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April 18, 2015
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BT force Obi-Wan Kenobi to star in TV advert wars

Former Jedi Knight Ewan McGregor is to star in a new ad campaign for BT TV. 

The Star Wars, Trainspotting and Moulin Rouge star has signed on to feature in a number of fourth wall-breaking TV spots for the broadcaster, which will poke fun at the process of putting together large advertising campaigns. 

As the campaign unfolds over the coming weeks, McGregor will be joined by other famous faces from the movies and some well-known sportsmen too, including Arsenal winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Manchester United’s Robin Van Persie, who are regular guests on BT Sport shows

BT’s consumer marketing director David James (not that David James) said “BT has an extremely attractive TV and Broadband offer for consumers and we wanted to introduce these to the public, in an entertaining and unique way. 

Premier League TV rights 2016-19: What games have Sky and BT got?“After all, it is not often that you see Ewan McGregor hanging out with footballers Robin Van Persie and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, along with a group of zombies and Vikings. We have stuck with the humorous nature of our previous marketing campaigns which have proved so popular.”

This celebrity-led charm offensive comes as the 2014-15 Premier League season comes to a close, and BT Sport limbers up for the future. The UK’s biggest ISP has secured live broadcast rights for 42 Premier League games over the next three seasons. Hiring Obi-Wan Kenobi himself can’t have come cheap, but after lashing out £960 million on said rights, its clear that BT is prepared to go toe to toe with Sky’s pay TV empire. 

Rivals Sky outspent BT to secure rights to a further 126 matches for the next three seasons. Determined not to suffer the same fate as Setanta Sports, BT has also secured rights to live UEFA Europa League, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, SPL and Primeira Liga matches as well as Seria A football. 

BT Sport channels are available to all BT TV customers, while BT Broadband and BT Mobile customers can watch live streams online or on iOS and Android devices for no extra cost.

Sky TV customers can get the BT Sport channels – BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2 and ESPN – in standard definition for free if they take BT Broadband. The same channels are also available in HD for an extra £3/month. 

Alternatively, Sky TV customers without BT Broadband can subscribe to BT Sport directly, paing £12/month for the SD channels or £15/month for the HD channels.  

Virgin TV customers can also get BT Sport in HD for £15/month. A standalone BT Sport SD package isn’t currently available to Virgin TV customers. 

 

April 18, 2015
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GM counting on high-speed Internet services in car to drive profits

DETROIT – Buyers of General Motors Co vehicles will increasingly be able to use in-car mobile broadband systems to book hotel rooms, cut deals on driver insurance, pay for data usage and conduct a host of other transactions.

And each time they do, GM will get a small cut from the seller.

When the automaker began offering 4G LTE high-speed wireless connections in some cars last year, it wasn’t clear how it would generate revenue to offset the costs of the hardware. Now, as the company prepares to expand the technology to most of its 2016 U.S. models, GM is lifting the curtain on its digital business strategy.

   During a recent investor presentation, company executives put a number on their 4G expectations for the first time, saying they expect to reap at least $350 million in improved profits over the next three years from adding the OnStar 4G systems to its cars.

    GM is the first automaker to reveal its projections, but it is not alone in chasing digital profits. Its wireless partner ATT works with seven other carmakers, including BMW, Nissan Motor and Audi, which was first to offer 4G connections in a car in late 2013. As in-car broadband usage grows, GM’s estimates could turn out to be conservative, some analysts say, since the potential for revenues from in-car broadband connections are still being developed.

Taking a cut of e-commerce transactions conducted on in-car systems is one obvious revenue generator, but automakers also expect that software upgrades pushed through a broadband connection will one day save them hundreds of dollars per car in repair costs. And they are looking at developing other features as well, such as automatic order placement when a car approaches its driver’s favorite coffee shop or fast-food outlet.

IHS analyst Mark Boyadjis estimates GM could add about $439 million in profits from 4G over the next three years. And that figure doesn’t include lower warranty costs related to services driven by high-speed connections, a number that by itself could dwarf that estimate, he said.

    By the end of 2020, Gartner analyst Thilo Koslowski expects as much as 80 percent of all new vehicles will be sold with connectivity and automakers will make a tenth of their revenue from these services.

    GM and the rest of the auto industry want to avoid ceding control of revenue or customer allegiance to companies like Google and Apple.

    All major automakers are investing heavily in hardware and software to connect drivers to the mobile web. But it hasn’t been clear how the manufacturers would generate revenue from their connected cars, or how that money would be divvied up.

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April 18, 2015
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Verizon Offers More Flexible FiOS TV Packages Starting At $55 A Month

Verizon FiOS TV

Verizon’s new FiOS TV packages gives consumers more options on which channels to pay for. The packages can also come bundled with a broadband connection and phone service.
(Photo : Verizon)

Verizon Communications is now offering more flexible TV packages under its FiOS service that allows customers to pay only for certain groups of channels that they want to access.

Beginning on April 19, customers will now be able to purchase a slim package composed of channels which includes Fox, ABC, AMC, CNN, Food Network, and a few others. Customers can then choose to add “channel packs” which cover various genres, including kids, sports, lifestyle and pop culture.

The cheapest plan under the new FiOS TV scheme will only cost a monthly fee of $55, including a pair of channel packs. For every additional channel pack, which could include between 10 channels to 17 channels, customers will have to pay a monthly fee of $10. Customers will also be able to change channel packs after every 30 days.

“Customers want flexibility to turn channels on and turn channels off,” said Verizon FiOS President Tami Erwin.

Verizon’s new FiOS TV package comes as distributors of pay TV services receive increasing pressure to provide consumers with more choices in how they purchase TV content, instead of forcing them to pay for a huge number of channels that include many ones that the customers do not watch.

Erwin, citing a 2014 report by Nielsen, stated that by 2013, Americans had been receiving an increased number of channels by 46 percent over the previous five years to an average of 189 channels. However, Americans on average only watch 17 channels.

The figures explain why consumers are increasingly discontinuing their pay TV services and are instead looking to online service such as Hulu and Netflix, where customers only pay for the content that they access.

Sling TV, Dish Network’s streaming service, allows customers to choose the tiers of channels available to them in addition to a core package worth $20 monthly. Apple is also reportedly looking to offer a TV service in the fall.

Pay TV distributors have been trying to slim down their offerings to address the needs of cost-conscious consumers. The latest move of Verizon is not entirely a la carte pricing, wherein customers can choose exactly which channels they pay for, but it could come the closest for now.

Consumer groups and lawmakers have been clamoring for a la carte pricing on channels for years, but executives from media companies claim that such a model would only cause the downfall of the industry and would turn out to be worse for the consumers.

“While this is not all-the-way a la carte, customers have the ability to consolidate and collapse the kind of content they want to view,” said Erwin, adding that channels on a la carte pricing would be more expensive compared to purchasing channels in packages.

Verizon also offers bundles for FiOS TV and Internet, with the $75 per month plan packaging the FiOS TV’s base package and two channel packs with a 50 Mbps broadband Internet connection. For $10 more, a phone service is added.

April 18, 2015
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Telefonica finalises £10bn sale of O2 mobile phone firm

O2 store

Telefonica has finalised a deal to sell its O2 mobile phone network to Hutchison Whampoa for £10.25bn.

The companies said they had reached a “definitive agreement” on a deal, which will create the UK’s biggest mobile operator.

Hutchison, run by Hong Kong businessman Li Ka-shing, owns the Three mobile network, the UK’s smallest operator.

The completion of the deal is subject to regulatory approval that could take up to a year and could face hurdles.

Combining O2 and Three would cut the number of major mobile operators in the UK from four to three.

The combined company would leapfrog EE, which has a 29% market share, to give it 41%.

O2 said the tie-up would create the UK’s “most customer-centric mobile operator” and give customers greater value, quality and innovation.

April 18, 2015
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Nokia to buy Alcatel-Lucent for $16.5B in deal that unites fixed, mobile …

Nokia has said it has entered into a memorandum of understanding to acquire Alcatel-Lucent in a deal that would value the French telecommunications equipment maker at $16.5 billion.

The Finnish company is also considering a possible divestment from its Here mapping and navigation business.

On Tuesday, Nokia said it was in talks for a merger with Alcatel-Lucent. Under the all-share deal announced Wednesday, Nokia will make an offer for all of the equity securities issued by Alcatel-Lucent, through a public exchange offer in France and the U.S., on the basis of 0.55 of a new Nokia share for every Alcatel-Lucent share.

After the transaction, Nokia shareholders will hold 66.5 percent of the equity of the combined company, while Alcatel-Lucent investors will hold 33.5 percent.

The combined company will be called Nokia Corporation and have its headquarters in Finland and a strong presence in France, which will have some key business locations and research and development centers. Current Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri is expected to continue in this position in the combined company, while Risto Siilasmaa, current chairman at Nokia, will also remain in the post. The boards of both companies have agreed on the merger, which is expected to be completed by the first half of next year.

Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia have complementary portfolios and geographies, with strengths in the U.S., China, Europe and Asia-Pacific, the companies said. The new entity hopes to combine the best of fixed and mobile broadband, IP routing, core networks, cloud applications and services. The business is expected to operate under the Nokia brand, while retaining Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs brand for its networks-focused innovation activities.

The expanded company had net sales of nearly €26 billion in fiscal year 2014, giving it the scale after the merger to better compete with top-tier players Huawei Technologies and Ericsson.

A deal would combine Nokia’s focus on the mobile equipment business with Alcatel-Lucent’s business in fixed networks, which would be an advantage as mobile and fixed networks become increasingly integrated, research firm Ovum said Tuesday, after the companies announced talks. There are, however, overlaps in the companies’ product lines in areas such as mobile broadband and small cells, said Mark Newman, chief research officer at Ovum’s telecoms research business.

Keeping two parallel product lines and servicing customers would counteract the benefits of increased scale, but attempts at rationalization would be difficult, and dealing with French labor laws could place limitations on what Nokia can achieve in this area, Newman said.