to the content segment. Telcos own an incredibly valuable relationship with the consumer as most people have an exclusive relationship with a communications provider (not considering the broadband/mobile split) and a single device for personal use. The telcos own the channel to the consumer.

Sitting on top of the content world, providing a single window and, potentially, innovative billing services and products could be immensely valuable to the OTTs, as well as securing diversification for the spreadsheets internally. The content aggregation model is one which is functional and operational, perfectly suited to the methodical and risk-adverse telcos.

Specifics of this Uncarrier move are still yet to emerge, but the T-Mobile US management team are promising to do something with the Layer123 acquisition sooner rather than later. It might not just look like what most had imagined initially.

Disney sneaks in with content aggregator move

A couple of weeks ago on the podcast we discussed an idea where telcos could add worth to the content value chain, and now Disney has snuck in there ahead of the telcos.

The idea of the super-aggregator of content is an interesting one, because there is just so much content out there. Ericsson released a survey recently which stated 70% of consumers would want a super search engine which would collect all the content in one place. The time it takes to find something you want to watch is increasing, which will probably lead to frustration, or at least it does for your correspondent.

Disney has decided to launch Movies Anywhere, a free app and website that enables consumers to manage and watch their personal digital movie collections across studios, retailers and platforms. Right now it brings together the Disney studios (Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm) but also third-parties including Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros. Entertainment. It’s still a small list of participants, but the idea of being a content aggregator which sits on top of all the squabbling is a good one.

“Movies Anywhere means that consumers never have to remember where they purchased a film or which device they can watch it on, because all of their eligible movies will be centralized within their Movies Anywhere library and available across platforms through the Movies Anywhere app and website and also available at their connected digital retailers,” said Karin Gilford, General Manager of the Movies Anywhere team.

We’re wondering whether this is a missed opportunity for the telcos. The telcos have a very unique relationship with their customers, as it is very singular. The content providers are all fighting for your attention, but the telcos don’t have to; most people only have one personal smartphone.

And considering trends are moving more towards watching content on mobile devices, the singular relationship between the telco and the customer becomes more of a coup. There is a challenge for the consumer, and there is an opportunity to create an offering which addresses this challenge, why should the telcos take on the traditional content players at their game, when they can just help them play better with the consumer?

People and companies generally aren’t very good at doing things they’ve never done before. This should be a statement which most would except without any issues, but this is essentially what the telcos are doing in the content space. Throwing a bit of money around, but not as much as the traditional content players, and believing they will be able to recapture dwindling profits.

And generally, there hasn’t been a notable amount of success. You could argue BT is doing an alright job in the sport content space, albeit for a big price tag, but this isn’t really doing content. It is buying the right to broadcast something which is happening. This isn’t really creating anything, its relaying it to the customer, which is something the telcos could be very good at. This is essentially what Disney is doing here.

The idea of the super-aggregator doesn’t have to include your own content. In this case it does, Disney’s own productions are included in the deal, but it is simply a place for the consumer to collect content so he/she doesn’t have to navigate several gateways before finding the right title.

All is not lost for the telcos in this space, as the focus of Disney’s aggregator is pretty limited; it’s just movies at the moment. There are other content areas which consumers subscribe to and find the same frustration, so there is an opportunity to create an interesting offering, but it will come down to speed and relationships.

Another area which might be worth bearing in mind is Netflix. It is widely regarded as the most popular OTT content provider out there, and it is unlikely to feature in any future Disney proposition (assuming they move outside of the movie circle), considering the bitter battle which is raging on between the two. Disney has recently pulled all of its content from the Netflix platform, so a reunion between the two is unlikely. Bagging Netflix as a partner could be a winning move.

Once again, it comes down to the ambition of the telcos. Are they willing to do something different to survive the utilization slide?