Having previously seen the providers of free “over the top” (OTT) communications service (such as Google, Skype and Facebook) as competitors, many marketers within telecommunications companies have turned a corner and are starting to view them as partners for other sources of revenue streams.
According to a new study from the CMO Council, 44% of the telecommunications marketers said they are actively exploring partnerships and other revenue-sharing opportunities with OTT companies. The findings are a turnaround from last year, when a similar study showed only 6% of executives exploring such partnerships and 88% considering the OTT companies direct competitors for their business.
“Marketers are realizing OTT isn’t going away, and they’re very aware that OTT is going to change the face of their industry,” Liz Miller, vice president of programs for the CMO Council, tells Marketing Daily. “Now, all of a sudden, brands are going to be OTT players. [Soon,] you’re going to see brand players asking people to come to a mobile-driven destination.”
Indeed, the research shows many of these communication service providers (a.k.a. CSPs, a designation that includes wireless communications, Internet service providers, fiber optics companies, cable TV operators and commercial satellite companies) are beginning to look at the OTT companies as new revenue sources, with nearly a third (31%) identifying potential revenue streams from new products and services that can be offered to these former competitors. And what they’re offering is valuable consumer insights.
“From a CSP perspective, this has become the time to change or perish. [They’re] either going to find new opportunities, or we’re going to see margins diminish,” Miller says. “It is the [telecommunications industry] that is perfectly situated to provide some of the most robust customer behavior data in the world. Who else has insight as to how we’re engaging and where we’re engaging?”
At the same time, the telecommunications companies (and the marketers within them) have experience and insights about how to communicate the benefits of products and services without going over the “creepy line” that consumers might view as a violation of privacy, Miller says.
“They have the most amazing repository of customer behavior data than anyone in the world,” Miller says. “[They] understand that the entirety of our population isn’t going to react to the same offer in the same way.”
All of this comes at a time when telecommunications companies (like so many other marketers) are evolving from communicating to consumers through a limited number of media to having a dialogue with them through a growing number of outlets. That shift is giving marketers more power and input when it comes to boosting the bottom line, Miller says.
“Up until this point, marketers within telecom companies haven’t felt they could be the champion of the customer-driven viewpoint,” she says. “I think this shows they can own the customer experience and be the champion of these products and services.”