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Comment: Why Is Telstra Bothering With A TV Box That Consumers Don’t Want

Telstra who has a reputation for burning and churning through senior marketing management, in a desperate effort to get traction for their tv set top boxe and apps, has rolled out yet another Telstra executive Michael Ackland acting head of consumer and small business, to deliver another spin story for a Telstra inspired set top box.

Back in October 2015 Telstra bragged that they were taking on Apple and Google with a then new Roku, device that hosted streaming video services such as Netflix YouTube and Stan, it failed to inspire consumers, now Telstra wants consumers to believe that voice is the big unlock to TV growth.

Telstra’s then executive director of media Michele Garra told journalists back in 2015, that “Once users have found what they are looking for, the new Telstra TV will take users straight to the content using deep-linking technology,”.

It appears the “deep linking technology” failed dismally for Telstra. Garra even announced the launch of Foxtel on the box.

It also bombed despite being bundled with a Telstra broadband offering.

Even products like Fetch TV were seen as a better “paid” offering said one observer.

It did however achieve one thing, click numbers for Foxtel who counted the free trial connection as a subscription, however once they locked into a subscriber the revenue numbers from this subscription stream were weak.

Then there was the ill fated Presto content service that was rolled at the 2015 launch of the Telstra TV Roku box offering.

Joe Pollard, Telstra Chief Marketing Officer and Group Executive Media who was one of many content executives that was bought in to try and spruik a Telstra set top box solution and has since quit, claimed at the time that launch partner Presto bought “Unbeatable TV and movie entertainment value to Telstra customers via Telstra’s new Roku device,

Presto bombed shortly afterwards and was eventually killed off.

The Telstra battle to get consumers to believe their content spin have been spearheaded in the past by such people as Justin Milne who became the Chairman of the ABC, former head of content Ben Kinealy who quit to join Intregal the Dubai based Company owned by STC and Astro who also own a major share of Fetch TV.

All these former Telstra set top box executives have moved on with one former head of content telling ChannelNews this week that “Telstra TV was a dead horse to start with and was always a dead horse that Telstra desperately wanted to be a key contributor to their revenues. Consumers never bought it even when it was given away for free”. they said.

Now Michael Ackland is the latest Telstra trying to spruik customers to invest in a Telstra set top box.

He joined Telstra in 2016 initially as Executive Director of Telstra Country Wide he then got parachuted into a role spruiking consumer and business offerings.

Now the big new gimmick for Telstra TV is voice activation that will soon be available on Foxtel boxes and is already available on the Fetch TV offering and is set to be available on most new 2018 TV’s along with a lot of the apps that Telstra is trying to spruik on their Telstra TV box.

The latest Telstra TV box responds to a range of commands using a voice search activated device that is also able to understand slang and colloquial language such as “chuck on Netflix”.

When asked whether the new Telstra TV was competing the Telstra iQ4 Ackland said there was “room in the market” for the new Telstra TV and the Foxtel iQ4.

“The iQ4 box is a different broadcast experience utilising satellites and not an over-the-top streaming service,” he said, describing Foxtel’s box as a “premium” option.

“We think there’s space in the market for a whole range [of] new media offerings and ways to experience that,” Mr Ackland said.

The Telstra box has a “universal search” function allowing customers to look for content across all the subscription portals through one search function.

Despite 1.4 million of the telco’s customers having had the box sent to them very few are using it as their prime content streaming offering today claim analysts, instead users are using the apps on their TV, Foxtel and Fetch TV to access content.

Another failure for Telstra has been their Telstra Movie service now Telstra is having another crack by relaunching movie rental and buying service BigPond Movies under the brand Telstra TV Box Office.

In what appears to be a rehashed script that Joe Pollard presented at a gala launch in Sydney in 2015, Telstra has yet again claimed that they are “radically changing the way it offers products to customers”

The new initiative is part of its fightback strategy “Telstra 2022”, which include improving the telco’s ability to retain and attract new customers.

As part of this strategy, home broadband lock-in contracts will be phased out from February 26.

Mr Ackland said it was “absolutely a risk” that customers could more easily leave Telstra, but said the telco was committed to providing flexibility.

“If the contract is the only reason customers are staying with us that’s not a good thing,” he said.

There was no mention of faster downloads of content on a 5G device of access to Foxtel sports at todays launch.

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