Have UPC missed the boat in Ireland

May 3rd, 2006   5:55 pm

Liberty Global‘s UPC who now own both Chorus Ireland and NTL Ireland, may have their work cut out for them, as Sky announce they now have 407,000 digital subscribers in Ireland.

With some urban areas within UPC’s licensed areas (Galway, Waterford and Dublin) still to be converted to digital, UPC will have a bit of work to do, to bring their product offering in line with B Sky B’s. For instances, UPC have no Personal Video Recording (PVR) offering available yet, while Sky+ has been available in Ireland for a number of months now. Granted, Sky do charge a hefty premium for the service, unless you are on their top TV package (60 quid+ per month).

The quality of the UPC digital service leaves a lot to be desired, when compared with Sky Digital. So what will UPC need to do to win back some of those 400K+ Sky subscribers? Whatever they decide upon, it’ll be a battle, and it will need some decent funding to win.

At the very least, they’ll need to:

  • Establish the UPC brand (or whatever brand they go for), through advertising, sponsoring, and so on
  • Only drop the Chorus and NTL brands once they’ve addressed some key issues which give both brands such a poor reputation, in the Republic at least
  • Start again on CRM solutions. What they have in either company don’t work. Start from scratch, now is the time.
  • Unify product offerings from both brands. It’ll be important to get the pricing right across different platforms
  • Devise an economical multi-room viewing solution (most customers will not be happy with the current NTL Digital offer of €5 per room), which will be important come the analogue switch off
  • Make better use of web services.. e-billing, online account management, online fault logging, etc.
  • Focus on triple play with value add services. IPTV over DSL is going to get a foot in the door, but is a long way from being the reliable multi-room high-quality digital service that most will want from UPC. So get Broadband, VoIP (and ATA if they can manage it, for faxes, alarms, etc.) and digital TV offerings out there ASAP. Magnet are making inroads to erode UPC’s previously-protected customer base. One can only imagine other ISPs will follow suit very shortly. UPC are in a position to blow any current Broadband offering out the window, and offer high-quality (including HDTV) digital TV service. Value add services like on demand video, alarm/monitoring services, etc. will all add up
  • Implement modern TV technologies, like interactivity, HDTV and a PVR service. These are long overdue, and no matter how quickly UPC can implement them, Sky/Sky+/Sky HDTV will be eating into that market, with each customer being bound to a 12 month contract

Too tall an order? I think so, but Sky pricing is definitely not attractive. If the UPC product offering can come close (in feature/technology), then price will certainly deter a lot of Sky subscribers (who are outside their 12 month obligation). It’s still a tall order, and will certainly take a radical change within both Chorus and NTL. I imagine that’s not going to be easy (or possible in some instances). Time will tell. That’s one thing UPC are running out of, though!