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Emergent challenges and possibilities for Multi-Play snowed under the pandemic

The pandemic has shown the world that humans are not invincible. If we mess with nature, nature is bound to mess back with us. And yet, we continue to engage in the practices that have led us here in the first place.

When people across the globe have been losing jobs and economies have been plummeting, there is another area that has seen both challenges, as well as opportunities- multi-play.

People have been holed up at home ever since the start of the pandemic, and have been consuming media through multi-play service providers, ie, Pay TV, broadband, and broadcasting. With so many people working from home, the demand for broadband is greater than ever.

Multi-play Challenges During The Pandemic

While some people are more glued to their television sets, laptops, and mobile phones than ever, the multi-play industry is facing some of the biggest challenges it has ever seen.

Multi-play Challenges During The Pandemic


With the increase in the adoption of streaming services, households have significantly cut down on Pay TV subscriptions. With the economy plunging and people losing their jobs and livelihoods, according to eMarketer, 46.6 million US households will have no Pay TV subscription by 2024.

Lack of Live Sporting Events

A report by Morningconsult states that  39% of the people who considered canceling their Pay TV subscription cited the reason as sports shutdown.

Sports have always been an integral part of people sitting tight on their couches and binging on popcorn while watching sportspersons battle it out on their television sets. But the pandemic changed that. Sporting events across the world were called off and sports enthusiast lost their motivation for watching TV.

At least 2 out of 5 cord-cutters in the US stated their reason for cancelation as a lack of live sports.

The decrease in Broadband Speeds

Work from home became the new normal during the pandemic. Classes for schools and universities moved online. Almost all meetings started happening virtually. Dates and social gatherings also found their presence online, with social distancing measures in place. Moreover, spending more time at home meant seeking out more entertainment online.

All these factors have put immense pressure on broadband services. The demand is higher than ever, which has resulted in lower speeds, as the available infrastructure was not ready to take on the pandemic.

Home broadband traffic increased by around 20-40 percent during the pandemic, putting service providers under immense pressure to handle all the requests they weren’t equipped to.

Greater Infrastructure Costs

Internet service providers have had to ramp up their infrastructure to be able to accommodate the increased demand for broadband services, resulting in additional costs.

Companies like Cisco have gone so far ahead as to set up a separate work from home aid center to guide users through technical difficulties while accessing the internet, adding to their already growing costs.

Companies like AT&T are providing low-cost internet services for students, taking a hit on their profits, while incurring additional costs to accommodate to provide uninterrupted services to these students.

The pandemic has paved the way for the future, which is largely dependent on broadband services. If service providers don’t up their game by investing more, they may be overtaken by other service providers who are able to scale up faster and more efficiently.

Possibilities for Multi-play During The Pandemic

Challenges are many, but so are the opportunities. If the multi-play companies play their cards well, they could end up benefitting from either one of the many services they provide.

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Greater Number Of Broadband Subscribers

The increasing demand for the internet has put broadband service providers in a dilemma. On the one hand, they are experiencing a very high load on their infrastructure, but at the same time, there is a huge opportunity for them to lock in as many new customers as they can.

The internet age is here to stay. Once the pandemic is over, it’s unlikely that people will go back to their non-internet ways. Customers acquired now will have a high lifetime value, and will be here to stay. Scaling up is the only option if these service providers want to survive in the long run.

Capitalize on News Channels and Channels For Children’s Programs

As per a Nielson study, there was an increase in the average TV viewing time in March 2020, with the highest increase noted for news channels and channels with children’s programs.

If multi-play service providers capitalize on these channels and provide uninterrupted service for these, they may be able to cut their losses despite a fall in the overall PayTV subscriptions. They can try and create affordable packs around these channels that will encourage viewership, despite the economic crisis.

Provide On-Demand Viewing Options

An article by Videomind states that in the US, about one-fifth of users with broadband and Pay TV services have significantly increased their consumption on-demand content. This is especially true with the younger population in the age-group of 18-45.

If multi-play service providers can bank on this opportunity and provide more on-demand content for viewing, more users will avail their services, helping them increase their viewership as well as profits.

In Conclusion

Multi-play services have taken a hit during the pandemic, similar to most other businesses. Job losses have reduced the disposable income of people and the direct result has reflected in their consumption patterns of pay TV.

People who have managed to retain their jobs have been working from home, increasing their need for faster and uninterrupted broadband services. Multi-play providers have had a tough time managing between their different offerings, where the demand for one was plunging while that for the other was increasing.

It’s important to strike a balance between the various service offerings and to be able to sustain all of them while dealing with the challenges of each. Scaling up and adapting to the changing needs is the way for providers, to maintain their place in the market.