Hire me: An open letter to Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg

Dear Mr. Seidenberg:

My name is Bill Baker and I am writing this letter in an attempt to get an executive position with Verizon as your directly reporting subordinate.

Yes, I do understand that my approach is a bit unorthodox but I assure you that I am eminently qualified for the position I am applying. To date I have been an early-stage entrepreneur relentlessly pursuing that elusive "next big thing," but as the New Year dawns upon us I have decided to take a different career approach, which is to become one of your Executive Vice Presidents of IPTV/Content Programming.

First and foremost, I applaud your decision to enter the stale old world of content distribution; new and competitive blood is a welcomed relief. That "voice" thing served you (and us) well for over a century, thank you very much. High-speed Internet access seems to be running out of steam (or profits). Wireless is getting highly competitive. So, it is time to move onto greener pastures and IPTV is as green as it gets.

For info, I have been a customer/consumer of cable content for over two and a half decades. Remember SelectTV? Yup, I got on board very early and I loved my then-new cable TV; all of those new and exciting shows, compelling content and My MTV. Cable TV was everything regular TV was not. I just wish I had made an investment or two.

Then came in the suits and ruined it for us all. You know the ones - Harvard/Wharton MBAs with their financial models, demographic studies and superficial Hollywood connections trying to extract more dollars from us, the unsuspecting public.

"Packaging" and "co-branding" became the new cable TV mantra and we all swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

“Yes sir, Mr. Baker,” said the friendly sounding sales person. “We have a package that will save you lots of money and give you the choices you want,” went the sales pitch. How could I know this was the new snake oil con.

Later, much later, I realized that their original sales pitch was actually a post-hypnotic seed; a mental portal if you will that would allow them to always control me, as they did.

Interestingly enough, few years later the satellite guys missed a great opportunity to differentiate their services, and I know why. Rather than listening to my insightful advice and counsel they went out and recruited Cable TV’s top programming honchos.

Think about the absurdity of this strategy; if one were trying to offer something new and unique why would one hire the same old bunch of creativity-challenged idiots? Do note that as a current customer of both I am acutely aware of the differences between the two (or the lack thereof).

Unfortunately, my monthly bill for both exceeds $180, but that’s 180 bucks that you could be getting each and every month - and all you have to do is hire me, for no pay. That’s correct: No salary, benefits, bonuses, options, vacations, personal days off, employee forms, tax/pension funds contributions; none of that profit-chipping administrative baggage. Plus my 180 bucks a month.

Of course, you may be wondering why? What’s the catch? Seriously, no catch. None. All I really want is My IPTV, my way!

The whole notion that a portion of my hard-earned dollars goes to Fox only because Fox News (an obvious oxymoron) is part of my package is beyond absurd. Talk about un-fair and un-balanced. Just try to un-bundle one of their packages, you will soon discover that they can teach you a thing or two about how NOT to.

If hired, I would strongly recommend we go back to basics and implement an à la carte model. No confusing "family, singles, divorced, living-in-sin" packages; no expensive "sports-packages-that-include-only-one-sport" plans; no "movies-we-have-seen-a-thousand-times" plans; no "Pink-Floyd-concerts-from-Italy-circa-last-century" plans (or "any-other-concert-older-than-last-weekend" plans). You get the picture.

What we need is a KISS plan (not to be confused with the rock band). So here it is:

First, we would start by charging $1.99 per channel for the first 10 channels strictly of one’s own choosing, which would probably include the major networks, a few local channels, whatever (think Basic).

Then we add the also-rans for 49 cents per (all foreign language stations, Lifetime, Nick, Sci-Fi, TNT, etc.). Think of it as a "less-will-be-more, a-lot-more" strategy.

On top of that we add 99 cents per any event, similar to pay-per-view; a sporting event, a concert, a movie, etc. - along with the right to be downloaded for future viewing (who cares?).

Then we add some gravy, which comes in the form of special live events (branded as "Dare to Be There"), each costing only $2.99 per event. These would include playoff games, simultaneous theatrical film releases, any Rolling Stones concert anywhere in the world, Indy/Daytona 500, etc.

Add to that a reasonable amount for the trifecta (Internet access, home phone and wireless), say $29.99, and charge $9.99 for any sports final, and we end up with the very conservative sum of $99.35 per customer/month.

Obviously, I cannot disclose the details but rest assured the math is solid, absolutely solid. And that is not counting 10 cents per video upload/download; the young ones certainly have a lot of time on their hands, so why not make some money with them.

And finally, the pièce de résistance. With all this online shopping increasing exponentially I would add a ‘micro-transaction fee,’ nothing more than few pennies per. After all, they are using YOUR infrastructure. No one will mind this toll because it would cost more to avoid paying it. Remember, no more than 2 cents per transaction (think Carl Sagan - billions and billions of micro-transactions). The best part is that the FCC wouldn’t even blink an eye over this one. No need to get into that nasty Net Neutrality battle; bad PR is bad business.

Once selected, one of the first things I would do is also hire, for no pay, each and every one of your FiOS customers and make them Assistant VPs responsible for their own Content Programming. You are probably wondering why, but if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Who would know better their own programming choices than the customers requesting it?

Some snobby Beemer-driving, wine-bragging, extreme-sporting, stud-wearing MBA full of self-entitlement? I think not! Per capita, we have more of them than any other country in the world and our TV programming sucks. Coincidence? Think again. The Wall Street bullies will not like this at first but, eventually, they will see the light; it will come in the form of a familiar and easily recognizable greenish glow.

By implementing this revolutionary business model you will be combining the newly discovered power of social networking (your customers) with content programming and, in the process, delegating responsibilities while cutting costs.

In a word: Brilliant!

What leadership and management vision, a PR dream come true. Management gurus will proclaim you the new Jack Welch and your critics would be silenced. In any event, you just do the deals and let me (and your other customers) run Content Programming for you. This way we all get what we really want and since there will be zero confusion about the plans we choose we wouldn’t need customer support that’s outsourced to English-as-a-second-even-third-language countries. Now that is real customer control.

In conclusion, your serious consideration would be highly appreciated because we are not just talking about your company’s long-term survival but also about our freedom; the freedom to choose, which we have lost.

Remember Apple’s Orwellian-reality commercial during the 1984 Super Bowl? If there ever was a time to throw a sledgehammer into the TV screen, it is now! So go ahead and do it Mr. Seidenberg, be our Liberator. Give us real choices and we will give you more dollars than you can count.

Further references will be furnished upon request.


Bill Baker

Guest columnist Bill Baker is a self-described Relentless Entrepreneur.

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