Caring: Stanley Wright, president and CEO of WOW, says his company has been working with customers during this difficult economic period. *Photo by Don Burgess
Caring: Stanley Wright, president and CEO of WOW, says his company has been working with customers during this difficult economic period. *Photo by Don Burgess

Telecom reform affects every resident. TVs, phones, and Internet are all products that are used every day.

In his third in a series of interview with companies operating under the new one-licence system, Don Burgess spoke with Stanley Wright, president and CEO, of WOW. 


 

What should people know about WOW?

We’re very focused about our customer, particularly during this period with the economic difficulty a lot of people are facing. We’ve been working with our customers to make sure they can afford the product that we’re offering them. If they run into a challenge, we encourage them to come in to talk with us. We’re not just the typical company who is interested in getting paid — yes, we do want to get paid — but we want to work with customers through this difficult period to ensure that we can keep them as a customer and give them the ability to pay what they are able to do in a time frame and a pace that is good for them. 

What are WOW’s strengths in the new Telecom Reform era?

We have a product that is in demand. There are just two players in the market (WOW and Bermuda CableVision). As the reforms continue to take hold we’re going to see some consolidation in the market, but one of the areas that is going to be in demand is the bundled television. The strengths we bring to the market is that we have always focused on delivering a product that is in demand by our customers. They provide us with feedback and based on that feedback, providing we can get rights, is to provide the programming that is being requested. We don’t have the biggest product in the market, but at the same time we have a product that is popular with our customers. We don’t think bigger is necessarily better in terms of what people are looking for and that’s been our approach. 

What new services might you be offering soon?

We’re looking at being able to provide a triple play solution. It’s a bit early to get into specifics, but we are working on it. We’ve started testing some aspects of it, but we’re hoping in a relatively short time frame we’ll be able to make a public announcement as to what we’re actually doing. We can’t sit down, we obviously have to do something?

Is this something you feel compelled to do under the one licensing system?

The danger to not doing it right now or we will lose customers. We know others are out there pursuing television, some of them are finding it’s not as simple as they think it is. What we’re looking to do is partner rather than do it ourselves. Based on the way it’s going right now, we feel the need for a very nice complete package for the home at reasonable pricing.

What advantages do you feel you have over CableVision?

We believe there are several. We certainly believe the customer side of our equation is better. CableVision has picked up its game, but we listen to our customers and try to work with them. Comments that come in from our customers, let us know how well they are being treated. We do have customers who take time out to congratulate us on our level of service. 

The other area we feel we have a real advantage is that we’re wireless. We’re not overly dependent upon a whole lot of infrastructure. We are able to deliver service fairly quickly in most areas — there are a few dead spots on the island. We feel our reliability is greater particularly if a pole fall downs or something happens like the wire gets pulled off a pole, it can affect a large number of customers. That happened in particular during the hurricane season. People can be without service for quite a while. Knock on wood we’ve never lost service during a hurricane. Our customers continue to receive service if they have electricity in their home. 

In listening to your customers, how does that affect your channel lineup?

It has helped our product evolve. One example that affects our customers is as of August 1st we can no longer show Starz or Encore. Those are channels that have to be taken off and we have to find replacements. We’ll look at our requests for channels. We’re then able to replace those channels fairly easily because we already have the rights. The channels we’re filling it with are coming from the list the customer wants. If a customer asks for a particular type of channel we’ll try to get it.

How easy is it to sign agreements to get those rights?

Getting agreements is not the easiest thing in the world to achieve, particularly for Bermuda because in some cases we have rights that are North American based. Most of our programming rights are actually Latin American and Caribbean based. n

Because of the mix of our population, that doesn’t necessarily covers what the customer is looking for in all cases. Some of the Latin American programming does not carry certain events that takes place in North America. Sports is a big, big thing so it is imperative that we provide the NBA, baseball and others.

Are you going to have the new Fox Sports Channel?

Yes. It’s going to replace an existing channel so it’s basically going to be a swap. One of the issues we’re investigating is Fox has lost a lot of rights to soccer games, which has been picked up by NBC. We’re looking to see how we have to adjust to it, if we have to adjust to it. It will depend if the channels we have will cover those games as soccer — as you can imagine — is huge here. If we’re not showing soccer, we’re in trouble.

What are you most popular channels?

We’ve done some surveys but the return is very small so it’s a bit difficult to tell. If we change a channel, we will get calls. It doesn’t matter what channel it is. The local channels are quite popular, particularly for news. The religious channels are very popular, the premium channels are popular as are the sports channels.

What other ways do you receive feedback from customers?

We’ve just redone our website, which has a lot more information on it. We have a Facebook presence and we’re trying to increase the number of likes so we can hopefully get a lot more feedback from customers on programming. We’re going to be running some promotions and competitions. I believe customers are more likely to give feedback through there than through a paper survey.

The major players have remedies they have to address before offering new products. How important is it for companies like WOW to get a foothold somewhere?

We obviously think it’s important. We’re not independent on that view. We’re a small company in all sense of the word. We estimate we have about 12 to 13 per cent of the TV market, which is still very small. We only have nine employees, but we think we have a niche in the marketplace and we have an important role to play in the marketplace in being able to provide an alternative. It is important that all the big guys aren’t in there pushing out players who could be very important. In the long run I don’t think that’s healthy for the consumer.