Parks Associates Blog

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Incumbents’ Web 2.0 Makeover

It’s a lot of fun to watch the changes happening among incumbent cable MSOs and ILECs. If you have noticed the two new announcements about Verizon partnering with Youtube to deliver Web videos to Fios TV and wireless subscribers and Comcast setting up Ziddio.com to find the best user-generated content to show on their TV channels, you know what I’m talking about. Even with their initial victory in the net neutrality debate, the incumbents have recognized that the best defense is offense and are becoming more proactive. When you think about it, who else own access network, customer and billing relationships, multiple screens in the home, local/community presence, heavy portal traffic and service bundles that include both communications and entertainment? Can Youtube touch the TV and mobile screen without the help of a Verizon or Comcast? Sure they can, but it’s going to take them a lot more efforts? The big question for the incumbents is whether they can turn these advantages into valuable online assets.

The Incumbents do face a few challenges. The first one is the dilemma between the traditional, walled-garden approach and the intrinsic social aspects of Web 2.0. The beauty of social networking and video sharing is that consumers themselves can easily share their life and favorite media with all of their family members and friends, regardless who they use for their broadband Internet services. With a walled garden that limits portal access to only existing broadband subscribers, BSPs are forcing their subscribers to other Websites. BSPs seem to be noticing this dilemma and Verizon is now offering its Playlinc online gaming services to all Internet users and Comcast has decided to allow all of its TV subscribers (with or without a Comcast broadband subscription) to access its Comcast.net portal. Will those who game on Playlinc be more likely to sign up for Fios when it comes to their neighborhood? You bet. The second challenge is more of a myth: Google is cool and Verizon is not. Is this true? Maybe. Can it be changed? Sure. Our consumer research shows that consumers currently are “neutral” in terms of who they want as their Internet content service providers. Googles and Yahoos of the world get the same score as Comcasts and Verizons when it comes to Internet video services. In an age when broadband operators are launching services like fashion items (Unik-the FMC voice service from Orange was part of its “Fall Collection”), who says service providers are dull?

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