In early 2016, Mintel Comperemedia released a series of marketing trends across key industries, including telecom. The three Telecommunications Marketing Trends we identified for the industry were: Content Overload: As more networks become available without a pay TV subscription, in an increasingly fragmented streaming marketplace, consumers are inundated with options and confusion reigns. On My Command: We are on the verge of a new era in technology, where voice replaces typing and tapping. Voice commands can make it more convenient for consumers to cut through clutter and get to what they want even faster. New Lease on Life: Since cost-conscious consumers are now faced with either paying the full price for a device or spending less to lease it, we will see the number of consumers opting for leases skyrocket. Now, as we prepare to release our trend predictions for 2017, let’s see how we did in 2016: Content Overload We have, in fact, observed many ways that pay-TV providers are making it easier for consumers to navigate all of their content options. Many providers have integrated Netflix or other streaming services into their interfaces, so that customers can easily navigate between the pay-TV channels and their streaming content. For example, Bell Canada plans to integrate Netflix’s 4K streaming tier into its Fibe 4K PVR service. A wide variety of providers reached deals to integrate Hulu into their interfaces this year, including AT&T, Grande, RCN and Suddenlink. Most recently, Comcast, which had long rejected the idea of incorporating Netflix into its X1 platform, has reached an agreement with the streaming provider to do just that. Charter recently suggested that it will integrate streaming services like Netflix and Hulu into its interface, as well. Additionally, pick-and-pay services, which enable customers to tailor the content in their pay-TV package so they aren’t overloaded with hundreds of channels in which they aren’t interested, are becoming more common. Canadian providers went through phase one of “pick and pay” earlier this year, offering basic packages at a reduced price to consumers. They will continue building on this by having the add-on options for those basic packages ironed out by December, as mandated by the CRTC. In the U.S., we’re seeing more slimmed down options or “skinny bundles” as well, with add-on options, such as Dish’s new Flex Pack, and Cincinnati Bell’s “MyTV.” While it’s too early to tell if the new skinny bundles can curb cord-cutting, what’s clear is that providers got the memo that consumers want services they can tailor to their own tastes. On My Command There’s no denying that voice commands are being incorporated more widely every day. Comcast had already launched its voice remote last year, but by beefing up the interactive content on its X1 platform, Comcast has made its platform much more like Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. During the Olympics, for example, customers could use the voice remote to find medal counts, athlete information, event schedules, and much more. As more providers white-label Comcast’s X1 platform (so far, Cox and Shaw are among those using X1), we will likely see wider penetration of the X1 voice remote. Other gains in voice control included Dish’s nationwide launch of its voice remote in July and Rovi’s Fan TV content discovery platform adding voice search. We are just starting to see how voice capabilities can transform customer engagement in telecommunications and beyond. While we still feel that 2016 is a turning-point year for voice integration in the pay-TV space (with the Olympics offering Comcast a golden opportunity to bring voice capabilities to the forefront of interactive pay TV), looking ahead, the limits of voice integration seem endless. Citibank is testing Amazon’s voice technology as part of an upgrade to its banking app (imagine asking a branded app for information about your services and it just spits it back to you, without you having to search around). Another company called Omate is bringing Amazon Alexa to your wrist with its Rise Limited Edition Smartwatch. We are just starting to see how voice capabilities can transform customer engagement in telecommunications and beyond. New Lease on Life This particular trend didn’t play out exactly as we had expected. While Sprint and T-Mobile have maintained a leasing option for customers, the rest of the industry did not fall in line. At the start of the year, we expected leases to be competitive because they would lower the monthly payment for the device itself, but what we observed were a variety of other ways providers sought to make devices more attractive on installment plans, such as a surge of BOGO offers. In fact, leasing has caused a few problems for Sprint, whose customers sometimes didn’t understand the concept and left the provider, taking the phone (still on active lease) to another provider to trade for a bill credit. While carriers are offering customers incentives to upgrade their phones when nearly paid off, the fact that consumers are holding onto their phones longer has not changed. The upgrade cycle has already stretched to 28 months, and is expected to continue lengthening. Carriers will be challenged to get creative in convincing customers to upgrade more frequently. As we look ahead to 2017, we’re already excited about the key trends that will drive the industry in the coming year. Stay tuned for the release of the Telecommunications Marketing Trends 2017, coming soon! Emily Groch is Mintel Comperemedia’s Director of Insights, Telecommunications. She provides omni-channel marketing analysis and competitive insights to wireless, TV, internet, over-the-top, and home security service providers across the US and Canada. You might also be interested in: DIRECTV NOW’s Success: Will it come down to marketing?