EE and SFR putting on the pressure with content strategies

Altice has clearly been watching BT's progress over the years with some interest. In April, local French media reports said Altice founder and owner Patrick Drahi planned to turn France-based operator SFR into a fully converged telecoms and media group after being inspired by the approach taken by BT in the UK.

SFR has now acquired the print and TV media activities owned by Altice and relaunched itself as a media and telecoms group with free content included mobile subscriptions. It has also established four content "pillars" in the form of SFR News, SFR Sport, SFR Play and SFR Presse to further underline this strategy.

In the UK, meanwhile, BT and EE have unveiled the first fruits of their new relationship: EE is now offering free access to BT Sport for six months, after which time the service will cost £5 (€5.84/$6.44) per month.

EE noted that this is the first in a series of BT benefits to be made available to its customers. It is also the first time that a BT service will be promoted through EE's retail stores.

Inclusive content offers have long been popular among mobile operators as a method to woo subscribers for their 4G services. For example, Vodafone UK includes a choice of six months' free access to Now TV, Spotify or Sky Sports in pay monthly plans. In France, Orange and Bouygues Telecom also offer some free VAS, with Bouygues Telecom placing a particular focus on inclusive media content.

The moves by EE and SFR appear to move the two operators to a new level, with each adopting new measures to compete in markets that still have four players. Efforts to consolidate in both markets have failed, after Orange's talks with Bouygues Telecom collapsed and CK Hutchison was unable to convince the European Commission that it should buy O2 UK and merge it with Three UK.

Indeed, mobile operators in all markets should now be preparing a much more distinctive strategy rather than following the "me too" approach that has been all too common in the past. Not all will have the resourcefulness of an Altice or the sheer clout of a BT behind them, but now consolidation is off the table at least for now, they need a certain something to set them apart.--Anne