The failure of BT Vision

By September 15, 2008IPTV, PCTV, TV, Video

Back in May last year I wrote a post wondering if BT would get the retail proposition for BT Vision right.  An article in the Sunday Times yesterday suggests I was right to pose the question and offers interesting insight into the challenge for classic IPTV plays.

First off the data:

There is great debate around BT Vision, the company’s TV offering that pairs
video-on-demand with Freeview, a work in progress. It has enlisted only
282,000 subscribers so far, despite having the largest UK broadband base of
4.5m.

Then the debate – should BT turn itself into a media company?

According to the Sunday Times article BT has weighed up a bid for premiership football rights, which would make BT Vision a ‘must have’.  This is the strategy that worked for Sky, and which Setanta is deploying now.  I think that if you are charging £30 per month for a service it is really hard to build traction unless you have some sort of unique hook like that.

But it is really hard for BT Vision with its 282k subs to compete with Sky and its c10m subs when it comes to acquiring content.  Setanta has been slowly building brand over the last couple of years and now this season is making a more overt bid against Sky by removing the pay per match option for Setanta customers – and they have experienced some backlash as a result.  Their experience shows how hard it is for new entrants to compete with established broadcasters at their own game.

Much better to find a way to make something on top of their content services – be it an EPG style service with recommendations or new innovations in place shifting or time shifting.

  • I think you’re spot on – their proposition (without football or other event rights) just isn’t very strong. Virgin and Sky have enormous content and channel breadth, whereas BT’s offer comes across as a thin veneer on top of Freeview (and Freeview with a good PVR is a pretty attractive and free option). Tiscali (which I think sells its product a lot better) has even fewer subscribers apparently.

    I think for a lot of us “sit back” style TV and “lean forward” style YouTube videos are still distinct, but a combination of the two (maybe some recommended YouTube clips after I’ve watched a TV drama) might tempt users into sampling. It would also make sense to me as a user that that service was provided by my ISP. Otherwise perhaps in most people’s minds BT is a telephony provider and ISP, and that’s just a difficult thing to change…

  • I think you’re spot on – their proposition (without football or other event rights) just isn’t very strong. Virgin and Sky have enormous content and channel breadth, whereas BT’s offer comes across as a thin veneer on top of Freeview (and Freeview with a good PVR is a pretty attractive and free option). Tiscali (which I think sells its product a lot better) has even fewer subscribers apparently.

    I think for a lot of us “sit back” style TV and “lean forward” style YouTube videos are still distinct, but a combination of the two (maybe some recommended YouTube clips after I’ve watched a TV drama) might tempt users into sampling. It would also make sense to me as a user that that service was provided by my ISP. Otherwise perhaps in most people’s minds BT is a telephony provider and ISP, and that’s just a difficult thing to change…

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  • yeh, i thought it would be a bit better than it is though x