Friday, February 16, 2007

Are Exclusive Providers Still Revelant in a World of Consumer Choice?

Over the past decade or more, property owners have increasingly seen the advantages of partnering with an exclusive telecom provider to deliver TV and Internet services in bulk to their residents. It's worked very well for everyone in most cases - the service provider gets a guaranteed revenue stream, owners buy services at wholesale rates that allow them to create an additional source of ancillary income, and residents get competitive communications services at rates typically far lower than regular retail prices.

But now that customers have become accustomed to a world in which they can have everything customized and personalized, does the bulk model still fit within the principle of giving residents what they want? I can make arguments for or against bulk... it's certainly doesn't require as much thought or planning if you are only providing one option. On the other hand, there is no denying that owners, especially in extremely competitive markets, should consider using a wiring infrastructure that enables them to offer several different choices for phone, TV and Internet services. A number of owners in New York, New Jersey, and other parts of the country are now testing this model (to the dismay of telecom providers), dubbed "open access," and they're getting some very positive feedback from current and prospective residents.

Is it a powerful tool to tell a prospect that they can choose from DirecTV, Time Warner, or Verizon for TV? Only if the leasing staff uses it to their advantage as part of their pitch. Otherwise it's usually a forgotten question until after the resident has already signed the lease. We'll grant that partnering with an exclusive provider is still a good option in many cases, but we'll be keeping tabs on the open access trend as it grows, bringing you updates and feedback from the owners that are taking the plunge.

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