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The Transformational AT&T, DirecTV Merger

AT&T’s acquisition of DirecTV is more than a merger — it is a transformational event that could change the entire television space. It has the potential to create such intense competition that it very well could transform the entire television space — meaning cable TV, satellite TV and IPTV — and blend it with wireless.

It means more choice and more innovation. Remember what AT&T did with Apple’s iPhone a few short years ago? Those two companies’ collaboration transformed the entire wireless industry. Previous leaders like BlackBerry and Nokia were crushed overnight as the new smartphone world was created.

The AT&T and DirecTV combo could have even greater potential. In the case of its partnership with Apple, AT&T lost its exclusive right to distribute the iPhone after a few years.

Cable television is at risk. It is a tired industry. It needs a refresh. It started losing market share a few years ago to new competitors like AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS and CenturyLink Prism.

However, those competitors’ footprints are regional, not national. AT&T’s merger with DirecTV gives it a national footprint. That’s what makes this deal so good for customers, the marketplace and AT&T.

Cable television companies have started to modernize and to improve their relationships with their customers. Comcast has introduced Xfinity, for example.

Benefits of U-verse Now on DirecTV

For the last several years, I have been warning the cable television industry that this new wave was coming. However, it ignored the coming threat. It can ignore it no longer — now that AT&T and DirecTV are one, the transformation has begun.

Just a week after the ink dried, DirecTV made its first announcement as part of AT&T. It is offering customers the opportunity to blend their DirecTV and AT&T Mobility wireless services. That means customers will be able to watch television at home on their TV, or out and about on their smartphone, tablet or computer.

DirecTV’s offer expands the benefits of AT&T U-verse to a nationwide marketplace.

AT&T customers now have a choice. They can choose IPTV through U-verse or satellite service through DirecTV. They can also view their programming selections over the wireless network.

This is big news for DirecTV customers and those who like the idea, but not the limits. There are no more limits — and this change is just the beginning. Based on what we know about the way AT&T operates, we can expect more.

The Transformation Is Under Way

That’s what we have to look forward to, thanks to the AT&T, DirecTV merger. Having followed AT&T as an industry analyst for the last few decades, I fully expect it will continue to roll out new announcements and innovations, and transform the entire television space.

This is not only a growth opportunity for AT&T and innovation for television customers, but also a move that will turn up the heat in the entire competitive landscape. Perhaps we will see yesterday’s leaders — like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter and Cox — add fuel to the competitive fire. I hope so.

I don’t want to see anyone fail. In fact, I want to see all competitors thrive. I think the AT&T, DirecTV deal is the transformational event that will change the entire industry. It could be just the kick in the butt all the other competitors need. We can only hope.

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a wireless analyst, telecom analyst, industry analyst, consultant and speaker who has been sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry for 25 years. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com.

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CRM Buyer Channels

CloudShare, HubSpot Integration Offers Clearer Vision of Product Engagement

Marketers and retailers can now more easily monitor customer engagement directly from HubSpot’s CRM business platform.

Software-as-a-service firm CloudShare on Tuesday announced the integration of its product experience platform with HubSpot. This integration lets business-to-business software marketers access data on product competency and engagement of their customers.

B2B software marketers need visibility into how customers and prospects interact with their products so they can improve product experiences. The integration enhances the streamlining of operations, improves marketing opportunities, and reduces the risk of customer churn.

For example, by monitoring the extent to which a prospect is engaged during a product proof of concept or product training, marketers can proactively address concerns and respond to opportunities.

“Everyone is talking about delivering the right content to prospects during the sales cycle, not just when they move from MQL to SQL. This integration is an opportunity to make that happen,” Jeremy Davis, product marketing manager at CloudShare, told CRM Buyer.

This integration benefits both CloudShare and HubSpot by freeing both products’ users from having to deal with siloed data, he explained.

The combination of platforms improves what other CRM systems provide by enabling marketing or sales ops teams to create automation and reporting to give everyone a clearer picture of the sales cycle and more insights into the prospect journey, Davis said.

POC Measurement

CloudShare also recently enhanced the analytics capabilities in its platform to expose in-class participation rates and drop-off rates of those who participated in proof of concept (POCs) — and for how long. This allows software organizations to measure POCs and customer training return on investment effectively.

The integration with HubSpot is the latest in a series of product releases from CloudShare aimed at improving product engagement and experience. Earlier this year, the company announced an integration with Salesforce, as well as in-app video conferencing and multi-instructor functionality.

CloudShare collects data on product participation during POCs and training sessions. Now accessible from HubSpot, CloudShare’s data allows marketers to monitor product engagement levels directly from their HubSpot platform.

This cross-departmental collaboration streamlines the management of a customer’s journey, from sales to onboarding and training.

Now CloudShare and HubSpot users will be able to complete their prospects’ journeys. Previously, marketers and sales teams were working through an inefficient workflow, with each working separately to close deals, according to Davis.

“With this integration, CloudShare and HubSpot users can build a seamless process to give prospects valuable touch points throughout the sales cycle, helping to close more deals, faster. The old bickering between marketing and sales around prospects can be put to rest,” he asserted.

Integration Strategy

CloudShare’s virtual experiences are replicated in the cloud and purpose-built to generate user engagement. The result impacts key business metrics such as repeat purchase rates, lower support costs, higher win rates, faster sales cycle, and more.

“CloudShare is dedicated to doing everything possible to help its customers reduce costs and save on resources, especially in times of recession,” said Muly Gotlieb, chief technology officer at CloudShare, in a company press release.

“Our integration with HubSpot is a part of this strategy: Enrich your CRM with crucial data on how engaged your prospects and customers are with your product, and you will more quickly be able to derive conclusions about your sales and training operations, allowing immediate corrective actions to optimize your POCs, close more deals, and make sure your customers are fully competent on your products to raise customer retention, which is more crucial today than ever before,” he enumerated further in the CloudShare news release. 

The platform partnership came as the result of CloudShare users seeing the impact that CloudShare POCs have had on their prospects. They were looking for ways to improve their sales cycles even further. They asked for native integration to improve their workflow, offered Davis.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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Walmart Announces Merchandise Hub for Netflix

Walmart and Netflix are teaming up to sell merchandise pegged to the streaming media provider’s content.

“Through this new partnership, Walmart will not only offer products that bring the imagination of Netflix creators into reality, but Walmart customers and Netflix superfans will also find a new, exciting entertainment destination,” Walmart Executive Vice President Jeff Evans wrote in a news release Monday.

“The Netflix Hub brings together some of its most popular shows in its first digital storefront with a national retailer,” he added.

Merchandise will be tied to such shows as “Stranger Things,” “Nailed It!,” “CoComelon” and “Ada Twist, Scientist.”

Among the items offered when the Hub opens this fall are the Ada Twist Cuddle Plush ($10.97), “Squid Game” t-shirts, the “Stranger Things” Bluetooth cassette player ($64.88) and the Witcher Netflix Transformed Geralt Dark Horse Collectible Statue ($59.88).

Evans also noted the Hub will also offer a feature called Netflix Fan Select. It offers fans of Netflix shows an opportunity to vote for merchandise they’d like to see from the service’s stable of favorites.

Competing With Amazon

The new partnership will have benefits for both Walmart and Netflix.

Walmart wants to compete with Amazon, and part of that competition includes streaming services, maintained Ross Rubin, the principal analyst with Reticle Research, a consumer technology advisory firm in New York City.

“A partnership with Netflix could be used for further collaboration. Walmart might start offering select content from Netflix, for example,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“There’s a lot of ways it could work without Walmart offering the full-blown Netflix service,” he added.

Zain Akbari, the equity analyst for Walmart at Morningstar, an investment research company in Chicago, noted that the partnership allows the retailer to capitalize on media-linked commerce without making the kind of investment Amazon made to do it.

Although Walmart sold its Vudu streaming service in 2020, its interest in interactive and shoppable media remains, he explained.

“From its standpoint a deal like this allows Walmart to focus on what it does best while leaving the content side of the equation to an established leading player,” Akbari told the E-Commerce Times. “Ultimately, it’s another avenue by which Walmart can expand its building e-commerce footprint.”

Good Business Move

“Allying itself with one of the two streaming market leaders — Netflix and YouTube both capture about six percent of total TV time — makes good business sense for Walmart,” added Charles King, the principal analyst at Pund-IT, a technology advisory firm in Hayward, Calif.

“The new storefront should please the company’s existing clients and attract new customers, and also provide a point of competitive differentiation from Amazon,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Having exclusivity on products from Netflix’s hit shows is another benefit of its new partnership.

“Squid Game is a perfect example,” noted Michael Inouye, a principal analyst atABI Research.

“You can imagine what the opportunity would look like if this partnership was already in place and Walmart was the only place for official Squid Game Halloween costumes,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

He added that there is a lot of value but also a lot of cost in original programming, but to date, no one has done as well as Netflix with it.

“This allows Walmart to generate some of the same benefits to their core operations of an in-house streaming service without having to make those investments in original content,” he said.

Bricks and Mortar Prize

Netflix, too, benefits from the new arrangement.

“Walmart’s massive size and geographic reach make it a great partner for Netflix to reach shoppers,” King observed. “The new store should help drive sales during the upcoming holiday shopping season.”

“Netflix has tried for a while to monetize its content other ways. Selling merchandise is one of them,” added Morningstar Netflix equity analyst Neil Macker.

“Netflix is not an e-commerce company,” he continued. “It’s a streaming company. It has a different business model than a pure e-commerce company. By working with Walmart, they can get help with building a site, fulfillment, shipping and things like that.”

Netflix is also looking to diversify beyond subscriptions for its streaming service.

“It’s already announced its movement into games,” Rubin noted. “This is a way to take a page from Disney’s playbook.”

“Disney is very skilled at driving merchandise from characters in its franchises,” he continued. “Walmart offers a strong retail presence from which Netflix could potentially build that and realize more revenue from its original content and franchises.”

Netflix may also be looking beyond online involvement with Walmart.

“If Netflix could get into Walmart’s brick and mortar stores, that would be the bigger prize for Netflix,” he said. “To have a section of the stores promoting its properties would be a big win for Netflix.”

Crucial Channel

Inouye believes that in time, Walmart will become a crucial distribution channel for Netflix.

“Since many of Netflix’s shows are launched all at once — although there are a growing number that launch on a timed schedule — it can be extra challenging for Netflix to keep excitement up around a TV series when the next launch may be more than a year away,” he explained.

“Having merchandise and content to keep fans invested and engaged in this popular IP is massive for Netflix,” he said.

Creating original content can be a hit or miss proposition, he noted. Selling merchandise can help offset the cost of the misses.

Like Disney, Netflix would like to leverage its IP well beyond the video content itself, he maintained.

“Netflix is still in its early days here,” he said, “but it is starting to expand into new territories and opportunities and the Walmart deal could become a key piece to that strategy.”

“This is particularly critical in those markets, like North America, where future subscription growth is limited,” Inouye added.

“In these more mature markets revenue growth has to come from price increases or these alternate channels,” he continued. “The latter allows them to keep engagement higher, bring additional revenue, while ideally slowing the rate of subscription price hikes, which helps maintain — and slowly grow — the installed base.”

“Other content companies have looked to marketing and selling merchandise to bring additional revenue by capitalizing on hot IP — Rovio for example has done this with its “Angry Birds” IP — but with Netflix, this could be on another scale,” he concluded.

John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government Security News. Email John.

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