Ofcom sets out to maintain pay-TV subs' value and quality

Editor | 29-01-2014

UK broadcast and TV regulator Ofcom has set out on a programme to ensure that consumers receive value for money and good quality of service from their communications providers, including pay-TV.

Even though it stresses that in general UK customer satisfaction with communications services is high, it still feels compelled to focus on further improving consumers' experience across the sectors it regulates. This will include publishing quality of service information to help consumers compare the performance of mobile networks to incentivise providers to improve, and outlining the best and worst performing providers to ensure consumers have complaints dealt with effectively.

As it compiled its findings in its Consumer Experience Report, the regulator also published a report on the cost and value of communications services in the UK over the last ten years, where it says strong competition has helped drive down real-terms prices across the sectors Ofcom regulates, with the exception of 'some' pay-TV services.

Ofcom calculates that fewer than three-fifths (58%) of adults receive pay-TV, and that following a slight decline in take-up of pay-TV for some age groups in 2012, take-up has remained stable for all age groups. Even though stand-alone pay-TV prices increased in the year to July 2013, Ofcom says that on average spending on pay-TV services among households that subscribe to them has remained consistent in real terms over the last decade at around 40 per month, even though some have experienced real-term price increases for certain packages. It does note that at the same time, customers' choice of pay-TV offerings has expanded with new HDTV, 3DTV and online TV services.

Such variety of services, and the equally diverse amount of platforms on which they run, has made value for money and a good quality of service even more crucial said Steve McCaffery, senior vice president of EMEA of ARRIS. "The Ofcom statistics clearly illustrate the quickly accelerating trend towards consumption across multiple devices. The growth of Netflix in the UK (a massive 61% growth within the last year) shows more than ever that the days of the 'traditional' programming schedule are numbered. Consumers now expect to consume content at a time and device of their choosing. This is further evidenced by Ofcom reporting that household take-up of tablet computers has more than doubled over the past year, and BBC iPlayer and 4oD use is also shifting towards mobile devices tablets, smartphones and video-on-demand set-top devices. Multichannel TV bundles, along with triple-play fixed line and broadband, continued their increase in 2013 up by 3% from 2012, and this will only continue to grow, with 4KTV/UltraHD video content being introduced this year, and even 8K already making waves.

"Clearly, service providers whether cable, broadband or telecoms need to ensure their networks are flexible enough to future-proof against increasingly bandwidth-heavy content and services without having to overhaul their network infrastructure. Ultimately, this will ensure consumers receive the quality of service and range of content they are expecting from providers at the prices they demand, but also that providers have sustainable, profitable business models with which to deliver compelling and sticky service offerings."