Forrest believes as long as Patterson is at the helm BT can strive no matter the competition.
“It’s been no coincidence that BT’s success in significantly outperforming the rest of the market has coincided with Patterson becoming retail boss in 2008. BT had been a bit slow to realise the growth of broadband but Patterson recognised that the market had changed and he and his management team have responded to that,” he says. “The internet and broadband has become much more important to the consumer and they have recognised that people are looking for quad-play services. As the owner of the last mile broadband infrastructure through Openreach, it has benefited BT a great deal.”
On the television side Forrest praises Patterson and his team for “being brave” in taking on the seemingly unbeatable Sky’s dominance of sports rights.
“Not many people thought they would do that. They’ve chipped away and their TV channels are doing well. It has also made Sky struggle and forced them to pay more than they thought for Premier League football rights,” he says. “BT are picking the right things and not paying too much for the rights. Their rivals say they are over-spending because it raises the prices to compete but they have to do it to win market share – that is the nature of challengers. If things get very expensive as Sky responds then that will cause some headscratching. But they have to keep the momentum going now. What BT and the management team have done has been quite remarkable. They have been dynamic.”
He also believes BT has done well in not being too focused on improving customer service.
“I think there is an awareness on the retail side that they don’t have the best customer service reputation. But they are working on it and I believe they are doing things the right way round in offering new services to customers at the right price. They will wait and see how people react to that but at the moment they are building a stronger business,” he states.
In the next instalment of our BT series, we look at how BT could come off badly from an Ofcom investigation into its Openreach service...