Austrian operator A1 has announced the commercial launch of its new A1 NOW mobile TV service. This gives customers access to 41 TV channels, including nine in HD. The nationwide launch follows a beta trial in late 2015 with over 1,000 participants. The service will be offered free of charge until the end of 2016 for A1 smartphone tariff and fixed-line internet customers who signed their contracts between 18 November 2013 and 26 February 2016, as well as all new and existing A1 Go! Premium customers. A personal online video recorder allows users to access all available TV channels for up to seven days after broadcast, as well as to store up to 10 hours TV content for up to three months. The A1 NOW Library gives users free on-demand access to Austrian TV series. Data used with this streaming service is not included; A1 recommends that customers have a tariff with at least 2 GB data. Once the promotional offer ends, the service will cost €7.90 (US $8.68) a month. The A1 NOW app is available for Android and iOS, and the service can also be accessed through a web browser.
In their ongoing search for greater relevance and distinction as traditional mobile services become commoditized, operators all over the world have been partnering with providers of entertainment content such as TV or streaming music. Since access to such content has branding power and can help with retention, there is an incentive to offer it free of charge and even to zero-rate the data involved in delivering it. A1, however, is making it clear that the data users will spend on watching its 41 national TV channels will not be zero-rated; in fact, it is going so far as to explicitly urge its customers to buy enough data to support generous use of the streaming service. And while there will be no subscription charge during the promotional period, A1 will be charging a monthly fee thereafter. We think the operator is smart to aggressively pursue these two ways to derive revenue from A1 Go! It is well aware that its content is desirable and competitive, and that in a sophisticated market, customers are ready and willing to pay for it and no longer need to be incentivized.