The comparison of new connectivity methods for airline distribution to home entertainment has been around for some time. Airline distribution consultant Cory Garner described it in the opening minutes of this podcast published in May by Travel Weekly. After Mike Fitzgerald from United Airlines used it this month to illustrate NDC at the start of a GBTA-New Jersey webinar, speakers from Sabre and SAP Concur said it was good but imperfect. The mention also prompted the following column from Chris Kroeger, a lecturer on brand and product management in the McCombs Masters of Science in Marketing program at the University of Texas in Austin — and a former Sabre exec who keeps an eye on the industry despite leaving it in 2015.
As a recovering user of analogies and metaphors, I found the comparison between streaming services and cable in The Company Dime‘s Nov. 28 “Notebook: Catch Up On Airline Distribution” to be very interesting and thought-provoking. To complete the metaphor, I think two important elements should be added to the discussion based on my own consumer experiences.
First, I now have 10+ streaming services stitched together to replicate what I had before, and it takes my wife and me 10 minutes every night to remember where our shows are or where to search for and compare new shows. Adding other categories of content (like live TV) or services (like cross-platform search and recording) only drives additional layers of complexity and inefficiencies.
Bottom line: Disaggregation is not consumer-friendly, nor is it efficient.
Second, over the past year, each of my streaming services has raised its prices … on top of earlier price increases. Their introductory pricing to entice me to “cut the cable” was not enough to cover their costs, and they hemorrhaged money. The continued increasing costs of their own content production and insourced tech processing are only going to lead to additional price increases.
Bottom line: Introductory pricing that knowingly turns into significant price increases is not consumer-friendly, nor is it transparent.
I know there were challenges with cable, just as I know there were challenges with the traditional travel marketplace. And I also know there has been some really good value created by the streaming model, just as I know there are fundamental value elements in the current travel marketplace.
My point — and my aspiration as purely a traveler now — is that whether it is streaming entertainment or buying travel, let’s strive for three things in the future travel marketplace:
1. Strengthen aggregation efficiencies, speed and personalized comparison shopping. If remarkable retailing is truly the goal, then be like Amazon — virtually unlimited product breadth and depth, personalized, efficient and fast, all at the same time.
2. Don’t make promises that knowingly won’t be kept. Permanent lower airfares were never part of an airline’s internal NDC/go-direct business case (to the applause of airline shareholders), so find an honest carrot to motivate the ecosystem.
3. Start creating true value-add services and experiences for the traveler. Simply rebundling previously bundled-then-unbundled features is very boring retailing.
There is a wonderful line in the current movie “The Holdovers” where one character says to another, “You don’t really dream a full dream, do you?” The travel ecosystem needs to dream a full dream and meet the needs of all of its constituents — most importantly, the travelers they collectively serve.
And lastly, I highly recommend watching “The Holdovers” this holiday season. I just hope you can easily find it when it hits the streaming services.
This Op Ed was created in collaboration with The Company Dime‘s Editorial Board of travel managers.