Posts tagged ‘#cablecongress’

UPC Hungary and Liberty Global’s Stephen Kelly Win Cable Europe Innovation Awards at #CableCongress

(Brussels, 12 March) Cable Europe, the trade association representing the European cable industry, today awarded UPC Hungary and Liberty Global’s Stephen Kelly with awards for innovation and individual achievement, respectively. Caroline Van Weede, Managing Director of Cable Europe, and Peter Percosan, Partner, Digital Strategy, presented the honours on the second day of Cable Congress taking place this week in Brussels.

UPC Hungary won the Cable Europe Innovation Award, voted on by delegates at Cable Congress, for bringing more than 20 TV apps to legacy set-top-boxes (STBs) in partnership with Metrological and ActiveVideo Networks and others such as YouTube. Bringing online content to pay-TV subscribers is a win-win for the online and pay-TV industries, but last summer, no one had been able to do it at scale without the purchase of costly set-top-boxes (STB). This has provided UPC Hungary with a powerful new service differentiator that is a world’s-first achievement for cable: the ability to offer an almost limitless source of online content to every subscriber, without the cost and time-to-market that rolling out new set-top boxes would have entailed.

In accepting the award, Severina Pascu, CEO of UPC Romania & Hungary, said: “This idea is truly innovative. It’s a beautiful way to bring together innovation and customer experience, and at the end of the day, this started from a real customer need – content anywhere, anytime, on any device.”

The Innovation Award celebrates special projects of cable companies that make a difference for customers and demonstrate opportunities for future growth. Other nominees in the category this year included OptimizAIR by Telenet and Celeno, an airtime management solution to enhance Telenet’s W-Fi Hotspot service and improve the end user experience. In addition, Spanish operator R was nominated for its cloud video engine allowing real-time generation of interactive channels and integrated VOD, catch-up and zapping.

Stephen Kelly, Communications Architect at Liberty Global, was honoured with the Cable Europe Fellow Award in recognition of his many contributions over 15 years in the industry. Kelly was instrumental in the launch of the hugely successful Virgin Media London Underground Wi-Fi solution, which was deployed in advance of the 2012 Olympics. Most recently, he defined Liberty Global’s Pan European Wi-Fi Architecture, which is being rolled out across its footprint. He has also been a key contributor to CableLabs’s development of industry-wide Wi-Fi specifications and standards.

For the latest news on Cable Congress, please visit www.cablecongress.com, talk to us on Twitter via @CableEurope, and follow all of the discussion live using #cablecongress.

European Cable Revenues Grow 4.6% in 2014 #cablecongress

Industry’s tight focus on investment-driven innovation yields more than €1 billion in new revenues

 

(Brussels, 11 March) In an era of intense platform competition, content convergence and audience fragmentation, the European cable sector grew top-line revenues to €21.5 billion in 2014, up 4.6%, according to new IHS statistics released today by the industry’s trade association, Cable Europe, at Cable Congress in Brussels. The more than €1 billon increase in annual revenues came on the back of cable’s continued investments in high-speed broadband networks, new platforms and services as it challenges both incumbents and new market players.

Cable’s connectivity-driven growth continued with a 9% increase in broadband revenues and a 5.3% rise in telephony revenues. Telephony and internet new comprise 50% of cable’s total revenues. In addition, more than 2.7 million Revenue Generating Units (RGUs), the industry metric for the total sum of TV, internet and telephony subscribers, were added in 2014, up 2.4% and now totalling 112.5 million. Despite a net loss in cable TV subscribers, total TV revenues increased by more than 2% in 2014 as the switch to digital services accelerated. With 6% growth in digital TV revenues and a more than 13% uptick in video-on-demand revenues almost 75% of total TV revenues are now digital.

Manuel Kohnstamm, President of Cable Europe, commented: “Our sector is growing through a time of tremendous change both in terms of the speed of technological development and new market entrants. Over-the-top players delivering services through the internet are reinventing business models and shaking up the traditional competitive scene. Consumers on the other hand expect affordable prices, good quality service and great content. Our smart investments to build superior networks are paying off in the form of state-of-the-art broadband access and a better-than-ever content experience.”

“Cable’s 2014 performance is particularly impressive in the face of increased competition from new entrants and alongside a new generation of digital savvy consumers, added Cable Europe Executive Chairman Matthias Kurth. “We are the main challenger to the telco incumbents in most member states across Europe. But we’re not only making massive investments to take on the traditional competitors, our smart pipe is actually enabling the emergence of new ‘frenemies’ in an era where broadband internet has become a primary mode of content distribution. Our future success will hinge on continued technology, infrastructure and service investment, a favourable
regulatory environment, and deeper partnerships with global content providers.”

Cable Congress 2015 is taking place in Brussels until Friday 13 March. Please visit www.cablecongress.com for the latest updates, talk to us on Twitter via @CableEurope, and follow the conversation live using #cablecongress.

Cable Europe and CTAM Europe Announce Enhanced Partnership with Global Content Providers #CableCongress

HBO Europe and Viacom International Media Networks Northern Europe first to sign up

(Brussels, 11 March 2015) Cable Europe and CTAM Europe are announcing today at Cable Congress in Brussels that they are joining forces to enhance cooperation with the content, programming and production sector. HBO Europe and Viacom International Media Networks Northern Europe are the first to sign formal joint membership agreements with the two bodies in a move that reflects increasing convergence between content and distribution platforms and offers Associate Membership of Cable Europe alongside continued engagement in CTAME’s marketing and intelligence activities.

Cable Europe Executive Chairman Matthias Kurth commented: “This move puts consumers even more firmly at the heart of all we do by combining cable’s high quality connectivity service and technology superiority with world-class, deeply enriching content. Cable is a truly smart pipe based on future-proof technology that is unmatched by other platforms. That’s why our industry is uniquely positioned to work horizontally with multinational cross-platform providers to set the agenda in an increasingly converged content environment.”

The membership package will enhance co-operation and expertise on strategic issues of mutual interest and concern as well as strengthen both sectors’ respective activities. Together the members will build ‘know-how’ across all aspects of the wider industry in order to advise and learn, strengthen relationships and build on synergies in their external dialogue with mutual stakeholders. The partnerships will also create a new forum for the development of collaboration and best practice in areas such as affiliate marketing.

Stefan Liebig, Vice President Content, Distribution and Sales Northern Europe, Viacom International Media Networks commented: “Closer cooperation between cable and content drives growth for all players in the ecosystem and deliver a better experience for consumers. We’re excited to be teaming up with cable operators and other content players.”

Alek Kutela, Senior Vice President of Marketing at HBO Europe, said;
“We are delighted to partner with Cable Europe and CTAM Europe and we look forward to working together in the future.”

Cable Congress, taking place in Brussels from 11-13 March, will dive deeper into the issues and opportunities raised by convergence, changing content consumption trends and increasing platform competition. To learn more please visit: www.cablecongress.com

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For more information, please contact:
Virginia Lee
Cable Europe
Director of Communications
T: +32 2 556 2102
E: virginia.lee@cable-europe.eu

www.cable-europe.eu

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Cable Europe’s 2015 Innovation Award Nominees announced #CableCongress

LogoInnovation is the key to growth, competitiveness and social well-being in this fast changing industry

The Innovation Award aims to recognise the most innovative cable companies that bring new technologies, products or services to market.

The winner will be announced on Day 2 of Cable Congress, only registered attendees will be able to vote – don’t miss out, find out how to attend.

Cable Europe is pleased to announce this year’s three nominations:

  • Cloud video Engine for the realtime generation of interactive channels by R, Syntheractive & Cinfo
  • OptimizAIR by Celeno & Telenet
  • TV Apps on legacy set-top boxes by UPC Hungary, Metrological and ActiveVideo

www.mundo-R.comNominee 1: Cloud video Engine for the realtime generation of interactive channels by R, Syntheractive & Cinfo

R has launched a cloud video encoding platform. This platform can handle hundreds of video inputs, either from the cable tv headend, from the field (mobile cameras, IP cameras) or from stored video libraries. The platform transforms those inputs into thousands of videostreams. Each videostream script is created by a “cloud video app” residing on the servers. Local app in the device is minimised just to sending user keystrokes upstream and DRM protection, if needed.

This Project has been developed in house, through our daughter video company Cinfo in collaboration with a local startup (Syntheractive) and the University of La Coruña.

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celonoNominee 2: OptimizAIR by Celeno & Telenet

Celeno’s innovative OptimizAIR 2.0 enables Telenet to safely turn home routers into community hotspots while ensuring home users continue to receive uninterrupted Wi-Fi service with a high quality of experience. It also provides Telenet with exciting new opportunities to expand their service offering and entice new and existing customers.

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UPC hungaryNominee 3: TV Apps on legacy set-top boxes by UPC Hungary, Metrological and ActiveVideo

Bringing online content to pay-TV subscribers is a win-win for the online and pay-TV industries, but until UPC Hungary teamed up with Metrological and ActiveVideo last summer, no one had been able to do it at scale without the purchase of costly set-top boxes. UPC Hungary worked with its partners to offer over 20 apps on TV via any set-top box in the UPC Hungary subscriber footprint. This has provided UPC Hungary with a powerful new service differentiator that is a world’s-first achievement for cable: the ability to offer an almost limitless source of online content to every subscriber, without the cost and time-to-market that rolling out new set-top boxes would have entailed.

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The winner will be announced on Day 2 of Cable Congress – don’t miss out, find out how to attend.

Cable Decision Makers Take Stage This Week at #CableCongress

Brussels edition will highlight dynamic connections in the cable ecosystem

(Brussels, 9 March 2015) Cable Europe’s Cable Congress, the premier annual industry gathering, returns to Brussels, the decision-making centre of Europe, between 11-13 March. The 2015 programme will focus on dynamic connections in the cable ecosystem and feature a star-studded line-up of C-level executives across cable, content, technology and new media.

To kick off the event, Cable Europe will present brand new EU28 statistics from IHS on the latest growth trends in the European cable industry. Europe’s cable industry now serves more than 112 million Revenue Generating Units (RGUs), the industry metric measuring the number of TV, internet and telephony subscriptions.
More statistics on revenue and subscriber growth in these three product areas will be unveiled during a Day 1 press conference taking place on 11 March at 9:30 at The Square in Brussels.

“Cable Congress could not be happening at a more exciting, transformational time for our industry,” said Executive Chairman of Cable Europe, Matthias Kurth. “Technology is moving at an incredibly fast pace, driving the creation of new business models, platforms and services that can offer the consumer all the content they want, when they want, where they want it, to any device. But cable provides much more than simply connectivity or content. Thanks to several waves of investment-driven innovation, cable technology today offers an enhanced TV experience and state of the art broadband access. I’m excited to hear more from decision makers across the ecosystem on how we can continue to be a key enabler of a premium digital lifestyle.”

In addition to the release of new industry data, the 2015 Cable Congress programme is packed with engaging sessions and high-profile executive appearances, including:

  • Leading C-suiters on winning strategies in an era of transformation, including Mike Fries (Liberty Global), Guillaume de Posch (RTL Group), Matt Brittin (Google Europe), Philipp Humm (Vodafone) and Manuel Cubero (Vodafone & Kabel Deutschland)
  • All-CEO “footprint focus” on Central and Eastern Europe with Severina Pascu (UPC Romania / Hungary), Harald Rösch (Blizoo Media and Broadband), Levente Málnay (AMC Networks International – Central Europe) and Tomasz Żurański (Vectra).
  • Globally renowned trend analyser Shari Swan, CEO & Founder of Streative Branding
  • CTOs from Liberty Global, Ziggo, ONO and NBNCo.
  • An exclusive interview with BEREC Chair 2015, Fátima Barros.
  • A focus on finance and dealmaking with Marisa Drew (Credit Suisse), Andrew Barron (ComHem), Burkhard Koep (Altice) and Clif Marriott (Goldman Sachs) and Andrea Salvato (Liberty Global)

New content, programme updates and interviews are being added regularly to www.cablecongress.com.

Looking forward: Network neutrality, broadband policy, and the Digital Single Market #CableCongress

Guest post by Scott Marcus, Individual expert. Meet Scott at Cable Congress 2015, 11-13 March, The SQUARE, Brussels.

Among the key challenges for European telecommunications policy over the next year are the resolution of the ongoing network neutrality debate, broadband policy, and the realisation of the Digital Single Market. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to comment.

Network neutrality

Debates on net neutrality are raging on both sides of the Atlantic, but we are still waiting for final resolution. It is clear, however, that the US FCC is responding to a substantially different set of concerns than those faced in Europe. The market environment in the US is substantially different from that in Europe, largely as a result of a different approach to regulation of electronic communications. Most Europeans can choose among multiple network operators, while most Americans can choose only between one cable operator and one telecoms provider – this means that informed consumer choice has far less scope to operate in the US than it does in Europe. To the extent that the problem in the US is substantially different from that in Europe, the most appropriate solution is also likely to be different.

A recent study I conducted for the European Parliament suggests taking a balanced, pragmatic, common sense approach to this issue, grounded in a thorough understanding of (1) the relevant technology and economics, and (2) the attitudes and concerns of content and application providers, network operators, regulatory authorities, and consumers.

Recognising that traffic differentiation has multiple uses, some of which could be beneficial to consumers while others could be harmful, the study attempts to focus on areas of potential harm.

An open question is whether we need more regulation to keep the open internet open and, if so, what form should it take? In Europe, BEREC (on behalf of the National Regulatory Authorities, NRAs, that comprise it) has been clear and consistent in stating that problematic network neutrality incidents have been rare, and that the NRAs feel that they already have sufficient power to deal with any problems that are likely to occur.

There are, to be sure, areas of legitimate concern. In the Commission’s 2013 public consultation on network neutrality, there was widespread agreement that it would be problematic for a network operator to favour affiliated content over that of competitors. Concerns were also voiced over unfavourable treatment of Voice over IP (VoIP).

An immediate concern that was visible in the consultation, and apparently the main driver of the European Commission’s inclusion of network neutrality provisions in the Telecoms Single Market package that it submitted on 11 September 2013, was that the Member States might introduce mutually inconsistent or incompatible legislative measures to address network neutrality concerns.

I would be happy if a thoughtful, balanced, and cautious European approach to network neutrality were to emerge that prevents or at least limits regulatory or legislative fragmentation among the Member States, and that does not needlessly restrict prioritisation of services that would legitimately benefit from prioritisation (such as real time voice and videoconferencing over the public Internet, mission critical services such as public protection and disaster relief (PPDR), transport, and health).

European broadband policy

I worry that Europe is placing too much emphasis on supply side stimulus of high speed broadband deployment. The evidence that broadband adoption benefits society is strong; the evidence for incremental benefits from fast broadband, however, is weak.

Moreover, many of the challenges cannot be solved solely on the supply side. Survey data makes clear that those who do not have broadband in Europe today are in the great majority of instances limited neither by lack of availability nor by high price, but rather by the fact that nobody in the family sees the need for it. Trying to solve problems like these solely on the supply side is like pushing on a rope – to get things to move, it is necessary to pull.

As someone who spent many years working in the United States, I have always found it puzzling that cable television coverage is not greater in Europe than is the case today. The failure of cable to deploy is clearly not just a matter of money; moreover, it is not simply a matter of failure to cover rural areas. There is no cable coverage at all in Italy and Greece, nor for that matter in Madrid and Barcelona. Addressing gaps like these with cable would require an integrated and well thought through approach that dealt with lack of municipal permissions, a highly dysfunctional media environment in Italy, and a range of other ills.

The Digital Single Market

Full achievement of a European Digital Single Market continues to be a key objective of the European institutions. The Juncker July political agenda, and its realisation in marching orders to the new commissioners, is in this sense far more promising than that of Barroso II. Regulatory harmonisation is present, broadband deployment is present, but they are there as part of a broader programme that also encompasses digital skills and literacy, digital entrepreneurship, and attempts to facilitate greater use (including cross-border use) of content.

Guest post by Scott Marcus, Individual expert.

Meet Scott Marcus at Cable Congress 2015, 11-13 March, The SQUARE, Brussels

J. Scott Marcus is a Director and Department Manager for WIK-Consult GmbH (the consulting arm of the WIK, a research institute in economics and regulatory policy for network industries, located in Bad Honnef, Germany). He previously served as Senior Advisor for Internet Technology for the U.S. FCC. Prior to that, he was Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Genuity, Inc. (GTE Internetworking). In 2004, Scott was attached to the European Commission (DG INFSO) as a Transatlantic Fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

Speaker Podcast: Spencer Kelly, BBC World News #CableCongress

BBC’S SPENCER KELLY ON CONTENT TRENDS, FUTURISTIC TECHNOLOGIES AND HOW THE BBC IS STAYING AHEAD OF THE COMPETITION

We recently sat down with Spencer Kelly, presenter of the BBC’s technology programme Click, broadcast on the BBC World News. Spencer will be moderating a panel with leading CTOs on Day 1 of Cable Congress next week, so we asked for his perspectives on emerging technologies and trends impacting the content business. Highlights from our discussion follow.

What is your take on the latest trends in content consumption?
We’re still going through a transitional period because everything’s up for grabs and everyone’s trying new stuff. Over the last few years we’ve seen experiments with short-form content mainly, stuff you can watch on your device while you’re waiting for a bus or a train. And we’ve seen experiments in viewer participation in dramas, where the viewer can either decide on the outcome of the story because it’s filmed in parts or you can participate in it. We’ve been to film sets on the streets of London where you can just turn up and be in it. So we’re in this kind of transition period where everything’s being tried. I still think compelling content is going to be the answer. There’s a place for long-form entertainment that you’d sit back and watch; there’s a place for short-form, more interactive stuff that you watch as and when. Maybe it’s just because I’m getting old, but I still like the idea that I can watch a 90-minute film uninterrupted.

What do you think the role of technology is in this mix? What are the biggest you’ve seen in the last 12 months or so?
The rise and rise of the phone. I’ve never really been convinced that tablets are the end of the road for the larger screen form factor. They’re nice big screens to enjoy content on but I’m not convinced we’re there with them yet. I think that’s evidenced by the fact that we’re still getting a variety of screen sizes – I’ve got a 12.5 inch goliath of a tablet which is far too big to do much with apart from put it on a table (at which point you’d like a stand and a keyboard and it just becomes a laptop!). You’ve got people wanting 6,7,8-inch screens. So the actual thing you hold in your hand is not decided yet, but I do think that it’s going to be the phone. It’s going to be something that fits in your pocket.

What’s more important is a reliable wireless signal. It’s being able to stream content to your device and of course we’re not there yet – you can’t get a reliable signal. And even when you can you probably don’t have the data to allow you to stream high definition movies. You’d chew up a month’s worth of data in 90 minutes.

And of course there is the rights issues and the studios trying to work out the best way to provide the content whether it’s purchase or rental. We’re getting there with the rise of Netflix and other streaming/downloading services.

What is one futurist technology that you really hope takes off?
There are three possible things that get me excited:

3-D printing can change the world because suddenly you can create anything you need within reason. You probably won’t have a 3-D printer in your own home but we’re definitely looking at a future where there’s a 3-D printer in every town or on every high street. Believe it or not, for me the really exciting thing about 3-D printing is cooker knobs. If you have a 20-year old cooker and the knob breaks and they don’t make that kind of cooker anymore, you don’t have to buy a new cooker. You can just download the plan for a cooker knob that fits, get it printed and stick it on there. It’s everything from that to printing new joints for people to the minefield of copyright that comes with 3-D printing where you can in theory copy anything and print. For example, copy a toy you might ordinarily pay 20 pounds for and pay half the price. Who’s copyright are you infringing and who is going to be able to clamp down on it.

The driverless car is an interesting one because it looks like the technology is almost there. I’ve sat in a car driving through Jerusalem on a motorway that was stopping at traffic lights. It stayed in lane. It didn’t crash. No one died. I’m beginning to be convinced that the technology behind driverless cars is pretty much there. The problem we have is the legislation. If a driverless car has an accident who do you blame – the maker of the car, the maker of the software, the maker of the sensors, the driver that sits behind the steering wheel who didn’t interject at the last minute? I think driverless cars will be a legal minefield.

The other technology that really excites me is drones, which we’re seeing really take off (pardon the pun). I fly drones personally. I’ve seen some amazing things in the air with amazing cameras on them doing amazing stuff. We’ve driven through the desert in Nevada with drones following us autonomously and they actually did a reasonable job. Just like driverless cars, I think we’re almost at a stage where we can trust these things to get from A to B without a human in the loop. The problem with drones is that when they go wrong they tend to fall out of the sky, so there we have a legal issue as well.

These sound like really interesting stories for your programme Click. Tell us about the typical Click viewer?
All are welcome really. If you’re a geek, if you’re not a geek, if you just have a passing interest in technology. I think if you’re more into gardening and less into something with flashing lights then maybe you should try elsewhere. But even so we’d like to tempt you with something that has flashing lights. In fact, just this week we filmed a programme in Boston which has a robotic garden. It has robotic fish and robotic sheep in it. So anyone who has a passing interest in how some of the stuff they use works, that’s the way into our programme. More than that, Click is for anyone who’s interested in where technology is going. We [the tech world] are in a transitional period at the moment where we’re trying lots of new stuff. Some of it will just crash and burn (hopefully not literally!). Some of it may change the world, and it might be the one that we don’t realise because someone comes up with a new idea for using a technology that we haven’t thought of. Suddenly it all makes sense.

What do you think the BBC does better than its competitors?
The Beeb has always been about trust really. It’s always been about having no commercial ties, guaranteed to be completely neutral and big in scope as well. I think people just trust the BBC to do its best, get the facts and deliver a completely objective look at the whole world.

What strategies does the BBC need to compete in such a hyper-connected, anytime/anywhere world?
I think there are a handful of international organisations that provide good content, and for all of us, BBC included, the trick will be staying on top of what’s possible. We have a new digital generation – the Millenials – who are used to using technology in ways that are almost counterintuitive to the generations that have gone before. We have people sharing and consuming content in new forms and new ways. For all of us – whether we are the traditional international and national broadcasters – we just need to be on top of that. It’s becoming less about broadcasting one view and more about making the experience personal. By that I mean providing specialised content for your viewing habits, knowing you, knowing the viewer, knowing the consumer enough to serve up what’s relevant to that person rather than just a big menu of the day’s events.

The other challenge will be competing with organisations and a small number of individuals who can turn around stuff really quickly and put it out there from a news point of view. Take a video recording that was supposedly filmed in a conflict zone and re-broadcast it. That’s going to be the first time that clip is seen, but if you want trust you need to check your facts, check that it’s genuine, authenticate it. So the challenge is balancing being able to keep up with those who can turn around stuff really quickly and making it right.

BBC Click provides a comprehensive guide to innovation and tech, covering all the latest advances, gadgets, apps and tech industry news. It is broadcast weekly around the globe on BBC World News TV on Saturdays at 0630 and 1930 GMT and again on Sundays at 0330 and 1330 GMT.

Viewers can also follow the programme via BBC Click – Google+ or @BBC Click (BBCClick) on Twitter and subscribe to the BBC Click You Tube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/clickbbc or visit the Facebook page BBC Click | Facebook

Meet Spencer Kelly at Cable Congress 2015 – register now

Cable, Content and Technology Set to Converge in Europe’s Capital #CableCongress

Cable Congress, the annual flagship event for the European cable and media industries, returns this year to Brussels between 11-13 March to focus on the interplay between platforms and content in a converged world. The industry’s leading business figures and technologists will explore strategies to deal with new challenges and opportunities in this era of convergence, emerging business models and hyper competition.

Cable Europe Executive Chairman Matthias Kurth commented: “The last year will go down in cable history as one of strategic shifts, featuring greater investments in mobile and new partnerships with content and technology players. Cable has always been a technology leader, making massive investments in infrastructure and bandwidth to enable a truly smart pipe capable of delivering best-in-class customer experiences. This year’s Congress will highlight our increased integration with content creators, apps players and over-the-top platforms, the role private sector investment should play in our future, and pathways to better regulation – all while keeping the consumer top of mind.”

The 2015 edition of Cable Congress also takes place at an important time in the policy cycle on the heels of an ambitious EU investment plan to support broadband and digital infrastructure and as the European Commission begins to prepare its strategy to realise a Digital Single Market in Europe. This year’s events will be one of the first to bring all relevant stakeholders together to discuss how to turn these ambitions into reality and bring concrete benefits to European consumers.

The 2015 Cable Congress programme will feature the launch of new EU28 industry data and trends from IHS Screen Digest, the presentation of the Cable Europe Awards recognising innovation and achievement, and an impressive line-up of speakers. Highlights include:

  • BBC World News Presenter Babita Sharma as Master of Ceremonies
  • An exclusive interview with Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries by CNN’s Becky Anderson
  • Keynote presentations by Guillaume de Posch (Co-CEO, RTL Group) and Philipp Humm (Regional CEO Europe, Vodafone)
  • Views from the top with leading executives Giorgio Stock (Turner Broadcasting System), Manuel Cubero (Vodafone & Kabel Deutschland), Matt Brittin (Google), and Wilfried Urner (SES Platform Services)
  • A CEO panel on Central & Eastern Europe featuring Severina Pascu (UPC Romania/Hungary), Harald Rösch (Blizoo Media and Broadband), Levente Málnay (AMC Network International), and Tomasz Zuranski (Vectra)
  • A dedicated policy track featuring a fireside chat with Fátima Barros, (Chair ANACOM & Chair 2015 BEREC)

New content, programme updates and interviews are being added regularly to www.cablecongress.com.

Speaker Interview: Marcus Banks, Executive Director Customer Experience, Virgin Media #CableCongress

Marcus BanksMarcus Banks, Virgin Media’s Executive Director of Customer Experience on innovation, consumer trends and competing for consumer attention

Marcus has been with Virgin Media since early 2007, holding mainly commercial and customer experience roles. Prior to Virgin Media, he spent three years as Strategy Director at Lloyds TSB Group and seven years as a strategy consultant with The Boston Consulting Group. He lives in Hampshire with his wife, four boys and two dogs.

Meet Marcus Banks at Cable Congress 2015 – Register now

What do you think will drive cable’s priorities for marketing as we look at the state of the industry in 2015?

Certainly our biggest priority is to keep growing the business. Virgin Media had a very good year last year and maintaining that momentum is crucial for us. Even better, I believe we are growing in the right way by continuing to build our position in the highly competitive market for new customers while at the same time reducing churn and encouraging our existing customers to stay longer and be more engaged with our products and services. The UK market has probably never been as competitive as it is right now. In terms of broadband, our marketing challenge is all about defining and communicating clearly what our superiority is and how it translates into better ways to meet consumer needs. Our most recent campaign for example is all about Virgin Media being the best for (OTT video) streaming, both because of the speed available and because concurrent broadband consumption in the home is a better experience with us.


What are the big emerging consumer trends?

I’ve already mentioned data consumption. And that won’t be news to anyone in our industry. But the growth rates in data consumption over the last year – and the concentration of that growth in services like Netflix – just stuns me. Data usage on the Virgin Media network is currently growing at a rate of 60% every year which, if this trend continues, will be 10,000% higher in ten years. It’s just so exciting to be part of a business the consumer need for which is growing at that sort of rate.

Device proliferation is another trend. Recent OFCOM data says that 46% of UK consumers now have tablets and 63% have connected smartphones. 60% of Virgin Media customers have three or more devices connected to their home broadband, up from 37% a year ago. And as OEMs get better and better at creating new device categories – and sub-segmenting existing categories (‘phablets’ anyone?) – we will see more and more consumers with multiple devices. This must present our industry with interesting opportunities to bundle devices with traditional services and/or help solve consumer problems around connectivity to local networks, seamless profile management and movement of content and data between devices.


What are your biggest priorities for customer experience at Virgin Media?

For me, great customer experience comes from getting three things right: product, service and value for money. I am pleased to say that for third year running we have just been voted Best Broadband Provider in the UK by consumers and industry experts in the uSwitch.com Awards. uSwitch said: “Virgin has hit upon the holy trinity of speed, cost and customer service, year after year winning over broadband users and impressing industry experts.”

There are four things we are focused on to drive our customer experience forward from here. First, we use Net Promoter Score (NPS) across the whole business to keep track of how customers are experiencing us.  All of our employees have some element of their compensation tied directly to NPS. Given that our customers’ experience of us is made up of millions of phone calls, install and service visits, web site visits as well as each time they switch on the TV or use their home network, home phone or mobile, we have to stay focused across all aspects of customer experience delivery, and NPS helps with this.

Secondly, I am firm believer that we need to focus more and more on our customers’ own networks and not just our network, and on our customers’ devices, not just ours. Long gone are the days when cable companies could just drill a few holes in the wall, connect up a few cables to a set top box and modem, and then move on to the next install job. What our customers really care about is a great home network, with reliable WiFi coverage wherever they need it in the home, and simple connectivity to their devices. That means we need to spend more time consulting with customers on how and where they will use connected devices in their home, how to solve coverage issues, and so on.

Third, we continue to focus on our behaviours as a critical driver of customer experience. Through our NPS insight, we realised some time ago that how we behave towards customers is often much more important than whether we actually resolve their issue or concern. So, we put a lot of effort into behavioural training and coaching, and we carefully track customer perceptions of how we are behaving. This sort of thing is not that expensive either, especially compared to upgrading broadband speeds or rolling out new set top boxes. As a Virgin brand I believe we have more permission from customers to be friendly and build rapport with customers, even being a bit cheeky when it’s appropriate. For a few years now we have been running our ‘Random acts of kindness’ programme. This allows our front-line agents to nominate customers for special gifts from us. One of the more famous examples was when an agent had been speaking to a customer and realised that she was lying in the bath while on the phone to us to check her bill! The agent then organised for us to send the customer a Virgin Media rubber duck. It’s a cute programme in its own right, and doesn’t cost much to run. But the biggest benefit to us is that it encourages agents to listen to customers and build rapport with them.

Finally, I am a big believer in the power of marketing to our own customers and not just to sell them more products and services. We now have a programme of communication activities that is focused solely on letting customers know what they are getting for their money and how they could get even more out of them. Again, we use deep NPS insight to guide us on which particular product or service benefits we should promote to customers.


Where are you innovating most on products?

Obviously in broadband. Speed leadership is a crucial part of our market strategy, so we continue to invest and innovate here. The plan is working: our 152Mb broadband product offers twice the speed of any widely available service from any major provider, and our average 152Mb Virgin Media household uses almost double the amount of data as the national average – 112Gb rather than 58Gb. And we are not just innovating on core network stuff but also things like WiFi router development to ensure speed leadership translates into in-home experience leadership. As mentioned above, innovating on the service side will help us to reinforce the superiority of our broadband product too. In TV, innovation is focused on delivering better video on demand mainly to meet consumers’ growing needs for box set viewing.

In your view, is the way you tackle customer experience in the UK unique to that market? How would you describe the typical Virgin Media customer?

No I don’t believe that the way we tackle the customer experience here in the UK is unique. We spend a lot of time with our Liberty Global colleagues discussing many of the same opportunities and challenges.

I really am not sure I could describe the typical Virgin Media customer. We are a mass market player and the UK is pretty diverse place. That’s why I sometimes insist that my job title isn’t ‘Customer Experience’ but ‘Customers’ Experiences’…! Seriously, there is always a temptation in a business like ours for managers to look at problems from their own perspective or the perspective of people like them. Sometimes it’s not until you spend time with customers or our colleagues who help customers day in and day out that you stumble across the insights that can make a difference.

What does Virgin Media do better than its competition from a marketing and engagement standpoint?

Virgin Media is heavily outspent by our biggest competitors – SKY and BT. Despite this we consistently achieve better Awareness and Consideration scores. We do this by following a rigorous communications model that tries to shake passive consumers out of their inertia (for example, by dressing up Usain Bolt in a dress in a recent TV ad) and then following up with clear, benefits-led demonstrations of our products and services. We use online channels to amplify this demonstration. And finally we ensure these campaigns live through the line and are embedded into multiple touch points. I think we are also very good at carefully using big sponsorship opportunities like the V Festivals and our recent lead role in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

What strategies does cable need in order to effectively compete for consumer attention in a hyper-connected world?

I am convinced the market is moving towards us as consumers’ data consumption grows exponentially. So to exploit that, we have to keep shouting that we have the best broadband. And we have to keep our broadband at least two steps ahead of the competition, in terms of raw speed, reliability, service support, etc.

As our stuff – superfast broadband, connected TV – becomes more and more experiential, encouraging positive word of mouth is key to getting attention. My marketing colleagues don’t mind me saying that I would much rather our 5m cable households did our marketing job for us. Just after we launched our TV Anywhere iPad service here, I witnessed my own 5-year old son showing our neighbour (and BT customer) how cool it was, especially how much he enjoyed using it to change the channel on the TV from another room while his younger brother was watching something! That sort of thing is priceless marketing.

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