09/24/2013 11:55 am ET Updated Nov 24, 2013

Innovating for TV and the Internet: Is This What Consumers Want?

High speed Internet. Multi-room DVRs. Movies. OnDemand. Cloud storage. Sports packages. Five hundred channels. When it comes to digital TV and Internet services, today's consumers have a dizzying array of features and options. But what do consumers and small business owners really want from their Internet and digital TV providers?

For consumers, control and flexibility are key -- especially when it comes to their digital TV service. They want to choose what they watch and when and how they watch it, whether that means using OnDemand to stream movies, watching prime time shows at 5 a.m., or storing an entire season of a show on their DVR. They want their Internet speed to be fast and reliable. And if something goes wrong, they want their providers' website and customer service representatives to help them quickly and easily solve the problem.

Cost-conscious small business owners, however, care more about the value these services can bring to their business -- and how much they will cost. They are keenly interested in selecting their own services and features to fit their business needs as a way to be more cost efficient, rather than relying on pre-configured "bundles," and they want their providers to help them review those choices periodically to make sure they're getting the most value for their money. Unlike consumers, they see Internet service as much more important than digital TV, as the Internet is often a vital function of their business. That also means that they want 24/7 customer service, including a phone line, so their business doesn't suffer due to a service outage.

Though their priorities are different, both consumers and small businesses represent fresh opportunities for providers. Improved website design and navigability and proactive customer service are highly appealing to both segments. Both groups lack full understanding of high-speed Internet options and cloud storage, so providers have an opportunity to promote those services through education. And both segments want more flexibility and control, so providers could appeal to this desire by offering the chance to customize packages while continuing to promote on demand-style features for consumers. Both consumers and businesses want choice, but they want it delivered in a manner that makes it personal and accessible to them.

What does this mean to your company?

  1. Cost consciousness is quite prevalent for small business owners/managers.
  2. There is an opportunity for features "bundles" to include more than just features, but also add value-added services to small businesses, such as quarterly account reviews.
  3. Offering a package that small business managers or owners can select themselves is appealing.
  4. Adding a "call" feature to the 24/7 service offer addresses their perceived "helplessness" of not being able to do anything about an Internet problem if their service is down.
  5. Small business customers are looking for more and faster storage solutions.

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