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Average US SVOD household has access to 100,000 hours of content

By Julian Clover

The average US household that subscribes to a video on demand service now has access to 100,000 hours of content across 3.8 different services.

A new study by Ampere Analysis says the main drivers are consumer uptake of Amazon Prime’s booming portfolio and the addition of new services like Disney+ to the household mix.

According to Ampere, households with young children have access to nearly five different SVoD services, more than any other demographic. This is up significantly from 3.5 in the same period last year, largely due to the launch of Disney+, and the high uptake of the family-friendly service in the group.

The available content represents 102,000 hours.

Even adults who live alone still have an average of 3.1 services, giving them 85,000 hours – an equivalent of almost 10 years content.

Toby Holleran, Senior Analyst at Ampere Analysis says: “Consumers already have a vast amount of content at their disposal, and a US household who subscribes to both Netflix and Amazon currently has access to more than 100,000 hours of content from those two services alone. As the market fragments further with additional direct-to-consumer services and households hit a spending ceiling, consumers will become more selective about their SVoD choices. The more expensive services, alongside those without a clear brand and proposition, will find the going gets tougher.”

The launch and success of both Disney+ and Apple TV+ has driven growth in the number of services households can access. Almost one third of US SVOD households subscribed to Disney+ in Q1 2020. The service comes with a 4,200-hour catalogue and thus adds an average of 1,400 hours of content to the typical SVOD household’s portfolio.

YouTube need not reveal data of online pirates

By Julian Clover

Online video sharing platforms, such as YouTube, need not reveal the personal details of users that illegally upload copyrighted material.

The ruling from the European Court of Justice followed a request from the German film distributor Constantin Film Verleih that the Google-owned company hand over details including the emails, telephone numbers and IP addresses behind the upload of movie titles Parker and Scary Movie 5 in 2013 and 2014.

The case, which was referred by the German Federal Court of Justice, hinged on the interpretation of ‘address’ and whether that then meant an IP address or a postal address.

“When a film is unlawfully uploaded onto an online platform, such as YouTube, the rightholder may, under the directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights, require the operator to provide only the postal address of the user concerned, but not his or her email, IP address or telephone number,” the ECJ said in its ruling.

However the court added that individual member states have the right to grant holders of intellectual property rights the right to receive fuller information.

The full length movies were viewed tens of thousands of times before being blocked.

Virgin Media Ireland appoints Paul Higgins as Vice President, Commercial

By Julian Clover

Virgin Media Ireland has appointed Paul Higgins as Vice-President of Commercial.

Paul Higgins has been with the Irish cablenet for five years, most recently as consumer director.

Prior to joining Virgin Media, Paul held senior level commercial positions in the Telecommunications, Media, Technology and FMCG sectors in Ireland, the UK and Australia.

Tony Hanway, CEO of Virgin Media Ireland, said: “At Virgin Media we are big believers in promoting talented people from within and Paul has demonstrated that he delivers superior results through teamwork and a laser like focus on Customers.”

In his new board level appointment, Higgins will cover sales, marketing, product delivery, and digital channels and will continue to drive growth in the company’s entertainment, connectivity and mobile business.

Pay-TV to develop in Ukraine

By Chris Dziadul

A new media bill currently being prepared in Ukraine could promote the development of pay-TV services.

However, to do so, it will, according to Konstantin Gritsak, the director of external relations at the country’s leading cable operator Volia, have to adhere to two principles.

The first is the creation of appropriate conditions for competition while at the same time keeping the influence of the state on the media to a minimum. The second is maintaining the principle of technological neutrality.

In Gritsak’s view, the legislation could also pave the way for locally produced thematic channels with which pay-TV operators will cooperate.

Gritsak also spoke favourably about how it will protect intellectual property.

Matt McConnell appointed new MediaKind CEO

By Julian Clover

The former SVP & General Manager of Comcast Technology Solutions has been appointed as the new chief executive officer of MediaKind.

Matt McConnell brings over 30 years’ experience in the media industry, driving growth, building innovative technology platforms and enabling service providers to operate at scale.

McConnell will report directly to the board of directors, including former CEO Angel Ruiz, who takes up the position of Chairman of the Board.

“We are experiencing unprecedented changes in the way people consume content, and our customers need to adjust their technology footprints and business models to meet these dynamic consumer need,” said McConnell. “I am excited to be leading this charge as we increasingly focus on creating products that harness the potential of the cloud and maximise the power of streaming.”
At Comcast, McConnell established and operated the Comcast Technology Solutions division from 2012-2018. During this time, revenue more than quadrupled and McConnell transformed the organisation from 200 US domestic employees to a global cloud video products business with offices in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

“The market and consumer behaviours are changing faster than ever and Matt is a battle-proven media executive with an extensive track record in successfully leading and growing business in this sector,” said Ruiz.

MediaKind is a joint venture between One Equity Partners and Ericsson.

IPTV gains in Slovenia

By Chris Dziadul

IPTV accounted for 56.1% of pay-TV connections in Slovenia in the first quarter.

According to figures published by the regulator AKOS, its market share continues to grow, while those of other technologies is falling. Cable accounted for 37.8%, satellite TV 5.1% and MMDS 1% as of Q1.

Meanwhile, penetration of fixed broadband grew by 0.5% in the first three months of this year to reach 83.7%. NGA broadband internet access is also growing and accounted for 83% of connection in Q1.

Triple play packages continued to grow in popularity had a market share of 36% in the first quarter.

On the other hand, the share of quadruple (40.2%) and double (9.5%) play packages fell, while standalone broadband access (8.9%) and converged services that do not include service packages (5.6%) remained unchanged.

Over a third (34.7%) of broadband users opted for access speeds of over 100 Mbps.

Bulgarian digital advertising takes off

By Chris Dziadul

The internet advertising market in Bulgaria grew by 19.4% in 2019.

According to Capital, quoting the findings of the AdEx 2019 survey produced by IAB Bulgaria, it was worth a net BGN122.1 million (€62.4 million), though most participants in the survey now expect a double-digit contraction in online advertising this year.

Although the Bulgarian market performed much better than most others in Europe last year, with the average increase in 2019 being 12.3%, it will have to grow still faster to catch up with other markets.

In 2018, internet ad spend per capita was, at €7.2 one of the lowest in Europe. It was followed by Belarus, Serbia and Romania.

Chris Dziadul Reports: Focus on Belarus

By Chris Dziadul

Boasting a population roughly the same size as Austria and Hungary, Belarus is very much on the periphery of Europe and rarely finds itself in the spotlight.

It nevertheless has dynamic pay-TV and broadband markets, the size of which would surprise many industry observers. According to the findings of a new report by S&P Global Market Intelligence, there were a total of 3.8 million pay-TV subscribers in the country at the end of last year. This was equivalent to a household penetration rate of 92.1%. At the same time, 3.2 million, or 75.7%, of households received fixed broadband services.

Significantly, the pay-TV and fixed broadband sectors had grown by 29% and 20% respectively over the previous five years to each become the third largest in Eastern Europe.

Growth in Belarus is mainly being driven by the incumbent telco Beltelecom and A1 Belarus, which was formerly known as Velcom. In a market with no locally operated DTH platform, the pay-TV sector is split between IPTV, cable and pay-DTT, with IPTV very much in the ascendancy. Indeed, as of the end of 2019 there were 2.228 million IPTV subscribers, or 58% of the total. This was over double the 1.050 million five years earlier.

The number of cable subscribers, on the other hand, stood at 1.458 million. This was equivalent to a market share of 38% and was down from the 1.965 million total posted five years earlier. Pay-DTT, though accounting for only 4% of the market, was growing in popularity and had 156,800 subscribers at the end of 2019, up from 64,000 five years earlier.

Beltelecom is the leading provider of pay-TV services in the country and offers both IPTV and pay-DTT in the shape of Zala TV. A1 Belarus also operates an IPTV service, while the cable market is dominated by Cosmos TV. Partly owned by Russia’s Akado, the latter’s offer currently includes internet access at up to 300Mbps and the Ultra 4K Extreme channel.

For more information about Chris Dziadul, please visit https://www.chrisdziadul.com

DVB-T reloaded: Lampert brings SRG channels back to cable

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Austrian cable operator Lampert has set up a DVB-T transmitter in neighbouring Switzerland in order to be able to distribute the popular TV channels of Swiss public broadcaster SRG on its network again.

After the national DTT switch-off in June 2019, digital terrestrial television can thus be received from Switzerland for the first time again.

Swiss telco Swisscom put the DVB-T transmitter Hoher Kasten back into operation on July 8, 2020, Christoph Schmid, head of marketing & sales at Lampert, told Broadband TV News. “Unfortunately, due to Corona, it took a very long time to finally implement it.” The two German-language SRG channels SRF 1 and SRF 2 are broadcast from the transmitter site. Redistribution on cable has already commenced.

With the move, first reported in November 2019, Lampert is creating the technical and legal basis for making SRG’s channels available to its cable customers again.

After the shutdown of the nationwide DTT network by SRG in June 2019, SRF 1 and SRF 2 disappeared from cable networks in neighbouring countries as redistribution was only permitted if the channels could be received terrestrially unencrypted in the border area. On satellite, SRG encrypts its signals to restrict the reach to Swiss citizens. Therefore, this provided no alternative way of reception for cable operators.

In an aim to bring the channels back to its customers, Lampert applied for an authorisation at Swiss media authority Bakom to use a Swiss DVB-T frequency. The permission, which was subsequently granted, enables the company to broadcast SRG’s channels unencrypted via a DTT transmitter site on Hoher Kasten, a 1,800-metre mountain in the Swiss Appenzell Alps. Because the signal also reaches bordering parts of Austria, local cable operators can thus add SRG’s channels to their networks again.

According to Schmid, demand for the Swiss public TV channels has been “extremely high” among customers as they had always been an integral part of daily television consumption: “They offer added value for cultural exchange and intercultural understanding.”

Because all cable operators in the Austrian Vorarlberg region – the area served by Lampert – benefit from the solution, they also share the costs for the DVB-T transmitter site.

Christina Sulebakk to head HBO Europe

By Chris Dziadul

Christina Sulebakk has been appointed general manager of HBO Europe, including the linear networks and streaming service, effective immediately.

In her new role, she will report into Priya Dogra, president, WarnerMedia Entertainment Networks, EMEA and APAC.
Sulebakk replaces Hervé Payan who served as CEO of HBO Europe for eight years and who will be leaving the company at the end of August 2020.

Commenting on the appointment, Dogra said: “Christina is a tremendously talented executive who has been integral to the success of HBO Europe. She has a deep understanding of direct-to-consumer businesses and has played a pivotal role in the development of our international plans. She will be a key force in driving our growth in Europe”.

She continued: “We’re incredibly grateful to Hervé for his leadership in building and growing the HBO Europe business and importantly, for his vision in launching streaming video offerings in key markets in Europe. I’ve personally worked closely with Hervé over the past few years and I’ve appreciated his entrepreneurial spirit, his focus on innovation and good sense of humour. We are thankful to Hervé for staying on until the end of August to ensure a smooth transition of this important business”.

Payan said: “I am enormously proud of what the HBO Europe team has achieved over the years. I am delighted to see the torch pass to Christina. She has been here since the outset and I’m sure she will play a valuable role in accelerating the pace of the business”.

Sulebakk said: “I couldn’t be more thrilled about my new role and our ambitious plans for HBO Europe. Working on this iconic brand with exceptionally talented colleagues at such a pivotal time in the industry has been an educational and enriching experience. I can’t wait to get started on the opportunities that lie ahead as we build on the strong foundation that is Hervé’s legacy.”

Sulebakk has been at HBO Europe for over eight years, most recently serving as executive VP, CMO & head of distribution. During her years at HBO Europe she has been based in Madrid, Budapest and New York and has played pivotal roles in transforming the Central European business into streaming and launching HBO España.

Discovery takes over German FTA channel Tele 5

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Discovery Deutschland has agreed to acquire free-to-air (FTA) channel Tele 5 from German media company Leonine.

At the same time, both parties concluded a long-term programme supply deal, which grants Discovery access to Leonine’s extensive stock of fictional content.

With the takeover of Tele 5, of which financial terms were not disclosed, Discovery intends to expand its position in the German free-TV market and to capture new target groups and advertising sales potential. The series and movie channel will become part of Discovery Deutschland’s FTA portfolio, consisting of DMAX, TLC, Eurosport 1 and Home & Garden TV.

Following the sale of Tele 5, which is subject to approval by the relevant authorities, Leonine intends to focus on growth in its three strategic business segments of production, distribution and license sales.

In the TV and video sector, the Munich-based company operates subscription video-on-demand services Filmtastic, Home of Horror and Arthouse CNMA and holds a minority stake in commercial TV channel RTLzwei. The division is to remain a central component of the corporate strategy, according to Leonine.

Parks Associates: Consumers spend nearly 7 Hours per week watching online video

By Broadband TV News Correspondent

Parks Associates: Weekly Average Video Consumption on a TV by Format

The number of hours per week consumers spend watching online video has almost doubled from 3.6 hours per week in 2017 to nearly seven hours per week in 2020, says a new report.

Parks Associates’ Set-top Box Innovations and Trends also notes traditional pay-TV service has declined from an adoption rate of 75% to 62% in US broadband households between Q1 2017 and Q1 2020, which led a subsequent decline in set-top box adoption.

“Parks Associates consumer surveys find that 74% of US broadband households subscribe to at least one streaming service (often called OTT – Over-The-Top), and almost half of US broadband households subscribe to two or more services,” said Dr. Kenneth Wacks, Contributing Analyst, Parks Associates. “The top three OTT subscription services in the US are Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu. Newcomers Disney+ and Apple TV+ have grown quickly to round out the top five. Notably, Disney reports having 50 million subscribers as of April 2020. Additional services of note include CBS All Access, Crackle, Fubo TV, BHO Not, Philo, Pluto TV, and Sling TV.”

These OTT services allow households to access premium video content without a set-top box, forcing a change in the relationship between set-top box (STB) makers and cable/satellite operators. Content developers and networks are now streaming content directly to consumers or distributing through OTT service providers. In some cases, multiple-system operators (MSOs) are launching their own streaming devices or creating offerings similar to vMVPDs (virtual multichannel video programming distributors) with the goal of recapturing pay-TV cord-cutters or cord-nevers.

“The set-top box does have a role in this market, but it will have to adapt,” Wacks said. “For one, it can serve as the device to aggregate the variety of different services coming into the households and present them in a personalized and attractive UI for an improved consumer experience. They can also integrate other use cases and innovations, such as voice control and smart home controls, to expand the set-top’s role in the home.”

Set-top Box Innovations and Trends identifies MSO strategies to stay relevant, highlights new methods for accessing traditional TV, and examines how set-top box makers and cable operators are adjusting by establishing new business relationships and adding set-top box features to retain customers.

Filming to commence on Sky entertainment series

By Julian Clover

Sky is to start production on two studio-based entertainment shows; There’s Something About Movies and A League of Their Own.

There’s Something About Movies, produced by CPL Productions, is now onto its third series with Alan Carr as host once again with Jennifer Saunders and Michael Sheen returning as team captains. They’ll preside over film trivia, movie insights and the infamous re-enactments.

The upcoming 15th series of A League of Their Own will be the first in a new three series extension deal between Sky and production company CPL Productions. The show has been a stalwart in Sky’s entertainment portfolio over the past decade and one of the most popular shows on the Sky One.

Barbara Lee, Commissioning Editor at Sky said: ”We all need some joy in our lives so we are excited to start production on two of our customers’ most loved shows: A League of Their Own and There’s Something About Movies. We have worked extremely hard to ensure safety measures are in place to safeguard our guests and the people making the series. These are specifically tailored to the production needs and we are confident we will deliver two stellar shows for our viewers to enjoy.”

Last month, Sky restarted some scripted productions across Europe with Sky original Ich Und Die Anderen returning to production in Vienna and Sky Studios and Sagafilm co-production Sisterhood beginning shooting in Iceland. The learnings and insights from these productions have helped inform Sky’s plans to return to scripted production in the UK later this summer.

Black Dragon Capital completes Grass Valley takeover

By Julian Clover

Tech firm Grass Valley has a new owner. Black Dragon Capital has completed the acquisition of the company from Belden.

Belden will maintain a financial interest in Grass Valley and has entered into a multi-year Transition Services Agreement to ensure the smooth handover of key business and operational systems from Belden to Black Dragon.

Black Dragon Capital is backed by former Grass Valley CEO Louis Hernandez, Jr who said he was excited to be working with Grass Valley again. “Grass Valley’s strong client base, comprehensive product suite, advanced technology, outstanding service reputation and brand positions them well to lead and inspire this industry during a time of digital disruption.”

Company president Tim Shoulders will continue to head Grass Valley’s day-to-day operations. “Grass Valley has shown itself to be the transformation partner for our customers time and again, leading the way with the transition from SDI to IP and now again with the move to cloud-based and SaaS solutions,” said Shoulders. “By leveraging Black Dragon’s experience, Grass Valley will be able to more effectively develop and deliver solutions that lead the media industry through its own digital transformation.”

The company will continue to move services to the cloud and pay-as-you-go business models.

London and Brussels in tug of war over Virgin Media-O2 competition clearance

By Julian Clover

The Competition and Markets Authority is to ask the European Commission to take full control of the review into the merger of Liberty Global’s Virgin Media and Telefonica’s O2.

It’s likely to be the opening round in a battle as to which regulatory body has the final say over the £31 billion deal.

The Financial Times reports the UK will argue that it should take the lead because the merger is one that “solely affects UK consumers”.

Ahead of the end to the transition period on December 31st, when the UK will sever its remaining ties with the European Union, the UK can like any other nation request to take the lead on competition issues.

However, the Virgin-O2 deal is of a size where the Commission could oversee the case.

It’s not the first time that there has been a dispute over who takes the lead in a European cable transaction. Germany’s Bundeskartellamt sought to take the lead in the 2018 purchase of Unity Media by Liberty Global, but ultimately failed in its bid.

To date the Virgin-O2 transaction has not been formally notified to the Commission.

Canal+ eyes Polish floatation

By Chris Dziadul

ITI Neovision, the operator of Poland’s Platforma Canal+, plans to enter the Warsaw Stock Exchange.

According to Presserwis, a financial report submitted to the National Court Register revealed that on May 28 an extraordinary meeting of shareholders adopted a resolution regarding the dematerialisation of shares and application to begin trading shares on the exchange.

It also said that an IPO process had started but at the same time reaffirmed Canal+ Group’s intention to remain the main shareholder irrespective of the process.

Canal+ currently holds a 51% stake in ITI Neovision, with TVN and LGI Global Ventures Holding accounting for 32% and 17% respectively.

It has previously been reported that Liberty Global may wish to sell its shares in ITI Neovision.

The extraordinary meeting of shareholders also adopted a resolution to change the company’s name from ITI Neovision to Canal+ Polska.

PPF Group strengthens telco business

By Chris Dziadul

The process of unbundling Telenor’s network infrastructure has been completed in Hungary.

As a result, a new network infrastructure service company named CETIN Hungary started operating on July 1, further strengthening the position of the Czech Republic’s PPF Group, Telenor Hungary’s majority owner.

PPF Group has also launched CETIN companies in Bulgaria and Serbia, and all three, along with CETIN in the Czech Republic, now form the backbone of its operations in the CEE region.

In Hungary, PPF Group is working in partnership with the national transmission company Antenna Hungária.

BBC Studios inks Estonian deal

By Chris Dziadul

BBC Studios has signed a cooperation agreement with the Estonian operator Elisa.

As a result, its content will be offered on Huub, a streaming service available to customers of Elisa Elasmus’ cable service, from this month.

Commenting on the development, Toomas Ili, Elisa’s content procurement manager, said: “In addition to the best domestic series already available from our TV channels, Elisa’s exclusive original series and both domestic and foreign feature films, the first top British series bearing the BBC quality label will reach Huub’s subscribers already in July”.

Salim Mukaddam, VP of collaborative projects and content sales at BBC Studios EMEA, added: “We are happy to start cooperating with Elisa in Estonia to bring our best drama series to their platform. We have been licensing our content in Estonia for many years and we know that the local audience is very interested in British series. We hope to further expand our collaboration in the coming years”.

Virgin Media viewing up as lockdown shifts habits

By Julian Clover

Virgin Media customers spent more than 41 minutes a day longer in front of their TV screens during the early stages of lockdown.

Data released by the cablenet shows this represents a 10% increase in total viewership.

On demand programming and streaming apps consumption increased by nearly a third, while news channels saw the largest increase in viewership during early lockdown with customers watching twice as much news.

Saturday 28 March was the busiest day for customers tuning in to TV channels and apps with 17% and 42% growth respectively compared to the eight previous Saturdays. BBC One’s charity entertainment show The Big Night In was the most viewed event over the lockdown months.

With the majority of schools closed, viewers spent 5 hours more on average during April watching pay-TV kids channels such as Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network compared to February. Overall, pay-TV kids channels saw a 19% increase in viewing time during early lockdown with Paw Patrol, Peppa Pig and Fireman Sam proving popular with younger viewers.

Virgin customers also explored on demand TV and streaming apps, spending 29% more time watching video apps in early lockdown than the pre-lockdown period, with Netflix experiencing a 32% increase in app usage time via the Virgin TV platform during early lockdown.

The YouTube app was also accessed by 16% more users and overall viewing time increased by 37%.

When the Bundlesliga returned in May, Dortmund’s fixture against Bayern Munich on Tuesday 26 May was watched by 111% more customers than their previous league fixture on Saturday 11 November.

Manchester City vs Arsenal, which was the second live match of the Premier League’s return on 17 June, saw a 47% increase in viewership compared to the respective matches televised in March 2019 and 2018.

In the first week that the Premier League resumed, the sports genre experienced its highest viewership figures in 14 weeks.

Polsat wins Interia approval

By Chris Dziadul

Poland’s Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) has approved the sale of the Interia Group to Telewizja Polsat.

As previously reported by Broadband TV News, in May the Cyfrowy Polsat-owned broadcaster entered into an agreement to buy Interia from Bauer Media Group for PLN422 million (€92.8 million).

The transaction is now expected to close later this month.