MS Podcast#106

Talking with Kate Dean, BT.

(WORLD) The MediaSnackers podcast focusses on individuals, organisations or companies who are simply impressing us and which are crying out for more discussion.

Kate Dean is head of television for BT Vision and talks to us here about convergence of technology and interactive/communications elements in their service offerings.

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0.00—0.14 intros
0.15—1.09 BT Vision overview
1.10—2.13 main drivers to move into TV
2.14—3.25 expectations from consumers
3.26—5.41 expanding interactive and communications elements
5.42—6.50 how much content is focussed on youth audience
6.51—8.45 future plans (and meta-tagging)
8.46—8.57 outro

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Kate: Hello. My name is Kate Dean and I’m head of television for BT Vision.

DK: Okay. Well welcome Kate and thanks for giving up your time. Straight away let’s, let’s explore what BT vision and television is all about for you guys and maybe a bit of the numbers. If you can give us some contexts to that please.

Kate: Okay. So BT Vision launched into the market place just over twelve months ago. It’s a set up box that you plug into your television, that’s wireless to your PC, offering all the freevue channels which come down your Ariel and a host of on demand programming, spanning pretty much every main genre of film, television, music, sport and children’s programming. We launched about a year ago. We have, at last count, over 150,000 customers. The premise of the BT television services that there’s no monetary subscription. So every single item of content is offered on a subscription element. So you can pay six pounds a month for all of television, or pay per view. Seventy seven, seventy nine or ninety nine pounds for a single item of content.

DK: Wow. That’s cool. Thank you for that. So tell us why BT, which is historically a telecommunications brand and industry and sector service like that, why are you interested in television? What are the drivers for you to move into this arena?

Kate: Well, I think that you will finding that pretty much with many different organizations at the moment, we find that you know Skye and some of the pay TV operators are now offering broadband. And I think the realization that the risk conversions, that customers like to bundle their products, they like to be able to offer the television, the broadband and the telephony for one neat price is very compelling for viewers. And such BT sees a unique opportunity to add value to their existing customers with a television service.

DK: So this, it’s almost like the expectations of conversions there, right there in terms of technology and offering?

Kate: Yeah. That’s right. That’s right. And I think that more and more customers see the value of a bundled price and that is it. And BT is just delivering choice and a convenient controller over the pricing over the bundling of these products.

DK: Well you touched on something very important there, the choice conveniencing control. And I’ve been kind of researching this before our interview, and that’s some, a kind of theme that comes through a lot around BT Vision. And is that relation to expectation and need from a consumer point of view or is that kind of cause you can?

Kate: Well we looked at some view, at some research in the marketplace before we launched this product. And we found that there’s a whole host of people out there who never taken to foreign traditional television. Now the reason that they fight it, that they have never, never done this, despite aggressive marketing from Skye and Virgin, amongst others over a number of years was that they were very, a subscription with us and they didn’t want to be tied into annual commitments on their, on a cost basis. So what BT has put together is a very flexible service. So it’s on a basis of where you can watch what you want, when you want, you can pay for it in the way that you want to, in the way that you want to watch ___03:15 dead air___ experience. What we find is that, you know from our feedback from customers now is that this is a very compelling proposition.

DK: Okay. So actually consumers are actually telling you, actually this is the way they want it, this is the way to go. And how kind of interactive, there’s certain interactive elements as well that I know that are coming up, like gay men messaging, retail that kind of historically you wouldn’t find within the interactive element of a red button thing, but is that kind of a bigger proposition for you guys to get involved with? What’s the take up with that? Do you have any kind of understanding of numbers and stuff?

Kate: Sure. Well 2007 was very much about acquiring content and getting a critical mass of content onto the service. We achieved that objective at the end of last year. Two thousand and eight will very much be about developing our interactive services. We have a return path which is unique capability with the set up box that we’re using, which means that the capacity for interactive services is great. We will be exploiting the server the coming months. Currently on the service there are games. We’re proving to be reasonably popular with that customers. The developments over the next year will be something that we will be focusing very much so. One thing that BT did reasonably well is communications. And that’s an area where we will be exploring in great depth over the next 12 months.

DK: What do you mean by communications? Sorry to come in there. But could you broaden that a little bit?

Kate: Well, there will be options around; we’ll be looking at instant messaging through the television. We’ll be looking at video conferencing, many different features along these lines to see whether we can add value to the customer experience.

DK: Okay. That’s interesting. So tell us about kind of, if you have one, kind of the makeup of people who take up BT Vision. Because I can imagine for young people, because as you know MediaSnackers function on kind of the youth element, young people, that’s a great kind of offering to add on things to what they currently do on their PC’s. Are you seeing kind of the households that do take up your services, to have a higher proportion of younger people in there or not? Am I talking kind of crap?

Kate: Well, in order to get the BT Vision service you need to subscribe to BT broadband. So there is a direct overlap between the BT Vision customers and the BT broadband customers. So these are generally slightly older, slightly more male, but family households. So in answer your question DK, there is a very large element of younger viewers contained within the household of the bill payer, who is the BT broadband subscriber.

DK: Because that’s like really important, you know our focus is that interactive element is what young people really kind of go towards if you like. And how much of the content, you said, you know, the first year you said was acquiring content. How much is focused on, on the kind of youth audience if you like or is that a big consideration for you guys?

Kate: Well I’ll answer the first half of your question first.

DK: Sorry, yeah.

Kate: Which is just the way that people see on demand programming. Now the older people I think for a lot of people the television is stuck in the corner of the room for 50 years and they’ve never had to interact with it. And it’s probably a slower progression from linear schedules to on demand programming. For younger people they embrace this. It’s natural; it’s a natural technology for people who are very sit forwards consumers. They want to go in and find, find the programming that they want, they will seek it out. And from that end, we find that many of the programs that we acquire, the younger speed programming is particularly successful. So in part of my strategy, my programming strategy of acquiring programming for a whole family origin, the youth element is particularly important. Yeah.

DK: Okay. Cool. And tell us a bit, if you can how, I don’t know how much, but tell us about your future plans there, because you’ve been going what, for over a year now. You’re probably kind of had some hits and misses and I’m sure that you’re starting to think about really how you’re to capitalize on, on the audience you currently have, and to broaden that, but what are your future plans there? What are your future kind of focuses if you like in the next couple of years, strategically and operationally?

Kate: Yeah. Well there’s, there’s two things that immediately spring to mind. The first thing is, is using the viewer data that we’re getting back, which is when people stop, fast forward, rewind the programming. To see what works and what doesn’t. And so over the next 12 months I’ll be looking at what, what does work, getting more of that. And what doesn’t work, taking less. The second thing is the challenges to ensure that we have a navigation where it makes it easy for people to find the programming that they wish to watch. So it’s letting the programmes come forward that you’re interested in and the rest fall back. Now that’s reasonably challenging outside sort of an IP, Internet environment. But we’ll be working with a browser, which will be sitting on top of the Microsoft platform enabling us to locate and transcribe content in different ways. And that will certainly be a very big, a very big part of what we do.

DK: Sorry go on.

Kate: Yep.

DK: I was just going to ask you, in terms of then, you know delivering upon there, I can imagine meta-tagging an increasingly important thing for you guys to focus on?

Kate: It will indeed. At the moment we have a very sophisticated search mechanism which allows you to search globally, on FreeVu on your PVR; which every box has, or within the on demand sections. So that is very sophisticated. And we will be looking at more techniques and more tools like that to enable the customer experience. So yes, recommendations, they’ll be lots of tools too. If you like this, then you should try this, meta-data tracking, etc, etc. I mean it’s limitless really of how we intend to split the data really.

DK: Okay. Well I’d just like to thank you for giving up your time to speak to MediaSnackers tonight Kate. That was awesome.

Kate: It was a pleasure to speak to you DK.