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Why doesn’t BT have the Vision?

One of the larger technology sites recently ran a poll to find out where enthusiasts go for their TV entertainment. The options given were skewed heavily in favour of British respondents, but while most of the results could be categorised as predictable – one sticks out a mile. KitGuru ponders the way Margaret Thatcher still has a negative impact on British Telecom from beyond the grave.

While Sky is dreaming up new and interesting ways to move from 10 million to 11 million subscribers here in the UK, British Telecom (BT) is struggling to get past 800,000.

When the BPO became BT in the 1980s, one of the things that it was prevented from doing was providing a full set of entertainment services – including streamed/on-demand TV. It was one of those decisions that the Murdoch (Sky) media loved, but which probably set back the installation of fibre into the UK by up to 10 years.  If BT was not going to reap huge financial rewards for putting the fibre in the ground etc, then where was the incentive to invest at the required level?

Now that the restrictions have been relaxed, BT is trying hard to win the hearts and minds – and it does OK with BT Infinity (in all of its guises) – but it’s hard to see why you should pay more for a service that struggles to show its worth.

Would it surprise you to know that BT launched its Vision 7 years ago?

Yep. For one of the world’s foremost telecommunications companies (and owner of the patent on the hyperlink), it does seem like an extraordinary amount of time to have spent gaining almost no marketshare.

The stop/start affair that is BT Vision has been plagued by a number of issues, the most recent of which includes the ‘ are they or aren’t they included’ question over Sky Sports into BT’s offering.  In 2006, for example, it lined up a deal to carry soccer for 3 years. That deal ended abruptly.

In 2010, a deal for more Sky Sports packages was set up, with BT intending to undercut Sky. Sky let BT set up packages and sell a bunch of 2 year deals (on the assumption of a certain percentage discount from Sky – on a bulk purchase basis).

As soon as the BT sales force was in full effect (up selling customers a 2 year ‘locked in’ deal for TV, calls and Sky Sports etc), then Sky announced that it was raising prices to its own customers – which caused a cascade increase through to BT – almost certainly ensuring that BT would lose money. Nice.

The survey we saw, showed that around 0% of the UK’s technology enthusiasts pay for the BT Vision service.

We’re sure that all of them have broadband – many at fibre speeds – but almost none of them use BT Vision.

The cascade failure here for BT is that these are the same people who would be regarded as ‘experts among their friends’ – the main point of contact when a ‘regular person’ wants to ask for a recommendation on TV/Broadband services.

BT's top Vision package is weak. Take away the fibre and what's left is just sad.
BT’s top Vision package is weak. Take away the fibre and what’s left is just sad.

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KitGuru says: Without Margaret Thatcher ensuring that BT couldn’t carry significant levels of entertainment, the UK would have been fibred-up much earlier. But without Sky’s approach to program creation, would we have ended up with 400 channels of ‘BBC-a-like’ regularity?  Probably. Lack of vision maybe.

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