Thursday, October 12, 2006

UPC all out in Red Button strategy

UPC/Chello follows the Red Button strategy. Having given away a digital media player to her clients, UPC is now introducing interactive services. And they are successful, Shane O’Neill, director strategy at UPC holding Liberty Global. The Red Button is the greatest discovery this year for the company, he said.

The tv games have been player more than 1 million times and 30 percent of the digital tv clients regularly use the infotainment portal, while 47 percent of the digital tv subscribers used the channel Sport1 during the World Cup Soccer in Germany.

It is not illogical that UPC will continue its Red Button strategy. Tomorrow, for example, Chello, the content company of UPC, will use the Red Button for the TMF awards; digital tv subscribers will be asked to vote.

Presently the Red Button service contains:
VPRO 3voor 12, an interactive Music magazine;
Sport1, the mosaic screen from which a subscriber can click through to 8 channels.
Euronews, the news station;
TV-guide or the TV starting page.
ANP News;
ViD, the traffic channel;
Weerkanaal, the weather channel by Meteoconsult;
Stoneroos company with interactive applications of TV programs;
Tailor made Television with interactive applications;
NDS, games.

In the presentation given at PICNIC 06, Shane O’Neill did not indicate how many digital tv clients UPC has at present. The company has sent the media player to every subscriber for trial during 6 months; after the deadline they will have to subscribe to the Red Button Service or return the mediaplayer. New subscribers get the mediaplayer also for trial, whether they want it or not. In the fora on internet a lot of commentary has been given on this move. The sales policy has also been the subject of discussion in the Dutch parliament.

AS a UPC subscriber I have also received the mediaplayer, but have returned it unused. I have a PC and have hardly time to watch television; so why should I take out a subscription. When I indicated to the helpdesk that I was going to return the mediaplayer, I was told to better keep it as beginning next year every analogue subscriber would receive the player as part of their standard package. Depending on the conditions (but I guess it will not be for free), I might have to reconsider the triple play subscription.

I am wondering whether the service is really successful. Channel 4 in the UK launched also a Red Button service, but eventually abandoned the service completely. Difference between UPC and Channel 4 is of course that Channel 4 is a commercial broadcast station and UPC is a distributor, who buys in the Red Button services.


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