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Netflix increases Belgian subscription price

By Julian Clover

Belgium has become the latest country to see an increase in the price of its Netflix subscription.

In line with its pricing in other European markets the Standard and Premium packages will cost 1 and 2 euros more per month respectively. However, the Basic tier will remain at its current pricepoint.

The Standard subscription rises to €11.99 per month, adding high definition, and the possibility of two separate users at any one time. The top tier Premium package now costs €15.99 with Ultra HD and four users available.

Netflix says it is continuing to invest in original content including locally developed series for the Belgian market.

Netflix to open new Paris HQ with increased commitment to French market

By Julian Clover

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has opened a new French headquarters in the capital Paris.

The office, which will house 40 employees, comes alongside an increased investment in French production with 20 new projects and partnerships with a number of leading French creative institutions.

“It is a real honour to be in France, with its rich culture and history of storytelling. This office is a sign of our long-term commitment to the country, and will enable us to work even more closely with the French creative community on great shows and films that are made in France and watched all around the world”, said Reed Hastings, Founding Chairman and CEO of Netflix.

The office is the fourth to be opened by Netflix in Europe.

Its new investment in French content represents a near doubling of its output to date. Since it launched in France four years ago it has developed 24 French titles, including 6 films, 9 series, 5 stand-up shows, 3 documentaries and 1 unscripted series.

The new productions include BigBug, a new film by César Award Winner Jean-Pierre Jeunet, based on a script written by Jeunet and Guillaume, Laurant, a comedy set in the future with a cast including César Award Winner Elsa Zylberstein, César Award Nominee Isabelle Nanty, and Manu Payet. YA Sci-fi series Mortel (pictured), created by Frederic Garcia, is also being renewed for a second season.

“We are incredibly proud of the productions we’re currently filming, the ones we are developing and the ones we’ve unveiled today. The establishment of a new French creative hub brings new opportunities for us to work with the best and most exciting creative talent in France and to bring diverse genres and content to everyone who loves French storytelling,” added Damien Couvreur, Netflix’s Director of Series in France.

Netflix is extending its support for La Fémis and its ‘Residency’ programme, an 11-month full-time training course that helps young people from disadvantaged backgrounds get into film and TV. It is also supporting director Houda Benyamina’s 1000 visages association and its scriptwriting programme; and has partnered GOBELINS L’École de l’Image, giving one graduate the opportunity to train alongside Netflix animators in Japan.

Amagi Cloud gives distribution to Insight TV trio

By Julian Clover

Amagi says three channels from 4K UHD broadcaster Insight TV have been successfully transitioned to its Amagi cloud platform.

Insight TV Lifestyle, InWonder, and InTrouble are currently delivered to the STIRR platform in the United States, with InTrouble being delivered to the UK and Insight TV Lifestyle to Spain on Samsung TV Plus platform. Additionally, Insight TV Lifestyle is also delivered to the Oona TV platform in Indonesia.

Amagi deployed Cloudport to create the linear OTT channels and distribute them to Free Ad Supported platforms/Connected TVs such as STIRR and Samsung TV Plus.

“Choosing Amagi as our back-end cloud technology provider has brought about a remarkable ease to our operations, reducing overall costs and effort,” said Rian Bester, CEO, Insight TV. “Their solutions are already pre-integrated with STIRR, Samsung TV Plus and other leading platforms. This has made the transition to Amagi quick and hassle-free”.

Hosted on a AWS public cloud infrastructure, Amagi Cloudport packs in advanced features such as automated scheduling, dynamic graphics, live controls, 4K UHD playout, and 24×7 monitoring. It also has unmatched flexibility to support multiple distribution platforms, catering to their unique and individual requirements.

“Amagi is widely accepted by leading OTT platforms/devices across the world – both subscription-based and free ad-supported models. It makes Amagi a very attractive and obvious choice for content owners and digital networks to distribute their content to multiple platforms, across regions” said Srini, co-founder, Amagi. “We are excited to be the technology partner of Insight TV, and enable them to reach streaming audiences in their growth markets”.

Amagi manages 250+ channels, with deployments in more than 40 countries. Amagi clients include Turner Broadcasting, Viceland, Discovery, IMG, MGM, Tastemade, PeopleTV, ShortsTV, PBS America, Viacom18, Quest TV and Zee TV.

Eutelsat launches Konnect, provides 5 West B update

By Chris Dziadul

The Eutelsat Connect satellite has been successfully launched into geostationary transfer orbit by Arianespace from the Guiana Space Centre in Korou, French Guiana.

Built by Thales Alenia Space, the satellite, features all-electric propulsion and operates in Ka-band. It is the first one to use Thales Alenia Space’s all-electric Spacebus NEO platform, developed under the Neosat Partnership Project conducted by the European and French space agencies (ESA and CNES).

Eutelsat Connect will assure full or partial coverage for up to 40 countries in Africa and 15 in Europe. Offering total capacity of 75 Gbps, by next autumn it will allow the operator to provide internet access services for both companies and individuals at up to 100 Mbps.

Commenting on the launch, Rodolphe Belmer, CEO of Eutelsat,said: “Our congratulations to Arianespace and the Guiana Space Centre teams for successfully launching our Eutelsat Connect satellite towards geostationary orbit. The collaboration between Eutelsat, Thales Alenia Space and Arianespace on this ambitious satellite programme has resulted in a world-first broadband satellite for the African and European continents that demonstrates the suitability of satellite infrastructure as a means to deliver high quality broadband services, contributing to bridging the digital divide within rural areas”.

In a separate development, Eutelsat has provided an update on the status of its Eutelsat 5 West satellite, having previously announced an investigation into a malfunction one of the two solar arrays on October 24, 2019. The investigation confirmed the loss of the satellite’s South solar array, though otherwise the satellite’s performance remains normal.

Eutelsat adds that the attendant power loss means that around 45% of the capacity of the satellite can be operated. The satellite is now expected to enter service this month and meet the designed life time.

A number of mitigation actions aimed at assuring service continuity will be implemented, following the end of life in stable orbit of the satellite, for the largest possible number of customers.

Eutelsat 5 West B is fully insured against the eventuality of a partial or total loss by a launch-plus-one-year insurance for up to €173 million.

The partial non-availability of the satellite B will reduce Financial Year 2019-20 revenues for the operating verticals by €5-10 million. The one-off cost of mitigation, mostly related to the repointing of ground antennae will be between €0-10 million.

In consequence, Eutelsat’s revenue objective for financial year 2019-20 is mechanically revised to between €1,270 million and €1,315 million for the operating verticals.

Eutelsat concludes by saying that all its other financial objectives remain unchanged.

NBCโ€™s Peacock to launch with free and subscription tiers

By Julian Clover

Streaming service Peacock is to host the new NBC-Sky News global news channel.

Unveiling the proposition at the iconic Studio 8H of 30 Rock, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told his audience how the company was reimagining the NBCUniversal proposition

Peacock will make its debut on April 15 with a combination of free and subscription tiers.

Peacock Free includes next day access to current seasons current broadcast series, complete classic series, popular movies, daily news and sports programming including the Olympics.

Peacock Premium will be bundled for 24 million US subscribers that use Xfinity X1 and Flex. It’s also available for $4.99 per month on mobile and web devices for non-bundled customers. Premium customers can upgrade to an ad-free experience for an additional $5.00 per month, or any customer can purchase the ad-free experience directly for $9.99 per month.

Premium subscribers get early access to late night talk shows, including The Late Show with Seth Myers and additional sports – such as the Premier League

“This is a very exciting time for our company, as we chart the future of entertainment,” said Steve Burke, Chairman of NBCUniversal. “We have one of the most enviable collections of media brands and the strongest ad sales track record in the business. Capitalizing on these key strengths, we are taking a unique approach to streaming that brings value to customers, advertisers and shareholders.”

NBC News new international news network in collaboration with Sky was first mooted in April in prepared remarks by Brian Roberts. However, we’re still without an official launch date.

Peacock will also have exclusive streaming rights for the 2020 Universal film slate and beyond in the network window. Films will include some of the biggest live action feature films of all time, including Fast & Furious 9 and Jurassic World 3.

There will also be access to Universal’s back catalogue and Dick Wolf’s library of Law & Order and Chicago franchises.

Romanian Digi boosts 4K offer

By Chris Dziadul

The Digi Group/RCS&RDS has launched a special 4K package consisting of its proprietary channel Digi 4K and Eurosport 4K.

Available from Friday, January 17, it can be received throughout the country and costs subscribers RON5 (€1.04) a month to receive.

Digi notes that it was the first operator in the convergent electronic communications market in Romania to launch 4K, with Digi 4K making its debut in November 2018.

It adds that it signed a strategic agreement with Discovery Romania at the end of last year which included the operator’s offer and Home and Garden TV (HGTV) in addition to the premium content available on Eurosport 1, Eurosport 2, Discovery Channel, TLC and Travel Channel.

Tricolor launches unique UFC package

By Chris Dziadul

Russia’s leading pay-TV operator Tricolor has added an à la carte UFC sports package to its offer.

Available to Tricolor DTH customers in the Eutelsat 36B coverage are, it costs R299 (€4.35) a month to receive.

Commenting on the development, Tricolor content director said: “We continue to develop thematic television watching in Russia, especially content related to sports that are not widely represented on federal channels. Subscribers of our new UFC package will have the opportunity at any time to watch the most vivid fights with the participation of legendary athletes on one TV channel”.

UFC Russia VP Andrey Gromkovsky added: “The launch of UFC TV on the Tricolor platform is a new step in expanding the UFC brand and promoting mixed martial arts (MMA) in Russia. Now the fans will be able to support our fighters even in the most remote regions. It is especially important that Tricolor begins cooperation with UFC TV in early 2020, when the biggest UFC fights are expected – the battle of Conor McGregor against Donald Cerrone this coming weekend and the fight of Khabib Nurmagomedov against Tony Ferguson in April 2020”.

Konstantin Vladimirov, commercial director of Media Telekom, said: “UFC TV began broadcasting in April 2019 and has already managed to gather its loyal audience, becoming one of the best sports channels in the current OTT and IPTV services. We are glad that now subscribing to it is available to a wide audience of Tricolor as part of the DTH service”.

UFC covers more than 40 tournaments each year and they will be offered in HD to Tricolor viewers.

Nikica Skunca leaves Nova TV

By Chris Dziadul

Nikica Skunca has left his position as internet business unit manager, new media director at Croatia’s Nova TV after nearly 10 years with the company.

According to Poslovni, he has been appointed the CEO of IN2 Group, until recently the largest software company in the country.

Meanwhile, IN2 Group’s former CEO Katarina Siber Makar has been promoted to senior VP for business development at Aquila Software, a parent company of IN2 Group.

Skunca started his career at Hrvatski Telekom in 1998.

Ukraine amends foreign channel list

By Chris Dziadul

The Ukrainian regulator National Council has made three changes to the list of foreign TV channels allowed to be broadcast in the country.

All such channels have to comply with the European Convention on Transfrontier Television and Ukrainian legislation.

The first change involves Nickelodeon, with the country of ownership of the channel (producer) now the Czech Republic now the Czech Republic rather than Netherlands.

The language has also been changed from Russian to English and Russian, while the channel is now offered simultaneously in both HD and SD.

The second change involves Russia’s Tele 9, which ceased its activities in February 2013 and has been removed from the list, and the third Nicktoons, which is registered in the Czech Republic.

A 24-hour channels broadcast in Russian, it has been added to the list.

ODMedia Group opens Poland office

By Chris Dziadul

The Dutch content services, aggregation and processing company for on-demand media ODMedia Group has opened an office in the Polish capital, Warsaw.

Headed by Lukasz Brzezinski, who was formerly at Canal+ Group and Kino Polska TV, and effectively expands the company’s next-generation media and commercial aggregation services to the growing Polish market.

Commenting on the development, Sjef Pijnenburg, CEO of ODMedia Group, said: “This new addition to the ODMedia Group family is part of our growing global strategy. Poland is a fast-growing market and I am very excited to have such an experienced partner on board. I look forward to the great things that will happen in this market”.

Lukasz Brzezinski added: “Having seen what ODMedia Group has been able to achieve these last 15 years gives me the confidence and prowess to show our Polish clients what we can do to help them with the everchanging demand of the digital marketplace.”

Travelxp secures Telekom Romania carriage

By Chris Dziadul

Telekom Romania has added Travelxp to its channel line-up.

As of the beginning of this year it has been available on the telco’s DTH and IPTV platforms, fully localised with subtitles in Romanian.

Commenting on the development, Sumant Bahl, MD – Europe, Travelxp, said: “The year 2019 has been an excellent year for Travelxp, and 2020 begins with a crucial partnership with Telekom Romania. We are excited to showcase 100% original travel documentary programming to the viewers of Romania, and to have them experience and explore the world on their television screens”.

Andreas Elsner, CCO, residential segment, Telekom Romania, added: “By including Travel XP in our TV grids, we are providing our customers with exciting programmes, which will broaden their perspective on travel and will give them the opportunity to learn new things about different cultures and countries. Our partnership with Travel XP is valuable through the variety and quality of the broadcast content which we are certain that our customers will enjoy watching”.

Travelxp is already localised in nine European languages and distributed in over 18 countries across Europe.

BBC welcomes NAO report into BBC Studios launch

By Julian Clover

The National Audit Office report into launch of BBC Studios has said there was a clear rationale behind its creation.

However, the government body says it is still too early to tell if the merger is delivering sustainable value for money as delivering the associated changes in organisational culture takes time.

BBC Studios was created in 2016, when the BBC brought together its in house production teams, before turning it into a commercial entity in April 2017. A year later the BBC created the new BBC Studios as its largest commercial subsidiary following a merger of the existing BBC Studios and BBC Worldwide, its commercial distribution business.

In addition to the Studios business, its international channel operations are also included, as is the investment in streaming service Britbox.

The NAO called for clarity about the new business it is winning and the intellectual property it is able to develop.

Welcoming the report, the BBC said “in a time of unprecedented change across the global market, and with continued tough financial challenges, the success of BBC Studios is vital in helping the BBC deliver value for money for the licence fee payer as well as distributing and promoting British creativity worldwide.”

In response to some of the report’s criticisms, BBC Studios is launching a three-year culture and engagement plan to improve the overall experience of working at BBC Studios, amid concerns that there was a cultural gap between the Studios and Distribution businesses.

There have also been changes to the governance of the BBC’s commercial activities.

In 2018/19, BBC Studios returned £243m to the BBC public service, principally in dividends and investment in programming.

More OTT content to go direct to consumer

By Julian Clover

The number of companies that choose to by-pass the traditional pay-TV operator and instead market their services direct to the consumer are expected to dramatically increase in 2020, a new report claims.

ABI Research 54 Technology Trends to Watch in 2020 expects consumers to move away from the “forced packaging of channels into fixed bundles”. ABI expects consumers to be granted the ability to pick and choose the channels that are most important to them.

It says the “growing penchant” among content owners to go direct to the consumer is creating a more challenging market that is leading to a decline in subscriber bases.

However, one technology that ABI does not expect to see is the 8K Television sets that were announced by vendors early in 2019. Instead, ABU believes the move to from high definition to 4K will continue in 2020 with very limited 8K shipments, representing less than 1 million worldwide.

Apple TV+ ready for smart TV rollout

By Julian Clover

Apple’s move into TV ‘services’ has been sealed with the announcement of new distribution agreements for Apple TV+ on LG, Sony and VIZIO smart TVs.

Already available from iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac, iPod touch, select Samsung smart TVs, and Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices, the new smart TVs will be added later this year. Precise details have not been released.

The Apple TV app currently offers over 30 Apple TV channels — including direct subscriptions to premium video services tgar customers can watch both online and offline.

“2019 was the biggest year for Services in Apple’s history. We introduced several exciting new experiences for our customers, all while setting the standard for user privacy and security,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “We begin the new decade with incredible momentum and gratitude to our customers who have shown such enthusiasm for all of our Services, and we continue to celebrate the work of the world’s best creators, storytellers, journalists and developers.”

Apple TV+ has introduced a number of Apple Originals that include The Morning Show, Dickinson, For All Mankind, and See and Servant.

It also made history as the first streaming platform to receive multiple Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations in its launch year.

Apple TV+ is available in 100 countries and regions.

New channels from Discovery at Telekom Slovenije

By Julian Clover

Eurosport 4K and HGTV are joining the line-up at Telekom Slovenije following a new agreement with Discovery Networks.

Eurosport 4K makes its debut on the NEO platform as does HGTV as part of Discovery’s European rollout.

Kenechi Beluševic, Senior Business Development Manager Discovery CEEMCA (Central and Eastern Europe, Mediterranean and Central Asia), said: “we highly value the continuation of our strategic partnership with Telekom Slovenije. We are particularly thrilled to introduce Eurosport 4K and HGTV on the Slovenian market, and we are confident that these new channels will grow into an instrumental part of Telekom Slovenije’s NEO platform.”

The deal also includes Discovery Channel, Eurosport 1, Eurosport 2, Animal Planet, Discovery ID Xtra, Discovery Showcase and TLC.

Simon Slonjšak, Director of Business Development B2C at Telekom Slovenije, believes the new content will appeal to demanding Slovene audience: “As the market leader we strive to introduce new technologies and content constantly in order to provide our users the best user experience possible. We are pleased to introduce two high-in-demand Discovery channels: Eurosport 4K and HGTV, available in Telekom Slovenije’s TV plan.”

Telekom Slovenije is the first platform in the market to offer Eurosport 4K.

Chris Dziadul Reports: Telekom Srbija reflects

By Chris Dziadul

The last two years have been particularly significant for the Serbian incumbent Telekom Srbija.

In an interview with the local publication Blic earlier this month, CEO Pedrag Culibrk revealed that preliminary figures for 2019 show that its income amounted to RSD91 billion (€772 million), or 3-4% more than the previous year.

Moreover, this figure excluded Supernova, a new brand that it has recently launched in its home market.

Telekom Srbija has been in expansive mode since 2018 and at the end of that year gave a debut to a new DTH service named m:Sat TV. Culibrk said that it has already secured around 50,000 subscribers in Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro, the three markets it is present in.

Culibrk also discussed the acquisition spree that the company embarked on towards the end of 2018, when it bought the Serbian cable operator Kopernikus, which had over 200,000 subscribers. It was part of what was termed the “million plus’ strategy, which has already been achieved with Telekom Srbija and its companies in the three countries now claiming a combined total of 1.1 million multimedia customers. Indeed, the company gained half a million such customers in the last six months alone.

Although Culibrk was keen to emphasise the dramatic progress the telco has made in becoming a leader in 4G, he made clear that its future lies in the provision of multimedia services. Furthermore, he said that it will continue to invest in content, both for the Arena Sport channel and other services.

Significantly, Culibrk also dismissed allegations that its acquisitions of cable operators were not subject to government control. He maintained the company hid nothing, respected everything and regarded the comments as malicious.

Ukrainian sanctions sat TV channel

By Chris Dziadul

The Ukrainian regulator National Council has fined the satellite channel Maksi-TV 25% of its licence fee and ordered it to bring its activities into line with current national legislation within a month.

In a statement, it says that fine, which amounts to UAH105,625.50 (€3,913), has been imposed following an unscheduled inspection to the Kiev offices of Nasha Praga in which it was found that the broadcaster had shown content that called for the overthrow of the constitutional order in Ukraine.

Further sanctions will be imposed on Maxi-TV if it fails to comply with the regulator’s ruling.

EVS recruits new management members

By Chris Dziadul

EVS has announced three key internal promotions aimed at strengthening the management team and accelerating the company’s worldwide growth.

Benoit Quirynen, who joined EVS in August 2016 as SVP market & product,has been appointed SVP Strategy. In this newly created role, he will work closely with CEO Serge Van Herck, enabling strategic partnership cooperations and providing overall strategic guidance to steer the company towards its business objectives. Prior to EVS, he spent most of his career leading transformational change in a wide range of businesses and through various management functions.

Nicolas Bourdon has been promoted from his position as SVP marketing to CMO. Over the past 14 years, he has directly contributed to today’s positioning of EVS as a worldwide leader in the industry. As EVS’ new CMO, he will be managing the global market solutions activities from ideation to market delivery. He will also be responsible for overseeing the company’s global marketing, learning and community management activities.

Quentin Grutman has taken on the role of chief customer officer to lead all EVS’ customer facing teams: Sales, Presales, Project Management and Customer Service. Having led EVS EMEA for five years and EVS Americas for the past four years, he has demonstrated he has the right expertise, experience and energy to drive EVS towards its ambitious goals and strengthen relationships with its customers on a global scale.

Commenting on the three appointments, EVS’ CEO, Serge Van Herck said: “Our broadcast industry is going through fundamental changes and by promoting these experienced and passionate leaders to their new roles, I’m convinced we’ll be able to better leverage their expertise and accelerate EVS’ growth at this pivotal moment in the industry.”

All three officially took up their roles on January 1, 2020.

Angel Olabuenaga Buron joins Euskaltel

By Chris Dziadul

Angel Olabuenaga Buron has been appointed the CFO of the Spanish cable operator Euskaltel.

He replaces Jon Anders de las Fuentes, who has left the company.

Buron has more than 19 years of experience in multinational business, most recently as CFO-Latin America for Vestas.

Commenting on his appointment, Eamonn O’Hare, chairman and CEO of Zegona, said: “We see Angel’s arrival as a very positive sign for Euskaltel. We expect his strong operational finance experience will provide valuable support to José Miguel and the rest of the management team as they continue to build on the momentum they have already demonstrated in transforming Euskaltel into a more operationally focussed business.”

UPC Polska boosts Horizon Go offer

By Chris Dziadul

Poland’s leading cable operator UPC Polska has added 22 more channels to its mobile TV service Horizon Go.

As a result, it is now the most comprehensive such product on the Polish market, offering viewers up to 157 channels, 140 of which are available outside the home, along with thousands of movies and series on an on demand basis.

Aside from iOS and Android mobile devices, PCs and horizon.tv, Horizon Go can from this year also be received on the Android TV, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV platforms.

The new channels include HBO HD, Cinemax HD, Polsat Viasat HD, Mezzo Live HD and MTV Live HD.

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