NTL, Sky, technology and positioning

So, apparently, NTL aspires to be the Tesco’s of ISPs. And yet, when you look at the picture, Sky is already the Tesco’s of ISPs and – sadly for NTL – they are more the Woolworths of ISPs. “Excuse me could you help me find the new Robbie Williams CD?? “O0h no, sorry, I don’t think we’ve got it. I don’t work in that department. No. Nooo.?

This was part of an interesting conversation I had with a few industry execs recently who were looking at the rivalry and competition which is really starting to shake up the UK market at the moment.

The various solutions for positioning ISPs is fascinating. BT – everyone’s pet hate – did a very clever thing in aligning themselves with Yahoo in the UK. I’m not sure it did such great things for Yahoo’s UK brand image, but there you go. For BT – they’re now looking hipper, more net savvy, and have a lot less technology infrastructure to worry about – at least when it comes to webmail and consumer protection. Good deal.

With the recent news of Newscorp’s acquisition of Easynet and also of MySpace.com – for a bubble like sum – someone should be starting to put those pieces together and making Sky Interactive look very interesting indeed. Definitely a new MTV type threat for the music companies to worry about.

And AOL of course – even though they’re American – have cannily dropped the America Online name in favour (or should that be favor?) of AOL in dear old England to avoid offending the locals. And their big thing is no limits to downloading – none of these dreaded caps (not that downloading is driving ISP subscriptions or anything) and lots of their own expensive exclusive content – Live Sessions – along the lines of MTV unplugged. Good stuff.

So that leaves dear NTL and Telewest – contemplating merger – and becoming a very large player indeed with around 4.5m subscribers – desperately in need of a big play to get them out there. Aspring to be Tesco’s in this battle – may not quite cut it.

Meanwhile, the fascinating thing about this market is that it is all about marketing and positioning. The Technology firms in Silicon Valley are remarkably innocent about that aspect because they are so totally technology led. It’s all about the functionality man – we dream it up and drive it to the consumer. And either they’ll eat it up – like Flickr or Delicious – or they’ll spit it out and that’ll be it. The concept of marketing in these two parts of the happening world – is a remarkably different from one another.


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