BitDepth 653 - November 11

Flow introduces a new special on computers and broadband at a curious press conference.
Conversation Flowing

Flow President and CEO demonstrates Mosaic, a new feature to be added to the Flow menu of services. Photography by Mark Lyndersay.

When a company invites the media to a "one on one interactive lunch meeting" it's usually a sure sign that they want to raise their media profile but don't have anything specific to announce.
When that company is willing to produce their normally low profile President and CEO for more than three hours of chit chat with the media, it's enough to bring out television crews.
That's pretty much how last Wednesday's meeting with Flow played out, though much of it alternated between confusing and predictable.
High on Flow jefe John Reid's talking points were the successes and challenges his company has to report just over two years after taking over the shambling zombie assets that the merged cable conglomerate had devolved into.

Flow claims 65 percent market share and a slate of content that's 96 percent legally acquired from the authorised licensors. There remain issues related to regional bundling that have left some channels skipping between Spanish and English, but the cable company points to Caribbean specific content from ESPN and HBO as a result of his company's lobbying of content providers.
Training of call centre staff continues throughout the year, but in the current job market, Flow has not been able to entice enough staff to take the late shift on a proposed expansion to a 24/7 help desk.
The company also took kudos for changing the broadband market, noting that "we talk in megabits, not kilobits" and stressing that they do not lock in customers to year long contracts.

Ask anything, except that
While Reid and several of the large contingent of Flow's senior staff welcomed the press at the start of the event, encouraging questions, they neglected to mention the bit about "except for the stuff we don't talk about."
Questions that spoke directly to numbers, dollar amounts and quantities that would quantify statements like "extremely successful" and "exceeding prior buys" were politely dismissed by a smiling Reid, "we're a private company and we don't discuss those numbers."
So the stated success of Pay Per View (PPV) initiatives that were expanded to include local films during the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival have no stated returns, nor is the company willing to talk about the cost of placing such films on the PPV service.
After that snub, there seemed little point in asking how the TT$600 million that the company has spent so far on its improvements has been apportioned.

Despite the caginess of Flow when it comes to specifics that cut too close to accounting realities some intriguing facts leaked out between the carefully managed "talking points."
The company's VOIP based landline telephone service was introduced in May and 8-9 percent of digital customers have chosen to sign up for the service. Call volume numbers have been "rising."
Potential customers may wish to note that the cost of local calls is double that of international calls, a result of the interconnection fees that Flow must pay locally.

New initiatives
Flow announced three initiatives at the meeting; improvements (framed in suitably fuzzy futuristic terms) to the Cable in the Classroom project which currently serves 300 schools, a partnership with to promote legal, online purchases of local music during the Carnival season, "a good fit with broadband" according to Communications Officer Rhea Yawching, and a teamup with Courts.

The Courts project will bring a low-cost Acer built computer to market at TT$2999 with a one year warranty. The system runs Linpus Linux on an 2.2Ghz Intel Celeron chip, 1GB RAM, 160GB HD and ships with speakers, 16" LCD monitor and DVD burner.
Flow will bundle free broadband installation, a free modem and free Internet service for one month in the package.
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