C Spire has always said that the “C” in its name stands for customer, and it is the customer that drove the development of C Spire TV, the country’s first commercial, app-based, live streaming digital TV service. Leading the industry’s passage from set-top boxes toward app-based television, C Spire is the first US operator to use the MobiTV Connect Platform to deliver a fully managed IPTV service of live, local and on-demand programming.
“We knew we weren’t leading the industry with what we had before,” says Bob Sullinger, senior manager for video operations at C Spire. “Once we understood what people were doing in the way they consume TV, we had a light bulb moment.”
Gleaning an opportunity in the growing use of streaming video over devices like laptops, tablets, smartphones and smart TVs, the Ridgeland, Mississippi-based provider opted to leverage the cord-cutting trend. It saw a chance to minimize complexity and capital investment in the home, streamline the installation process and accelerate the pace of innovation. Operating in an app-based ecosystem, the C Spire TV team works in six-week release cycles, enabling it to respond nimbly to customer input.
Much of the customer input, as would be expected, revolved around adapting to the new technology. The company and MobiTV work collaboratively to address the issues that came up.
“C Spire and their management are one of the most innovative, creative groups I’ve ever dealt with. They drove a process that really was leading edge,” says MobiTV CEO Charlie Nooney. “The deployment was not easy because it had never been done before. I give them full credit for having such a creative mindset.
MobiTV continues to work with C Spire, conducting focus groups and collaborating to improve the customer experience. “They are very in tune with their customer base,” Nooney says. “A lot of the feedback we got from C Spire around customer usage we put on our roadmap.”
Not long after the launch of C Spire TV a year ago, the company discovered that some customers were having difficulty adjusting to the new remote, which is a greatly simplified version of the one they were familiar with.
“You’re asking people to move to a remote that basically has north-south-east-west navigation,” says Mark Rigney, svp for IP networks. “We had to work very hard on the actual user interface—how customers are presented the information, how they can navigate it.”
For customers accustomed to a set-top box, the company sought a way to increase the ease of use. Beginning this summer, C Spire TV customers will be able to navigate programming information via Alexa, the voice-activated virtual assistant developed by Amazon. Everything they can do with a remote can be done with the voice navigation app, and more.
Taking another lesson from the customer experience, the C Spire TV team revised the way they approach service installation. While customers may want to hide routers out of sight, burying them in corner closets did not necessarily produce the best results. “When you are providing a service in the home wirelessly, it changes your approach,” he says. “We became more astute about where we place the wireless devices.”
Service call rates have dropped, freeing up resources for product innovation and sales, including a product in the works that is “kind of a cross between Smart Home and Geek Squad,” Sullinger says. “Repeat truck rolls were killing us with our prior product,” Now, instead of having to spend 100 percent of their time trouble-shooting and doing lengthy installs, our technicians now can go and sell other products and services.”
Summing up the new approach, Rigney says, “We’re taking two worlds and putting them together—the old, linear TV service and the app-based environment—and customers are getting the best of both worlds.”
– Caron Carlson
- C Spire Wireless, formerly known as Cellular South, is the nation’s sixth largest wireless provider with approximately 1.2 million customers in Mississippi, Florida and Alabama.
- According to Statista, 60 percent of homes in the US and Canada said they had a retail streaming device or smart TV in their home in 2017.
- C Spire TV “learns” a customer’s viewing preferences. The programs and sports teams a customer likes are put front and center on the guide. Up to 72 hours of previously aired content on most networks can be replayed.