23 (118) 2016
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Scale up for innovation

by Patrycja Gołos, public policy and corporate affairs director, UPC Poland
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Differentiate or die – in today's world of digital services these words are more relevant than ever. We are currently witnessing the differences between suppliers from different sectors and industries fading out.

The reason why a given offer may appeal to a consumer is definitely innovation – understood not only as implementing the latest technical achievements but also as a new approach towards customers' needs.

There is no doubt that the market of digital services, such as television, internet or telephone has become the customer's market. Places with only one operator are becoming rare, the time of monopoly is practically over as due to technological development operators who traditionally come from other industries have now introduced complementary services. For technological reasons it is also difficult today to talk about a local market – thanks to the internet, global content suppliers have sprung up, as there are no actual borders any more.

The customer is also changing. The latest Ericsson ConsumerLab study has shown some trends, described in the 10 Hot Consumer Trends for 2016 report. It proves what today's consumers expect and how they are persuaded that artificial intelligence will soon make it possible to interact with devices, without the need to use a smart phone, which – according to respondents – will vanish within the next five years anyway, as it will be replaced by other devices. Consumers expect the virtual technology to accompany them almost any time and anywhere, during their everyday activities. Operators have to be prepared for the changes.

Freedom and mobility

According to the Smart Book report prepared by a think tank, mobile media consumption will become a standard. A TV set is not the only device to on which one can watch television any more. The ever faster pace of living makes us want to have access to our favourite content anywhere we are. Two out of free respondents of the Corporate Profiles Consulting study ordered by UPC watch their favourite programmes on their laptops; over half of those in younger groups (19-24 years old), that is 53%, wants to watch television on their smart phones. Additionally, when watching television, we tend to use another device in order to find additional information, eg statistics of the game being watched, or to comment live in the social media on what we see at a given moment.

Operators can draw a simple conclusion here: they should invest in innovative solutions which would connect the worlds of television and Internet, merge digital services, and allow them onto mobile devices. And it does not matter any more whether an operator comes from the mobile or the wired communication sector. The customers of UPC Polska, a cable operator, can use their mobile devices to download an application that makes it possible to access television and also content on demand at any place and on multiple devices simultaneously. This means that a customer of this operator not only has their television on a tram or while walking through a park, but also in their own room while other household members can traditionally sit in front of a TV set in the living room. Freedom means here that at a given moment each household member can watch something different.


Based on 10 Hot Consumer Trends for 2016 report, teenagers watch video content much more often than other age groups. Of those between 16-19 years old, 40% spend over an hour daily on YouTube. This is another dimension of freedom which today's customers of digital services expect. Another dimension of innovation. It means that we are going to reach for whatever we feel like watching, and not only linear services offered to us by broadcasters as part of their daily programming. The fact that OTT players (internet content providers) have entered the market has already changed the way TV shows are watched, making it unnecessary to wait the whole week for the next episode – today a new season is most often watched as a whole, online, which TV channels understand, often offering all-day or all-night TV show marathons. For operators this means investment – both in set-top boxes which enable internet connection, or even have an application which takes us directly to YouTube for example, but also investment in technology, including VoD services and content which would meet customers' needs (such as the MyPrime library from UPC, including not only films but also well-known TV shows). Only those operators which provide appropriate content available for the customer at any time and place be able to differentiate their offerings to the market.


When talking about investment in innovation, expanding scale should be mentioned, which is necessary when investing often millions in developing infrastructure and technology, as well as providing customers with rich content selection. And this has to mean consolidation of the players on the telecoms market. For example, the European market of cable operators is still dispersed but it is especially visible in Poland, where a few hundred entities operate as compared to one or even a few operators, as it is in the developed markets of the Western Europe, eg in the Netherlands or the UK. Consolidation is then necessary if we want the Polish digital services market to be really innovative. Thus, the key for an operator to differentiate on this more and more competitive market are three interrelated words which stem from each other: consolidation, investment and innovation.

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