Bell Canada launches laughable attempt at winning young hearts

Canadian operator Bell has made a frankly dire attempt at dressing up its TV business to appeal to a younger audience, by launching a new mobile video app called Alt TV – which has wildly missed multiple targets.

Despite the name, Alt TV is not an alternative to entice in a new generation of video subscribers, as the service requires a subscription to one of Bell’s costly unlimited fiber broadband packages.

In fact, the name has caused quite a stir on social media this week, with some suggesting it is too close for comfort to the political term “alt-right.” Bizarrely, Bell then defended the name by claiming Alt TV is in reference to the ‘Alt’ key on keyboards “to appeal to a technology-oriented demographic.”

First of all, if Bell is making a major marketing push with a focus on keyboards, then perhaps a name along the lines of Ctrl+TV would make more sense.

Secondly, the cheapest unlimited broadband package costs C$85 a month after the initial C$65 promotion expires, on top of a C$50 installation fee. A monthly subscription to the basic Alt TV package is priced at C$14.95, while the top end 1 Gbps Fiber package sets subscribers back C$120 a month. Therefore a subscription to Alt TV dents the wallets of users by a minimum of C$100, rising to over C$135 a month for high speed broadband and sports – hardly an alluring deal for millennials.

Clearly Bell, like other pay TV operators, is desperate to revitalize interest by bundling in multiscreen video services with broadband, but it is going entirely the wrong way about grabbing the attention of the cord-never generation.

For existing Bell pay TV subscribers, Alt TV may well present an incentive to cut off their cable and satellite services and go with a broadband only package, as so many millions are already doing – this model of pay TV operators cannibalizing their core business is becoming a rife last resort trend. Bell’s latest financial report addresses this issue for all to see, stating that “TV unbundling and growth in OTT viewing is expected to result in moderately lower subscriber levels for many Bell Media TV properties.”

The basic tier of Alt TV offers 30 live channels including Canadian networks CBC, CTV, Global and City, plus US networks ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. Sports, movies, and a la carte packages can be catered for at additional costs.

It is available on mobile devices, PCs, and Apple TV, but another major downfall is that Alt TV can currently only handle two simultaneous live streams – which hinders its appeal as a family household service. The initial launch covers Ontario and Quebec, with Atlantic and Manitoba set to follow soon.

The Canadian operator already runs the popular SVoD service CraveTV, which has genuine appeal to the generation Alt TV is supposed to be targeting. CraveTV, like Alt TV, started out life as an exclusive service to Bell subscribers, but regulatory changes in Canada soon put an end to that, and it became available to everyone in the country with an internet connection.

Crave TV has benefited from the recent closure of rival service Shomi, but the launch of Alt TV coupled with Crave TV’s price hikes from C$4 to C$7.99, suggests that the SVoD service is not having the expected impact on Bell Canada’s financials as it had hoped. Bell also waved a white flag at the end of 2015 when it integrated the Netflix app onto its set tops.

Our Rethink OTT Intelligence (ROI) research arm shows that Bell uses Quickplay Media to supply a configurable client app, ingest and ABR, content protection and dynamic advertising. Quickplay is increasingly a company that Bell, AT&T and Canadian telco Telus all fall back on when they want anything done with video and since those Canadian operators don’t compete with AT&T, they should have little worry that Quickplay is now owned by the US giant.

Adding insult to Bell’s social media sustained injuries, the operator fell victim to hackers this week, with personal details of an estimated 1.9 million customers being compromised, including names, addresses and phone numbers.

Rizwan Jamal, president of residential and small business services at Bell, said, “in terms of the target demographic that we’re going after, they tend to be what I would call heavy internet users, and hence the perfect bundle for them would be an unlimited internet package as well as Alt TV, in our mind.”

We doubt that a huge chunk of the demographic Jamal is referring to will be tempted to leave another broadband service provider for Bell based on Alt TV alone, and most existing Fibe broadband subscribers will already be signed up to a popular SVoD service, including its own CraveTV. It’s back to the drawing board for Bell, in more ways than one.