Saturday 19 October 2019

Sky faces an uphill task in catching up with UPC

Peter Flanagan New Technology Correspondent

WHEN you wake up in the morning, what do you do?

For a lot of people, it's probably something along the lines of "shower, breakfast, check email, put on the TV news". If you're running late, you might ring for a taxi to work.

If that is the case, then three of the five items on your checklist could in theory have involved using UPC's services.

The media group is the market leader in Ireland in what is known as the "triple play" sector of phone, television and broadband.

The company is one of many that provides broadband services and is one of two that provides multi-channel television services across the country.

Getting a customer to sign up for one of these services is good. Getting them to sign up to all three, however, is the holy grail.

The cross-selling opportunities that come with the triple-play services are huge.

And as Apple will tell you, if consumers get into one single eco-system for numerous products, it becomes much harder to change providers.

Broadband

If a customer uses UPC for the broadband, their phone and TV, they are much less likely to, for example, switch to Eircom for their broadband and Sky for their TV.

Until this year UPC had the triple-play market to itself in Ireland, but Sky has come in with huge fanfare this year and has made no secret that it wants to eat UPC's lunch.

Sky broadband has just launched but according to UPC's first quarter results at least, the company has a huge task ahead of it.

The results show that Sky now has just over a million subscriptions in the country.

That is not the same as customers, mind you.

UPC counts the number of subscriptions, but not subscribers, so one person with phone, TV and broadband counts as three subscriptions.

Even taking that into account though, the company is flying.

At the end of March, UPC had 315,700 broadband subscriptions, an increase of 16pc year on year.

When it comes to TV, UPC had some 382,300 digital subscriptions, making it far and away the biggest player in that sector.

In the telecoms division, it had 254,700 subscriptions, up by more than a third.

Having said that, if a customer wants the broadband and TV services, they are obliged to take on the phone as well.

Few customers actually look for the landline by choice.

All this is music to the ears of UPC's parent company Liberty Global.

The media giant made just under $3bn (€2.3bn) in revenue in the first quarter of this year.

With UPC's Irish business showing no signs of slowing down, it is little wonder that Liberty's share price has more than doubled in the course of past year.

Irish Independent

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