UTV uses promise of free calls to win customers

26 Aug 2004

Northern-based UTV Group has launched a new residential telephony service covering the 32 counties, using free evening and weekend voice calls to lure users from Eircom, BT, Esat BT and other providers.

At a press launch in Dublin this morning, Scott Taunton, group business development director at UTV, claimed the new service, UTV Talk, was unique in the UK and Ireland and brought much-needed transparency to call charges.

“People tend to stay with Eircom or Esat BT because they don’t understand the tariff structure,” he claimed. “The core proposition of our service will be that consumers will get free weekend and evening calls.”

Users of the service will still pay the usual standard line rental charge of €24.18 per month for their phone line but peak time call charges will be priced at a 10pc discount to standard Eircom local, national and international charges and 5pc lower than standard Eircom call charges to Irish mobile phones. Taunton added that the discount would also apply to any discounted offering from Eircom.

The launch of UTV Talk has been timed to coincide with the introduction of single billing on 1 September, whereby fixed line users will get one monthly bill regardless of what service provider they use. Taunton said that the technical work needed to facilitate single billing had taken longer than UTV would have wished, but that UTV Talk customers should receive their first single bill in October, a month after the launch of the service.

Commenting on the level of co-operation from Eircom, Taunton said he was not surprised at the delay. “Any incumbent will want to protect wholesale line rental. Eircom is fully aware that a single bill is a strong marketing message to give.”

He added that single billing would make it easier to hold on to new customers and to thwart Eircom efforts to win them back. “The simplicity of our offering will make it hard for Eircom to win back customers by differentiating their product, and once we have control of wholesale line rental we will be in control of our customers.”

Taunton was unwilling to say whether UTV had set a target number of customers for the new service. However, he claimed that UTV Internet currently had over 5pc of the residential and business broadband market in the Republic through its bundled voice/internet offering and said he would be very satisfied if the company was to achieve the same share of the voice market. It currently has under 1pc share.

The launch of UTV Talk will be backed by a €1m advertising spend to the end of the year. The marketing mix will include TV commercials fronted by TV personalities such as talk-show host Gerry Kelly whose ‘lines’ consist of saying the word ‘free’ over and over again, leaving the viewer in no doubt about the core message.

Staunton said UTV’s call centre in Belfast would handle new applications for UTV Talk on both sides of the border but that the company would “probably end up with call centres in both the North and South” depending on the volume of applications received. UTV Group currently has 200 employees in the Republic.

By Brian Skelly