Mark Ritson on branding: Media brands must diversify or die

What a week it has been for weird technology stories. It was hard to turn a page without being confronted by major developments. BT announced a £100m investment in BT Vision. Eventually it hopes that 30m people will tune into its broadband TV service, which will include Freeview channels, on-demand movies and Premiership football.

BSkyB has extended the trial of a US system that allows it to beam programmes directly to viewers' mobile phones. The technology, being tested in Manchester, could allow it to transmit 30 streaming channels of high-quality video across the UK.

Meanwhile, Britain's five mobile networks recently wrote to Ofcom seeking approval to form a consortium to create a single national mobile TV network. The group hopes to use channel 36, the part of the spectrum that is currently reserved for air-traffic control, for the broadcasts.

Finally, a story broke that Apple is likely to introduce two iPhones in the first quarter of 2007, possibly as early as January - one model a hybrid version of its current iPod Nano, the other including a touchscreen and keyboard to enable internet access.

TV broadcasters are becoming mobile operators; mobile operators and phone companies are becoming TV broadcasters. What on earth is going on?

The answer is convergence. For years, geeks and IT consultants have been fantasising - and blogging - about a fabled moment when all the technology categories would merge. Rather than use a camera, PDA, MP3 player, phone, TV and PC to take pictures, access the internet, TV, cable, music and email and make calls, a single device allows you to access everything. It seems 2007 will become the year in which convergence crosses from geek concept to customer reality - and marketers will be right in the middle of it.

Imagine if the FA Premiership, rugby's Heineken Cup, Netball UK Challenge Cup and Henley Regatta were suddenly merged into a single competition. It would not take long for some of the competing teams to disappear through an inability to compete on all fronts.

This is exactly what will happen with convergence: specialist brands that are incapable of diversifying gradually disappear or diminish. Farewell, therefore, to Psion, JVC, Canon, Blockbuster and ITV.

Next, our sporting super-league would witness co-operative gestures between some unlikely partners. Manchester United and Cambridge University would merge, for example. This is what we are seeing across the pre-convergence landscape. Sony and Ericsson already joined forces; Apple is in talks with Disney; BSkyB and Google have signed a deal. The whispers about a merger between BT and Vodafone continue to grow.

Consumers are lazy. They will usually prefer one brand to two, especially in the complex world of electronic media. Get ready for some intriguing match-offs as brands that have never done battle before suddenly find themselves head to head.

Five years ago Nokia just had to trounce Siemens and Motorola to deliver double-digit growth. Now it has to face Apple, Fox and Google. BT has the customer relationships. Apple has the coolest brand. BSkyB has the content and deep pockets. Microsoft is, well, Microsoft. Any of them could emerge triumphant in a market that promises untold profits to the victor.

So grab your popcorn and tune in via your current device of choice. This showdown will make the cola wars look like a game of Scrabble.


- Launched last week, BT's IPTV service promises the existing Freeview TV and digital radio channels plus a variety of on-demand content and seven-day catch-up viewing. However, some of the extended services it has been promoting are not yet available.

- BT has struck content deals with a number of big-name distributors, including DreamWorks, Sony BMG, Universal, Warner Bros, Disney and Paramount.

- BT Vision Sport will, from next season, show full FA Premiership matches 'near live', sharing the rights with BSkyB. It will also be carrying Setanta Sports from next summer, adding 46 live Premiership matches to its line-up.

- The BT Vision set-top box, which it calls the V-Box, is similar to the Sky+ box; users can pause and rewind live TV, and its digital recording facility allows the user to record up to 80 hours of Freeview programming.


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Oasis #springasmile digital campaign gets people doing good deeds
Coca-Cola: 'Don't approach bloggers with a fait accompli'
Tesco CMO Matt Atkinson: 'It is so important not to stereotype mothers'
McDonald's gives Ronald a new look ahead of global 'Fun times' social media push
In pictures: BrewDog opens first craft beer shop BottleDog for 'beer aficionados'
Facebook ad revenue leaps $1bn as it invests in targeting
Malteser or Maltesers? Mars takes Hershey trademark dispute to court
Apple Q2 profits top $10bn as iPhone sales soar
Lynx tells men not to leave love to fate
HBO captures awkwardness of watching sex scenes with parents
Primark to open first US stores with Boston chosen as flagship location
Marketing spend on the up but a reality check is needed before celebrating
Top 10 ads of the week: Jackpotjoy and BT Broadband fend off Kevin Bacon
Lidl beats Tesco to 10m Facebook fans
Center Parcs ad banned for encouraging parents to take kids out of school
Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Amazon named top brands for targeting youth market
Leaked document shows Nokia to be rebranded as Microsoft Mobile
Nike lays-off hardware staff in move that casts doubt on future of FuelBand
Greenpeace says save the bees or humans will die
What brands need to know about changes to VAT and online downloads in 2015
Jimmy Savile victims urged to claim compensation in new ad campaign
UKIP launches biggest  ad campaign and stirs up 'racist' accusations
Apple boss Tim Cook provides voiceover on ad touting firm's renewed green commitments
John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers