All the video buzz in the telco world these days centers on IPTV. Meanwhile,
Qwest is trail-blazing an alternate approach: FBTV. Unfamiliar with that
leading-edge acronym? Do clues like TD, QB and NFL help? You've got it,
we're talking pro football here.
Kidding aside, here's how it scores. Verizon and AT&T are getting all the
headlines for their fiber and IPTV plans. While the new technology is cool,
neither Bell offering today provides a video service that is meaningfully
differentiated from cable, nor widely available. In most cases, the
offerings are actually inferior to today's cable video services. For
example, AT&T does not even offer HDTV through its U-verse service.
Now here comes Qwest, aggressively marketing a genuinely differentiated TV
service. By partnering with DirecTV and its Sunday Ticket pigskin package,
Qwest is able to market a video service that consumers cannot get on cable.
And, Qwest is aggressively pricing its bundle. In Arizona, where
Qwest is battling cable bundling king Cox Communications, the Bell is
pushing a basic combination of voice, DSL and digital TV at a promotional
rate of $82.96 per month. On paper, that's well below Cox's price of
$99.95 per month for its Digital Home Pack.
In truth, after taxes, fees and other temporary discounts are factored in,
the Qwest offer is no better than Cox's. But, the advertised differences in
price and content are attention grabbers. And that's the point.
While telco engineers debate the merits of fiber versus DSL video delivery,
Qwest is in market now with a competitive cable offering, fighting for
customers, without having spent an arm and a leg on network upgrades. Yes,
AT&T and Verizon have satellite TV offerings too, but they are being
marketed halfheartedly. That's good for cable. By the time these Bells can
deploy telco video significantly, MSOs will already have captured well over
10 million of their phone customers.