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Before yesterdayBroadband TV News: Telecom

MGM launches new SVOD service in South Africa

By Julian Clover

MGM has the launch of a new film and SVOD service that will debut in South Africa.

It will be part of mobile operator Vodacom’s Video Play Premium service and will also be available as a standalone, a la carte subscription Micro Pass.

The new service will draw on MGM’s film and TV catalogue with titles including The Hobbit, Legally Blonde, The Pink Panther, The Handmaid’s Tale, Get Shorty and Teen Wolf

The MGM a la carte service will retail at R59 for a monthly subscription, R25 for a weekly subscription, and R10 for a daily subscription.

Vodacom’s Video Play Premium service includes a wide range of international and local content including, movies, TV series, music and kids programming and retails at R99 for a monthly subscription, R40 for a weekly subscription, and R25 for a daily subscription.

DCMS Committee launches PSB inquiry

By Julian Clover

The UK parliament’s Digital, Culture Media and Sport Committee is launch an enquiry into the future of public service broadcasting.

MPs will consider the PSBs in the digital age and how they stand up against alternatives such as subscription, streaming and Freeview/DTT services.

In addition to the BBC, the inquiry will look at the commercial broadcasters with public service responsibilities; ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and in the devolved regions, STV in Scotland, S4C in Wales and UTV in Northern Ireland.

The committee will look at the regulations and obligations placed on PSBs including prominence and public funding. It will extend into whether regulation should be introduced for subscription video on demand and other streaming services and the value PSBs bring in terms of economic (local and national), cultural and societal impact.

CableLabs releases DOCSIS 4.0 Specification

By Julian Clover

CableLabs has released the specification for DOCSIS 4.0, which includes both full duplex and extended spectrum capabilities.

The DOCSIS 4.0 technology is capable of achieving a downstream speed of up to 10 Gbps and doubles the maximum download speed available with DOCSIS 3.1 technology. The upstream speed of up to 6 Gbps represents a quadrupling of DOCSIS 3.1.

“As cable operators respond to the evolving connectivity needs of customers in our current public health crisis, remote work, learning, and health services stand to benefit from upstream broadband enhancements as DOCSIS 4.0 technology is deployed,” explained Doug Jones, Principal Architect, DOCSIS 4.0 in a blog post.

The DOCSIS 4.0 specification, part of CableLabs’ so-called 10G Platform began development in August 2016 with the extended spectrum capability completed last September.

In addition to speed Lower latency that was incorporated into the DOCSIS 3.1 specification has been brought forward into the DOCSIS 4.0 specification. Lower latency will provide for a better experience for consumers on applications such as online gaming and multimedia.

SPI/FilmBox teams up with Huawei

By Chris Dziadul

SPI/FilmBox and Huawei have inked a new agreement that allows FilmBox On Demand content to be featured in Huawei’s new platform Huawei Video in 23 countries.

They include the UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Poland, Turkey and Russia.

Through this collaboration, Huawei smart device users will be able to access specially curated and localised SPI movie titles, ranging from Hollywood blockbusters, award-winning world cinema gems to arthouse classics. Other accessible VOD content includes TV series, documentaries, lifestyle programming, sports entertainment, esports and mixed-martial arts tournaments.

Huawei has also announced that Huawei will now be available to more countries together with its new mobile flagship P40 series, which will allow users to access the FilmBox On Demand VOD content.

Commenting on the agreement, Berkin Ecevit, sales & business development director at SPI International, said: “We are very excited to bring the rich and curated catalogue of FilmBox On Demand to many countries across the globe through Huawei’s new VOD service HuaweiVideo, available on Huawei mobile devices that offer premium viewing and sound experience”.

Jervis Su, VP of mobile dervices, Huawei Consumer Business Group, added: “We’re pleased to offer our Huawei Video service so people across Europe can easily explore the thousands of videos and movies available from our partners, anywhere and anytime”.

New milestone for Italy’s tivΓΉsat

By Chris Dziadul

The Italian DTH platform tivùsat is now watched by 6 million viewers.

Launched in 2009 and managed by Tivù srl, a company owned by Rai, Mediaset, Telecom Italia, the Local TV Association and Aeranti Corallo, it does not require any type of subscription and can be accessed with a tivùsat certified device (decoder or TV with CAM), satellite pointed at Eutelsat and smart card.

Tivùsat offers over 118 TV channels, 52 of which are in HD and seven in 4K, along with 45 radio stations.

All told, satellite TV now reaches over 30% of Italian families

Hungary awards 5G licences

By Chris Dziadul

The Hungarian regulator NMHH has announced the result of a tender for 5G licences in the country.

In a statement, it says that the licences, valid for 15 years in three frequency bands, have been awarded to Magyar Telekom, Telenor Hungary and Vodafone Hungary. It adds that in total the three companies will pay HUF128 billion (€360.4 million) for the rights.

NMHH notes that the bids received by March 11 for the 700 MHz, 2100 MHz and 3600 MHz bands revealed that there was more demand than supply. It therefore held auctions for the blocks offered, subject to strict precautions. The three service providers were able to bid for a number of frequency blocks within each frequency band, starting with the initial bid value specified in the documentation for that band. The auction was preceded by a trial auction on March 24.

Karas Monika, chairman of NMHH, said: “5G frequency services will play a key role in economic development and, in the short term, can effectively support our healthcare network, domestic telework and distance education, even in times of coronavirus restrictions. And in the post-epidemic period, they can accelerate the recovery of the Hungarian economy.”

To this end, NMHH will encourage service providers to install 5G at locations that are not only important to them from a market point of view but are also socially important, such as the internet. hospitals, campuses or major transport routes.

The usage rights of the acquired frequencies will expire uniformly in 2035. The 700 MHz frequency band will only be available once this band has definitively moved out, ie not earlier than September 6, 2020.

The term of the rights may be extended once for a further period of five years, subject to unchanged conditions and without a single additional fee being charged for the right of use of the frequency.

Stanislav Georgiev to head Bulsatcom

By Chris Dziadul

Stanislav Georgiev has been appointed the CEO of the Bulgarian pay-TV operator Bulsatcom.

He spent a total of 7 years and 11 months at A1 Telekom Austria Group, where he was head of A1 Group Media Broadcast between September 2014 and January 2019.

More recently he was a senior advisor at Arthur D. Little between February 2019 and February this year.

He remains a managing partner at Media Gurus Group and chairman of the Digital Entertainment & Media Summit at Webit.Foundation.

Tricolor inks major ViacomCBS deal

By Chris Dziadul

Russia’s leading pay-TV operator Tricolor has agreed a major licensing deal with ViacomCBS Global Distribution Group.

It gives the operator rights to broadcast over 120 films from Paramount Pictures’ library and these will be shown on Tricolor’s own channels. The studio granted the operator rights to broadcast films not only via satellite, but also simultaneously via the internet. Some of that content will be shown on Tricolor’s UHD channel Cinema UHD where viewers can enjoy Ultra HD entertainment from their homes and computers.

Commenting on the agreement, Arsen Khomutov, content director for Tricolor, said: “This new deal for Paramount Pictures films makes our content offer for clients even more diverse. Movies from one of the world’s leading studios will allow us to increase the audience of our own channels; it is especially important for Tricolor, since we are now focusing on niche channels”.

Lisa Kramer, executive VP, International Television Licensing, ViacomCBS, added: “We are delighted to be extending our relationship with Tricolor with this new agreement and look forward to bringing some of our most popular and exciting films to Tricolor’s many subscribers”.

Tricolor and Paramount Pictures have successfully cooperated for several years. Most recently, in December 2019 the operator signed a deal with the studio for over 100 films to be shown via SVOD on Tricolor’s own online cinema platform, with limited exclusivity for certain movies.

Chris Dziadul Reports: Coronavirus hits DVB-T2 transition plans

By Chris Dziadul

The coronavirus pandemic is delaying the transition to the DVB-T2 terrestrial TV standard in parts of Central and East Europe.

In the Czech Republic, the national transmission company CRa announced on March 17 that it was suspending the process, due to be completed in June, until the end of this month. However, three days later, on the basis of an agreement between it, the Ministry of Industry and Trade and Czech Telecommunications Office (CTU), the government approved a temporary interruption to the shutdown of the DVB-T network until the COVID-19 situation is stabilised.
The move was justified on the grounds that there could be problems in the supply of DVB-T2 reception equipment during the crisis.

Terrestrial TV reception is hugely popular in the Czech Republic, with almost two-thirds (60%) of viewers watching services. Furthermore, almost all (99%) households in the country can already receive DVB-T2 broadcasts, which offer viewers 30 TV channels free of charge.

Terrestrial TV is also in a strong position in Croatia, where according to the local regulator HAKOM 43.93% of homes watched FTA and a further 4.72% pay-DTT services as of the end of last year.

Earlier this week HAKOM announced that it would be suspending the full DVB-T2 transition date until at least the end of November or beginning of December. As in the case of the Czech Republic, the reasons for doing so are the coronavirus pandemic and significant impact it is likely to have on the availability of receivers.

This will be the second time HAKOM has put back the date, having most recently done so late last year from May 1 to July 1, 2020 at the request of the national transmission company OiV.

Elsewhere in the region, the latter’s Hungarian counterpart Antenna Hungária was due to embark on a six-month, 10-step DVB-T2 transition process on March 3. It remains to be seen if this is completed on time or also delayed by the crisis.

CEO Max Conze leaves ProSiebenSat.1

By JΓΆrn Krieger

ProSiebenSat.1 is facing the consequences from the ongoing turbulence in the company: CEO Max Conze will leave the German broadcaster with immediate effect.

With the move, ProSiebenSat.1 is reacting to the departure of several senior executives, criticism from within the company’s own ranks and the sharp drop in the share price. Conze, who was previously CEO of UK-based vacuum cleaner manufacturer Dyson, joined ProSiebenSat.1 on June 1, 2018.

At the same time, ProSiebenSat.1 is reorganising its executive board. CFO Rainer Beaujean has additionally assumed the office of chairman of the executive board. New appointees to the executive board are Wolfgang Link and Christine Scheffler. Link heads the entertainment segment and Scheffler continues to be in charge of human resources.

The decisions were taken by the supervisory board on Thursday evening, March 26, 2020.

Accompanying the reshuffle of the executive board is a change in relation to the strategic focus. ProSiebenSat.1 is returning the primary focus of its operating business to the entertainment sector in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The main emphasis will be on local and live formats, also in close cooperation with its production subsidiaries Red Arrow Studios and Studio71.

The group’s digital reach is to be further extended, for example through the streaming platform Joyn, jointly operated with Discovery.

The e-commerce subsidiary NuCom remains an important pillar of the group in synergistic terms. The existing equity shareholdings, which benefit from advertising on the entertainment platforms, will continue to be developed to generate value and sold in due course under an active portfolio policy.

Technicolor suspends financial guidance

By Julian Clover

Technicolor has suspended its financial guidance issued for 2020-2022.

In a statement, the manufacturer said restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of the virus were limiting its operations in a number of markets including France, United Kingdom, India, Canada and the United States.

While Technicolor has implemented work from home arrangements and the resumption of supply chains in China that support its Connected Home division, there remained significant uncertainty around the duration and magnitude of the disruption caused by this pandemic.

Separately, Technicolor has started work on the expected second stage of its transformation programmes, accelerating cost reductions and efficiency measures.

The company plans to provide updated 2020-2022 guidance once there is more clarity around the impact of the pandemic.

Altice ends 2019 on a high

By Chris Dziadul

Altice Europe saw revenue growth in all its business segments in the last quarter of 2019.

This was underpinned by another quarter of solid commercial momentum, with the residential fixed base growing by 44,000. The number of fibre customers increased by 78,000 and 45% of the total fixed subscriber base was on fibre.

Altice France saw revenue growth of 13.3% and EBITDA growth of 19.6% year-on-year in Q4. Meanwhile, in Portugal the residential fixed base grew by 2,000, with fixed and mobile churn maintained at the lowest levels ever.

Fibre customer net additions were up 35,000, continuing to be supported by the ongoing expansion of fibre coverage. Meo reported an improved revenue trend in of +3.3% year-on-year and an EBITDA decline of -1.1% year-on-year in Q4.

Altice Europe as a whole saw its revenues grow by 11.2% year-on-year in Q4, while EBITDA was up 14.8% year-on-year.

Commenting on the results, Patrick Drahi, Altice Europe founder said: “During this challenging period where we all face the implications of the pandemia, I want to personally thank each of our employees, many of whom remain active on the ground as well as those who are working from home, to provide our customers with key services of connectivity and information. We are placing the utmost focus at Altice Europe on the protection and safety of all our employees and those of our subcontractors too. We have taken several steps to ensure that the residential and business customers that we serve continue to have reliable access to critically important connectivity services as well as quality real time news and information during this period. In 2019 we achieved an acceleration in revenue growth in all of our geographies. In Altice France, our strong Q4 results were supported by growth across all segments, including residential revenue growth year over year for the third successive quarter which is now significantly accelerating in the first months of 2020. The strong financial performance in Q4 and FY 2019 has been underpinned by the successful operational turnaround achieved by the new management teams, put in place 2 years ago. We exceeded our FY 2019 guidance and will continue to focus on deleveraging Altice Europe through growing revenue and EBITDA in FY 2020. We have continued to invest and expand our proprietary best-in-class infrastructure, commensurate with Altice Europe’s leading position in each market. Over the last months, we have signed important partnerships which will bring €1.8 billion of cash proceeds in the first half of 2020. Over the last six months, we have also closed €4.9 billion of refinancing, at record low rates for the Group, locking in significant interest savings as well as achieving the simplification of the Group capital structure through the removal of Altice Luxembourg HoldCo, a long-standing objective for the Group. The Group’s diversified capital structure has no material maturity before 2025 and available liquidity of nearly €5 billion. We have entered FY 2020 with a strong performance so far this year, and we are very confident that we are going to build on the improved financial performance of FY 2019 while prevailing from an unprecedented crisis.”

Sky adds educational collections available on Sky Kids

By Julian Clover

Sky has made some educational collections available through its Sky Kids on demand service.

Its looking to support parents that are spending more time at home with their children following the Coronavirus school closures.

The Learning From Homecollections are now available to Sky Kids’ customers in three key curriculum stages ; Foundation: Early Years – under 5s, Key Stage 1 – 5-7 year-olds and Key Stage 2 – 8-11 year-olds.

Sky Kids also has new shows for kids like The Adventures of Paddington from Nick Jr and DreamWorks Animation’s Where’s Wally?.

As well as these new collections, Sky Kids also has 11 kids’ channels and 5000 episodes of on demand content for under 12s including Mr Bean, Peppa Pig, Henry Danger and Morph.

UEFA.tv added Apple TV, Android TV and Amazon Fire TV

By Julian Clover

UEFA has added its streaming service to three new platforms.

UEFA.tv is now available on Apple TV, Android TV and Amazon Fire TV in addition to its existing web, Android and iOS smartphone and tablet apps.

The Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV versions are available in their respective stores while the Android TV version is available for viewing on a wide range of supported Smart TVs, connected devices and streaming media boxes.

With all 2019/20 European club competitions on hold until further notice the Euro 2020 postponed until next year, Uefa is re-running a series of classic matches.

These include the Euro 2012 semi-final between Germany v Italy and Liverpool v Dortmund in the second leg of the 2015/16 Champions League quarter finals.

Verimatrix, Broadcom support rapid Android TV deployment

By Chris Dziadul

Verimatrix has announced a new collaboration to streamline Android STB deployments by pre-integrating components of its Video Content Authority System (VCAS) with Broadcom’s Android TV platform.

Designed to meet specific conditional access requirements set forth by Google, the pre-integrated solution uses the standard Android TV MediaCas framework API to effectively secure Android TV platforms and radically reduce integration complexity for STB manufacturers. The solution further reduces time-to-market for existing Verimatrix customers wanting to deploy Android TV services because their existing security client is readily compatible with Broadcom’s Android TV SDK via MediaCas plugin.

Commenting on the development, Verimatrix COO Asaf Ashkenazi said: “What is unique about our collaboration is that it enables both a rapid and secure deployment of premium video services via Android TV – we are proud to be the first security vendor to enable Broadcom to offer this for 4K/UHD content.

“Any STB vendor or video service provider that selects our pre-integrated solution can rest assured that the process of deploying Android TV, as well as managing future upgrades, will be as hassle-free as possible with minimal time and effort required.”

Verimatrix and Broadcom have for several years worked together to deliver systems that meet 4K/UHD security requirements. Because the pre-integrated Verimatrix client has previously received Ultra Security certification, customers can rest assured they are in full compliance with the 4K/UHD content guidelines set by MovieLabs’ Specifications for Enhanced Content Protection.

Viasat provides Ukrainian anti-piracy update

By Chris Dziadul

Viasat estimates that more than one million satellite TV viewers in Ukraine continue to use pirated services to gain access to domestic TV channels.

It adds that following the encryption of satellite signals by the country’s leading media groups on January 29, the state, together with the media groups and satellite operators, has started a new stage of the active fight against card sharing and other illegal activities.

In the coming weeks, Viasat will shut down the NDS encoding system, which does not meet the latest satellite broadcast security standards, and replace it with the Verimatrix system.

Commenting on this development, Viasat Ukraine’s sales director Anton Yuriev said: “In order to provide tuners with the necessary tuners on time, Viasat has replaced the old tuners with new tuners that support Verimatrix encoding system, so they can fully enjoy watching their favourite TV products without having to worry about a sudden shutdown. We hope that thanks to the joint efforts of all participants in the television market, and first of all – subscribers who deliberately choose the legal route – pirated television will disappear as a phenomenon, and it will happen in the near future”.

Virgin Media creates over 500 customer contact centre jobs

By Julian Clover

Virgin Media has announced plans to create more than 500 new customer contact centre jobs in the UK.

The cablenet said the new roles would help it deal with the “very high customer call volumes” it has been receiving during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The roles will be based in Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester and Teeside. They’re described as “flexible employment opportunities for people who need to find work in the short to medium term”.

“We’re working day and night to keep the country connected and make sure services are running smoothly. In these difficult times, we’re really proud to soon be welcoming hundreds of new staff to our contact centres who will help us continue to serve our customers,” said Abby Thomas, executive director – Customer, Virgin Media.

Virus quarantine measures have meant some Virgin Media call centres have had to close so the operator is prioritising calls from vulnerable customers and asking customers to only call in if they have an urgent query that can’t wait.

Virgin Media is taking steps to fast-track the application and assessment process by using video interviews. This will dramatically reduce the application processing time and allow staff to start within weeks.

Slovak pubcaster puts back sports channel launch

By Chris Dziadul

The Slovak public broadcaster RTVS has postponed the launch of a new sports channel indefinitely.

Quoting Teleradio, Medialne reports that the channel, which would have been RTVS’s fourth, was due to go on air in June.

It will now not do so due to the coronavirus pandemic and the cancellation of a number of events in the coming months.

The start of the channel was due to coincide with Euro 2020, which would have begun on June 12, with another key event being the Tokyo Olympics. However, both have now been put back to 2021.

According to Matej Hajko, the head of RTRVS’s sports department, it would at this stage be “extremely irresponsible” to announce a specific launch date for the new channel and enter into any further financial commitments.

Coronavirus: DFL postpones Bundesliga rights tender

By JΓΆrn Krieger

In light of the current situation, the Executive Committee of German football association DFL has decided to postpone the planned tender for the media rights of Germany’s domestic football league Bundesliga.

Instead of the originally intended date in May 2020, the allocation is now planned from June onwards, according to DFL, adding hat it wants to focus on meeting the challenges in the current Bundesliga season first.

Meanwhile, the Federal German Cartel Office has given DFL the go-ahead for the submitted tender concept.

Discovery backs Olympic postponement decision

By Julian Clover

Discovery says it fully supports the decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee to postpone this summer’s Olympic Games until 2021.

The decision was taken following a conference call between IOC president Thomas Bach and the Prime Minister of Japan, Abe Shinzo.

They concluded the Games should be rescheduled to 2021, no later than the summer of that year, to safeguard the health of the athletes and the international community.

“Our essential planning and deliverables are complete and will now shift into next year. We will continue to develop our products and offerings to best serve our customers and marketing partners in 2021,” Discovery said in statement released Tuesday.