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Tuesday, 25 June 2019 17:32

'You've got to give the people what they want'

'You've got to give the people what they want' freezelight (see below for full credit)

Those words were a catchphrase of UK comedian Lenny Henry when he co-hosted a cult TV show back in the 1970s, and they are still true today.

As you could probably tell from my report, Telstra's revamped line-up of consumer and small business plans left me unimpressed.

Having given the matter further thought, I reckon I've figured out the underlying problem – and it's one that affects Telstra-related Foxtel too.

Imagine you wanted to buy your morning coffee, so you went into the Telstra Cafe.

Assistant: "Coffee, sir? Certainly – that'll be $12 with a muffin, or $16 with an egg and bacon roll."

You: "No, just coffee please."

Assistant: "Oh no, sir – you can't buy just what you want, you have to buy one of the packages we offer."

You: "I've already had breakfast, I just want coffee."

Assistant: "Well then, I suggest you buy the coffee and muffin, and don't eat the muffin."

How many people would put up with that?

Monty Python's Spam sketch comes to mind.

It doesn't matter how often you tell Telstra or Foxtel "I don't want any Spam," they don't listen.

Fixed line Internet without a phone service? "Voice + Internet doesn't have very much phone service in it," they presumably reply.

Mobile phone service without the sport? No, you can't have that from Telstra either.

It's much the same at Foxtel, though that's nothing new.

The company recently dropped most of what remained of its soccer coverage (leaving just the US MLS), and that meant the only remaining sport that interested my family was the cycling on Eurosport, but we weren't going to pay $29 a month for that.

We would have paid $5 for Eurosport only, but that's not an option, so we cancelled the sport package entirely. With any luck, Eurosport will end its relationship with Foxtel, and we'll be able to buy a direct subscription to its streaming service.

Before you ask, yes, we have looked at Kayo, but the problem with that is that a significant amount of the content we would watch is not available on demand even though it streams live in the middle of the night. That could be a problem with Eurosport too.

Anyway, dropping the Sport pack led us to look more closely about what we were paying for and what we were actually watching, so Entertainment Plus went as well.

And with the reduced number of channels, we reckon we can get by without the monthly printed program guide, so we scratched that from the list.

The money we're no longer paying Foxtel is enough to pay for Optus Sport (regaining the EPL coverage), Netflix AND Stan, if we chose.

So in effect, instead of going to the Foxtel Cafe and paying $12 for the coffee and muffin combo we would be getting our $4 coffee from the Optus Cafe, a $4 muffin from the Netflix Bakery, and a $4 croissant and jam from the Stan Takeaway.

Telstra and Foxtel seem to be stuck in the mindset that customers should be happy to buy whatever they are offered. Yes, I understand the psychology that says too much choice can be a bad thing, but it's easier than ever to shop around and find a supplier that offers what you want.

Yes, exclusive rights are a problem, especially where sport is concerned. But entertainment products are largely substitutable. If we decided to cancel Foxtel's Drama pack as well (in which case we'd probably drop Foxtel completely), I'm sure we could find enough good stuff to watch on Netflix and/or Stan.

Image: freezelight (via Flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0.

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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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