Patrice Slupowski is in charge of New Growth Activities and is VP of Digital Innovation & Communities for Orange, France Telecom. He is speaking on the Day Three of the Broadband World Forum 2012, taking place on 16 – 18 October 2012 at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre, Amsterdam. Ahead of the show we find out more about role is in bringing innovative solutions to market in the interactive TV space.
What does your role at Orange entail?
The team I’m running is in charge of bringing out innovative new products to mobile devices, tablets, and TVs. We are bringing things that are directly pushed to the consumer to see whether it takes 0ff or not and whether it makes sense to industrialise that. Either it works or it’s not working and we’ll try to modify that. We try to work as an internal start-up, directly facing the consumer.
So much that is happening is via OTT players. What is Orange trying to achieve with an internal team rather than just focusing on improving the network?
While our core promise to our customer is delivering a good network, we also consider that we have to play a role in the services area. As a matter of fact we have 65 million unique customers around the different properties we have, and in some cases these properties are used by people that are not subscribers to one of our telco offers. This is the case for the users of the media portals we have in Latin America, or in some other companies that are in the digital space that are not directly related to our telco offer.
For instance, we have a product on social TV called TV Check, which is available in France and the UK – and this product is not an Orange branded product – it is open to all smartphone users in those markets. We intend to use that to use that to understand a number of things that are happening in the social and interactive TV space and the TV proposition we are providing to our subscribers.
What other innovations have you been working on?
To give you examples of things we are doing, there is TV Check, a social TV companion – and second-screen application. It’s helping customers to socialise around TV programmes via Twitter and Facebook and discover new products via recommendations and playing around with things like quizzes. We are also about to release another product called Newsblend, an automated social magazine that automatically customises the news you’re seeing, by connecting it to your social networks. Then there is also BodyGuru, an Android eHealth application.
So is the strategy to encourage loyalty to the Orange brand?
The overall strategy is to be able to develop by providing interesting and attractive digital experiences for our customers. Most of these are too early to incorporate that into the Orange proposition.
With the products that are outside of the Orange footprint we can develop them by themselves. and then they can help us understand. In France we have another app called TV Programme that is Orange branded that’s given to our broadband customers and on this application we are taking what we have learned from TV Check, such as when we should integrate social features. So when we do a product, the motivation is to learn and then see the potential to develop it further. We’ve always been very close to our customers in each of our markets and we want to keep this community. We don’t want to just be a carrier, it’s really important that we develop a relationship with our customers.
From what you’ve seen how is social media changing TV consumption?
Over the last 12 months we’ve seen the emergence of multi-tasking in front of the TV. We see in many geographies—not only younger people but also adults—using a phone, laptop or tablet, and increasingly they are doing things that are related to what they are watching on TV—not answering emails, but reacting to what they are seeing, which gave us the motivation to create tools that will simplify this. Now there are more second screen applications hitting the market and there are some players that think the second screen will be the most important. The TV ecosystem now considers social TV as a very important and probably in 2013 this will be something that will be completely part of the TV eco-system and we can expect maturity.
Do you think second screen will be more important than smart TVs?
We all thought that smart/connectableTVs would replace all the other propositions and set-top boxes but we’re seeing after two years of TVs that there are several ways you can connect your TV experience to the internet. It can be through the TV itself, the second-screen or it can be through the set-top box, or any other kind of devices such as a game console (we’ve released our service in France on the Microsoft Xbox). It’s still too early to say whether one form or another will take the lead, so we work on each of the segments.
What challenges will you be facing in the next 12 months?
As a telco, we have a challenge in the evolution of the networks. We have seen an enormous increase in usage and we’re happy to see that. It means that customers are using internet services from different devices but it’s a challenge to get the capacity. It’s a question of how we are going to finance the evolution of the networks in the mid-term, and how OTT players and network players will collaborate to develop and finance the development of the network.
For me, in my role, the challenges are in how we are going to see internet technologies change the way media is consumed. The customer will need to rely on services for their consumption experience and will feel more and more lost in front of an enormous amount of available material, and with the 30,000 VoD options, plus 300 TV channels, or the 800,000 applications in the store, they will feel lost if we don’t give some ability to get recommendations to help him get out of this tyranny of choice. So there is an enormous challenge to be able to master the technology, master the interface and experience to deliver the new media experience.