As BT braces itself to enter the video on-demand market, Scott Billings looks at what it can do to stand out from the competition.
Content is king, they used to say. In the days when the once unassailably buoyant dotcom bubble began to slowly deflate, this phrase was used as a reminder that the mere launch of a website with a meaningless, zeitgeist name was not, ultimately, the foundation for a solid business.
Then came the other c-word. Variously tipped as the holy grail of media, ridiculed as dotcom giddiness and now accepted as the battleground for audiences of the future, ‘convergence’ of content and delivery platforms is finally beginning to unfurl.
It all comes down to pinning eyes to screens, be they PC monitors, mobile phone displays or broadband-enabled TV sets. And it is the latter area where a great deal of activity is going on behind closed doors.
Broadband technology can now deliver TV programmes on demand, through a standard telephone line. Video Networks’ Homechoice platform has been offering this to homes in areas of London and Stevenage for the past five years. The company is readying itself for a significant expansion of its catchment area across the UK, and recently hired Neville Brody to overhaul its visual identity (DW 1 September). Cable operators NTL and Telewest, after a few years of stagnation due to financial restructuring, are now seen as a force to be reckoned with. Just this week, NTL confirmed plans to merge Virgin Mobile with its Internet, TV and telephone service, creating a quadruple offer. Sky already offers its customers the Sky Active interactive and on-demand product, and Freeview is investigating ways to improve its interactive component. But the next player to enter the market is a company not immediately associated with conte