We’re here to en­ter­tain you

Voda­fone boss wants to pro­vide the place Ki­wis go for con­tent, writes

Bay of Plenty Times - - Nation - “Two weeks! Her­ald Her­ald’s

In some ways, Ja­son Paris’ ap­point­ment as Voda­fone NZ’s new chief ex­ec­u­tive will be a joy for staff. In oth­ers, not so much. “We need to re­launch a lot of our poli­cies. Peo­ple get two weeks off a year — that we pay for — to work on com­mu­nity ini­tia­tives,” the new boss tells the

to­wards the end of his first week.

No one takes it be­cause no one knows about it.” They will soon, as Paris moves to boost the telco’s cul­ture, which al­ready in­cludes perks such as flexi hours for par­ents of young chil­dren.

But Paris also has a flintier task. His pre­de­ces­sor, Rus­sell Stan­ners, was hard to pin down on any specifics for the mooted float of Voda­fone’s New Zealand busi­ness.

Paris, by con­trast, gets straight down to brass tacks.

“My re­mit is to get the busi­ness in shape over 2019 to list in 2020,” he says.

“I’d like to see us on a bet­ter com­mer­cial tra­jec­tory be­fore we list.” Growth is too low and costs too high, he says.

Voda­fone NZ hasn’t done a good enough job of mar­ket­ing Voda­fone TV and var­i­ous mo­bile and broad­band prod­ucts, Paris says (mar­ket­ing boss Matt Wil­liams an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion around the same time as Stan­ners; he has been re­placed by for­mer NZME and MYOB ex­ec­u­tive Carolyn Luey).

Voda­fone staff look­ing across the street to Spark — which is now at the sharp end of shav­ing $48 mil­lion a year off its wage bill as part of its “ag­ile” re­struc­ture — will likely be ner­vous.

“I’m a big sup­porter and we have been ac­cel­er­at­ing to­wards ag­ile our­selves. Voda­fone has tens of thou­sands of our peo­ple work­ing ag­ile around the world al­ready,” Paris says.

“How­ever, cross-func­tional teams work­ing to­gether to­wards a com­mon goal that is co-cre­ated with cus­tomers has al­ways been the best way to work. It’s how we worked in Pak’n’Save when I stacked shelves as a 15-year-old.”

Paris also has ex­pan­sion plans and is look­ing to im­ple­ment “eight or nine” ideas he picked up in Bri­tain. He says lo­cal staff had many of the same ideas when he talked with about 100 of them dur­ing a “des­ig­nated CEO stint” in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber.

So what took him to the UK? Last De­cem­ber he quit Spark — where he was ef­fec­tively Si­mon Mout­ter’s sec­ond in com­mand — to join Voda­fone Group as di­rec­tor of con­ver­gence for the Mid­dle East and Asia Pa­cific.

His jar­gon-speak job ti­tle drew chor­tles lo­cally. It was widely as­sumed that Stan­ners was on the way out. Paris had been sec­onded to the mother ship for Voda­fone cor­po­rate in­doc­tri­na­tion as he sat out his non-com­pete pe­riod with Spark. Af­ter all, Voda­fone had pre­vi­ously re­cruited se­nior ex­ec­u­tives from the colonies, then re­turned them to their home coun­tries as CEOs.

Paris still af­fects sur­prise at this the­ory. “This isn’t what I signed up for,” he says.

He had de­camped for Lon­don with his wife (Bell Gully part­ner Rachel Paris) and young chil­dren with ex­pec­ta­tions of an ex­tended OE.

Still, when he learned in March that he would start the Voda­fone NZ CEO role on Novem­ber 1, “I be­came a bit of a man on a mis­sion. I wanted to, self­ishly, look at what I could copy and repli­cate in New Zealand based on what’s been a suc­cess in other mar­kets,” he says.

He says Voda­fone New Zealand has to do a bet­ter job of tak­ing ad­van­tage of the multi­na­tional’s scale and ex­per­tise, and get prod­ucts from other mar­kets here faster. He has his eye on in­ter­netof-things au­to­mo­tive ser­vices in Europe and agritech so­lu­tions de­vel­oped by Voda­fone’s sub­sidiary in South Africa, among other Voda­fone prod­ucts.

Paris seems to have had an am­i­ca­ble split with Spark. He con­tin­ued to do con­tract work for his for­mer em­ployer for sev­eral weeks af­ter his res­ig­na­tion, while Mout­ter ribbed him with some good-na­tured one-lin­ers on Twit­ter.

Nev­er­the­less, the pair can be ex­pected to com­pete fiercely in the mo­bile and broad­band mar­kets.

Other ar­eas are more nu­anced, how­ever.

Whereas Stan­ners stood shoul­der to shoul­der (of­ten lit­er­ally, dur­ing merger brief­ings) with Sky TV boss John Fel­let, Paris is in­trigued by Spark’s re­cent foray into sports rights — and is open to ex­plor­ing var­i­ous an­gles.

“If the in­dus­try in New Zealand wants stream­ing sports to be suc­cess­fully ex­e­cuted, then it makes sense for us to work with Spark, and it makes sense for Spark to work with us.”

This week, Spark said it would work to re­lease an app in the new year called Spark Sport, which it will use to stream the 2019 Rugby World Cup, For­mula 1 races, English Pre­mier League soc­cer and other sports to which it has re­cently se­cured rights.

Paris says Voda­fone would like to bun­dle Spark Sport with Voda­fone TV’s set-top box, which is cur­rently cen­tred on channels from Sky TV, though it does also have Net­flix, TVNZ and 3Now apps.

He says he wants Spark to suc­ceed with stream­ing the Rugby World Cup. Voda­fone TV boxes could be pitched as the eas­i­est way to get the in­ter­net-de­liv­ered Spark Sport app onto a reg­u­lar telly.

But al­though it could be a sweet tech­ni­cal so­lu­tion, there could be po­lit­i­cal and com­mer­cial com­pli­ca­tions.

When the ser­vice now known as Voda­fone TV was owned by Tel­straClear, the Tel­straClear boss Al­lan Freeth com­plained pub­licly that the re­stric­tive na­ture of his com­pany’s whole­sale agree­ment with Sky TV had be­come a “pain point” — par­tic­u­larly a pro­vi­sion lim­it­ing the amount of non-Sky con­tent that could be car­ried by Tel­straClear.

Af­ter briefly halt­ing his in­ter­view to con­sult with a Voda­fone TV man­ager, Paris says Voda­fone’s whole­sale agree­ment with Sky TV does put “some re­stric­tions” on the non-Sky con­tent Voda­fone can carry.

He says any is­sues with adding Spark Sport as an op­tion for Voda­fone TV cus­tomers can prob­a­bly be worked through. The

guess is that Fel­let will be quite taken aback. Fel­let has long said that Net­flix is a com­ple­ment rather than a com­peti­tor to Sky. Spark Sport, on the other hand, is try­ing to eat his lunch.

And Fel­let could get more ner­vous when he hears about Paris’ broader plan to make Voda­fone TV avail­able to ev­ery­one, not just Voda­fone cus­tomers, and his in­ten­tion to part­ner with all-com­ers.

“I want us to be the en­ter­tain­ment plat­form for New Zealand,” Paris says — though em­pha­sis­ing that he wants Voda­fone TV to ag­gre­gate con­tent from part­ners.

“We’ll leave the con­tent ac­qui­si­tion game to Spark. We won’t be en­ter­ing and com­pet­ing for the con­tent rights our­selves,” he says. “We’ll part­ner with Spark, Sky, Me­di­aWorks and TVNZ — any con­tent provider we’ll have a con­ver­sa­tion with.”

Spark’s Mout­ter has been cam­paign­ing for the Govern­ment to get a wrig­gle on with 5G — the next ma­jor up­grade to mo­bile net­work tech­nol­ogy. The Crown must start the 5G auc­tion process as soon as pos­si­ble, the Spark boss says. He frets about whether a mo­bile net­work up­grade can be live in time for the Amer­ica’s Cup. He says it’s vi­tal for our econ­omy to re­main com­pet­i­tive.

Paris takes quite a dif­fer­ent tack.

“We’re go­ing to em­brace 5G like it’s our best friend. We’re not shy or scared of it,” he says, not­ing a lo­cal trial, and a €90m Voda­fone 5G pi­lot in Europe.

But, “if we re­leased 5G to­mor­row in New Zealand, I don’t think you’d be will­ing to pay $5 or $10 more for it. As an in­dus­try, we have to get out of this ‘in­vest more and get less’ mode.

“So what I want to see be­fore we ac­cel­er­ate 5G is the cus­tomer use cases that jus­tify us ac­cel­er­at­ing it and bring­ing it for­ward.

“We’ll em­brace it, we’ll be up with the best, but I would like to see us cre­ate some value for us as well as our cus­tomers from this — not just cost for us and dis­counts for our cus­tomers.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.