How Ma Bell Became a Digital Powerhouse in the Race for Consumer Attention

The lines between OTT, cable and experiential are blurred

Wires in front of devices like a PlayStation 4 and an Xbox 360
Yesterday’s cable company is today’s media platform is tomorrow’s immersive virtual experience.
Photo Illustration: Trent Joaquin; Sources: Getty Images, Playstation, Xbox, Apple, Amazon

Have you noticed that digital native brands have become the new movie studios, established movie studios have started new digital content, and traditional phone companies are partnering with entertainment companies to provide movies to their customers?

Netflix is spending more on creating original content than Hollywood studios, forcing movie studios to launch new platforms where something like Baby Yoda can launch a million memes. This tough competition has dramatically increased the threat of people jumping from one brand to another.

How will these companies keep and grow their customer base? Two words: experience and trust.

A few years ago, customers perceived media and communications brands very differently. Wireless phone companies were just doing OK, and the cable television companies were getting routed. The digitally native brands like Google, Hulu and Netflix were out in front in a customer’s likeliness to stick around.

Yesterday’s cable company is today’s media platform is tomorrow’s immersive virtual experience.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the future. Digital companies squandered their lead because of trust issues, and the phone and television companies upped their game. We now have a dead heat among these brands.

Now that communications and media companies enjoy rough parity, the new battleground is to keep customers on your channel. Logging onto one platform to watch original content and then logging off so you can watch that same original content on another platform is so 2019.

A good example of a media company that’s ahead of this curve is, surprisingly, a company that not too long ago was considered to be a cable company. Now Xfinity X1 from Comcast gives customers an easy dashboard for all the customer’s content, whether it’s from Comcast, Netflix or Disney+.

That’s just the beginning. The more innovative the platform, the stickier it will be for customers who are expecting integrated experiences. Yesterday’s cable company is today’s media platform is tomorrow’s immersive virtual experience. To get from today to tomorrow, brands need to form partnerships with other companies.

Trust also plays a crucial part. It is the new digital currency that you can cash into actual currency as it directly influences customers’ willingness to share personal data or stick with a service altogether. And giving customers more control over data sharing and privacy options is an effective way to retain customers at risk of switching, which translates to an $80 billion opportunity.

That focus on trust and customer experience are the ways brands need to look at the world. If a phone company wants to keep a customer nowadays, it has to turn itself into a one-stop shop for that customer’s digital life that is seamless, safe and constantly expanding. No one said the new world would be easy.

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