By all indicators, this will be a big year when it comes to mergers of all sizes.
Companies are consolidating, rearranging and rebranding in an effort to remain competitive in a world where the goalposts are constantly moving. So, when the news of a Charter and Comcast deal hit the press, few people were probably really all that surprised. After all, cable is a struggling medium in the face of so many cord-cutters, so the two working together could keep both afloat.
More Than Just a Cable to Cable Connection
Of course, a person could look at this as simply another business deal in the making, except that the Charter-Comcast deal is actually also giving birth to something wholly new.
The two intend to offer cellular service and their plan is for each to help insulate the other from mobile giants like Verizon and AT&T. Under the terms of the deal, both agree to not acquire another cell service or negotiate independently with these opposing factions.
Xfinity Mobile, Comcast’s cellular offering, is set to debut any day now. Charter says it will start selling cell service some time in 2018. For Comcast customers, bundling their cable package with Xfinity Mobile will mean significant savings, and the bigger the bundle, the better the savings. For example, Premier Double Play or Triple Play subscribers could get unlimited data, talk and text for only $45 per line. The full price offering is only available to high-speed Internet subscribers.
The thinking, Comcast CFO Mike Cavanagh explained at the big product reveal, is that the more a customer bundles, the more they’re engaged and the less likely they are to cancel any part of that bundle. This makes a lot of sense, actually, and it plays into the budget-conscious mentality of the typical Millennial, a group of people who have long ago cut as many cords as possible.
So, if this is a bid to bring that market into play, it could well help turn the cable industry around.
… But Then There’s the Other Thing
However, it’s hard not to notice the parallels to the not-so-distant merger agreement between AT&T and Time Warner set to complete this year.
Back in November of 2016, it was revealed that part of the thinking behind that merger was to integrate the huge mass of data from AT&T’s networks with Time Warner’s wide net to create a much more trackable and data-centric way to push marketing messages to viewers.
Just to be clear, this is not what Comcast and Charter are currently proposing. But it makes a person wonder if it sort of is. The prices for their unlimited mobile offerings are set the way they are, in part, because their consumer base will automatically connect to Wi-Fi hotspots as much as possible instead of sucking up expensive 4G signals from their host network. But, by comparison, the Xfinity Mobile unlimited offering is irresistibly cheap. Even at $65 per line, it’s a solid $15 cheaper than Verizon’s own $80 unlimited plan, and at $45, it’s nearly half the cost.
We may well be fully entering the era of data-enhanced cable television, without the sinister-sounding overtones. By each launching an independent cellular network, rather than forming one together or one simply marrying into the existing cellular families, it may be more about what’s not being said. Why it’s not being said may have something to do with scaring customers away from what essentially becomes “smart cable” before it’s fully developed and implemented.
What All of This Means to Marketers
Comcast-Charter should be on your watchlist for marketing products and services to their subscribers.
Even if the company doesn’t follow AT&T-Time Warner after all, there’s something more going on there than a simple joint, but not-too-joint, venture would imply. Data-enhanced cable commercials could be enormous game-changers when it comes to marketing to television viewers, since you’d literally be able to deliver two different spots to different segments during the same program without either being the wiser.
Improving efficiency in message delivery means lower costs and better results, something every business can appreciate.