ntl chief ready for 'quadruple play' challenge

NTL logo

The chief executive of ntl, Stephen Burch, claims he is undaunted by the prospect of creating the UK's first 'quadruple play' provider.

And in an interview with the Financial Times, Burch greeted the challenge of offering the country's first bundles of digital television and broadband with mobile and landline telecoms simply by asking: "So what?"

"We multi-task," he told the newspaper. "We're not a single entity where all we are is a television business or a broadband business or a telecoms business. This is not as difficult as it seems."

Burch also stressed to the FT his belief that content will be the decisive factor in the battle between providers of converged entertainment and telecoms offerings.

The article quotes him as saying: "I'm very pro-content", and he added that video-on-demand (VOD) services hope to bring ntl closer to seriously challenging broadcast rival BSkyB.

VOD, said Burch, will be strong customer-retention tool "when people understand it better", and ntl intends to exploit its possibilities.

He also said that while he believes Sky, the UK's dominant pay-television provider, has better film rights, they are not immutable and could be challenged. "I don't think the movie offering on Sky is as robust as it could be," he said.

In his first interview since taking over as ntl chief executive, former Comcast executive Burch acknowledged that there is room for his company to expand beyond traditional television programming and into content for mobile phones and broadband.

He told the FT: "The good news is that everybody's a smaller player right now, and our pipeline gives us more opportunities".

He also hoped that the merger with Telewest would cause the two cable group's reputations to be forgotten by "no later than next year". They will be replaced by a new, as-yet-unconfirmed brand name: "Virgin something".

"My message to the people in this company is we are no longer going to be an unloved company," Burch said to the FT, only a week after ntl chief operating officer Neil Berkett threw down the gauntlet to competitors in MediaGuardian, promising "the most compelling applications and the most compelling content".

Lovelace Consulting  |  04.07.2006

Previous story  |  Next story