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Before yesterdayBroadband TV News: Telecom

Deutsche Telekom, industry associations consider legal action against EU approval of Vodafone/Unitymedia merger

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Deutsche Telekom and several industry associations are considering taking legal action against the European Commission’s decision to approve Vodafone’s acquisition of German cable operator Unitymedia.

“We will closely analyse the decision of the competition authority and then decide whether a review in court is necessary to protect competition,” a Telekom spokesman told Broadband TV News. “We are convinced that the concessions are not sufficient to counter the negative effects in the area of media and content diversity.”

German commercial broadcaster association VAUNET also wants to “look at the decision in detail and evaluate further steps.” The EU Commission was cementing Vodafone’s “quasi-monopoly” in the German cable market, which would then possess around 80% of cable subscriptions, according to a statement. It would, thus, be easy for Vodafone to dictate the conditions for the distribution, packaging, accessibility and visibility of content.

German cable operator association FRK will also have the EU decision juridically examined and, if necessary, take legal action against it together with other industry associations. “The now manifested duopoly of Vodafone and Telekom with its concentrated power will threaten the existence of small and medium sized players in unequal competition,” warns FRK chairman Heinz-Peter Labonte. At the same time, this would “herald the end of the nationwide deployment of fibre-optic networks, which has been driven by medium-sized cable operators, municipal utilities and regional providers.”

According to German fibre-optic cable operator association BREKO, the merger will lead to “a considerable restriction of competition – and thus to disadvantages for citizens and companies.” As examples, the association cites the market for contracts with the housing industry to supply end customers with cable services, which Vodafone would dominate with a market share of around 75%, and the fibre-optic market, in which regional and medium-sized companies would hardly have a chance, while Vodafone itself could withdraw from the rollout of fibre-optic networks, as it could just rely on is cable network in future.

Tele Columbus also fears that the “re-monopolisation of the cable market” could weaken competition in the supply of the housing market and lead to rising infrastructure and media provision costs for housing companies at the expense of tenants. In addition, fibre-optic deployments could be slowed down due to the merged company’s unwillingness to invest, a spokesman of the German cable operator told Broadband TV News.

German cable service association DNMG also warns of the negative effects of the merger. Vodafone’s concessions “are in no way suitable to secure competition for content, infrastructure and services,” DNMG managing director Ingo Schuchert told Broadband TV News. This would come at the expense of medium-sized businesses, end-customers and infrastructure deployment.

On July 18, 2019, the EU Commission announced its decision to approve the acquisition of Unitymedia by Vodafone subject to conditions.

Spanish FTTH growth continues

By Chris Dziadul

The number of FTTH lines in Spain topped 9 million in May, according to the latest data published by the regulator CNMC.

All told, 147,991 FTTH lines were added during the month, while in the year to May 2019 the country gained an additional 1.8 million FTTH lines.

Meanwhile, the number of DSL lines fell by 1.3 million in the year to May.

Movistar was the leading FTTH provider, accounting for 4.1 million lines, or 44.4% of the total, as of this May.

It, along with Orange (including Jazztel) and Vodafone (including Ono) claimed a combined 87.8% share of the FTTH market.

Vimeo order to compensate Mediaset over breach of copyright

By Julian Clover

An Italian court has ordered videoclip website Vimeo to pay Mediaset €5 million for the unlicensed use of the broadcaster’s content.

Mediaset is pursuing cases against 19 digital operators that it believes has breached its copyright.

Previously it has also successfully defended itself against Facebook, Yahoo and Dailymotion.

Earlier this week, a Rome court ordered Dailymotion to pay Italy’s Mediaset €5.5 million for breaching copyright law.

Vimeo is said to uploaded clips of close to 498 Mediaset shows without prior permission.

Mediaset believes it could be liable to pay compensation of almost €200 million.

SFR unveils new set-top

By Chris Dziadul

France’s SFR has announced the launch of a new set-top box.

Named the SFR Box 8, it has been produced by Altice Labs and France will be the first country in which Altice will market the box as of August 20.

Equipped with SFR’s voice assistant, and soon also Amazon’s Alexa, it in addition features 4K HDR and Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos and is accompanies by new SFR TV app, available through the App Store and Android Store.

The box will be offered in France on FTTH and ADSL from August 20 and FTTB from October 8.

However, no price details have yet been released.

Commenting on the new box, Grégory Rabuel, SFR executive VP SFR France, said: “With the SFR Box8 experience, we will offer all our customers a new standard in the market: connected objects, smart home, image and cinema. Only Box market equipped with the latest generation of WiFi, WiFi 6, and incorporating all the new features expected by users as the voice assistant, the SFR BOX 8 and its multi-screen interface will bring a new experience to the living room.”

Netflix explores low cost subscription

By Julian Clover

Netflix has revealed plans to launch a new mobile only plan.

The low-cost subscription was revealed in the streamer’s investor letter in Wednesday.

After several months of testing, Netflix confirmed its first mobile screen plan will launch in India during Q3.

It says the plan will be an effective way to introduce a larger number of people in India to Netflix and expand its business in a market where pay-TV ARPU is low.

A trial plan costing around $4 a month has been running in India and other selected Asian territories for the past few months.

UK Digital Minister resigns after stop No Deal Brexit vote

By Julian Clover

UK digital minister Margot James has resigned after refusing to back the government in a vote designed to prevent the next prime minister from suspending Parliament in order to push through a no-deal Brexit.

The current favourite to take over the leadership of the Conservative Party, Boris Johnson, is adamant the UK needs to leave the EU by October 31st.

In order to do so it had been suggested that he might delay the State Opening of Parliament, suspending it from sitting.

But a Group of MPs led by Chancellor Phillip Hammond broke ranks with the government and abstained in Thursday’s vote.

Ms James took on the role of Minister of State for Digital and the Creative in January 2018.

Britbox launch confirmed for Q4

By Julian Clover

ITV and BBC have signed an agreement that will see the launch of their joint streaming service Britbox in the UK during the fourth quarter.

The venture will be controlled by ITV, who will have a 90% equity stake, the BBC will hold 10%. The BBC has an option to acquire additional shares over time up to 25% in total and ITV will have the ability to bring additional investors on board, leaving the door open for he publicly-owned tChannel 4, and potentially Viacom’s Channel 5.

Britbox will be priced at £5.99 per month for which viewers will receive an HD version available across multiple devices.

It will comprise of archive shows from the broadcasters’ libraries, including what’s described as “the largest collection of British boxsets”, and original commissions.

BritBox will pay market rate fees for content provided by ITV, BBC and other rights owners.

“The agreement to launch BritBox is a milestone moment. Subscription video on demand is increasingly popular with consumers who love being able to watch what they want when they want to watch it. They are also happy to pay for this ease of access to quality content and so BritBox is tapping into this, and a new revenue stream for UK public service broadcaster,” said ITV CEO Carolyn McCall.

It’s not the first time the two public service broadcasters have worked together. The partners were also at the foundation of ventures including Freeview, Freesat and YouView. They already run Britbox in the US and Canada.

Content such as Gavin & Stacey, Victoria, Happy Valley, Broadchurch, Les Miserables, The Office and Benidorm will be available at launch or, significantly, “when licences with other SVODs end”, a nod to US rivals Netflix and Amazons where the Britbox partners have previously concluded agreements.

“But this service isn’t just about the past,” said BBC director-general Tony Hall. “I am really excited about the new shows it will commission. With a remit to be daring and different, many future classics will be commissioned and live on BritBox for the future.”

The new shows are expected to be commissioned soon and make their debut from 2020.

BritBox will have its own dedicated management team led by Reemah Sakaan, Group Director ITV SVOD, responsible for making editorial decisions about the service content while also ensuring alignment with ITV’s and the BBC’s branding and editorial policies. Reemah reports to Kevin Lygo, ITV’s Director of Television, who has overall commissioning responsibility for BritBox.

Consumers who are interested in subscribing to BritBox when it becomes available can register their interest now at www.BritBox.co.uk.

• Ofcom has provisionally concluded that the BBC’s involvement in the BritBox service is not a material change to its commercial activities, and no further assessment is required ahead of its launch.

Telekom Romania to shed 700 staff

By Chris Dziadul

The Romanian incumbent plans to lay off nearly 12% of its workforce.

Quoting an announcement by the company, Business Review reports that by shedding 692 employees it will be expanding a restructuring process that began two years ago due to lower revenues and record losses.

The majority of the losses (438) will be in Telekom Romania Communications, with the remainder (254) in Telekom Romania Mobile Communications.

Deutsche Telekom-backed OTE is currently in the process of selling its majority stake in Telekom Romania.

Favourites to buy the stake include RCS&RDS, Orange Romania, Russia’s ER-Telecom and the Bulgarian entrepreneur Spas Roussev.

OTT milestone for Tricolor

By Chris Dziadul

Russia’s Tricolor has secured over 500,000 customers for its OTT service in only the first two months.

Furthermore, it expects to increase the number to 2 million by the end of the year, primarily due to new connections.

In a statement, the company adds that it will open its OTT service to non-Tricolor customers this October.

Tricolor has created what it terms as an ecosystem that is already open to all its 12.232 million customers.

It allows them to consume content in the most convenient way, be it via satellite or the internet.

Tricolor says it is in negotiations to open up the ecosystem to leading companies from various industries, allowing them to offer partner services.

Chris Dziadul Reports: All systems go for Vodafone

By Chris Dziadul

The news that Vodafone has finally received permission from the EC to take over Liberty Global’s cable assets in three CEE markets is hugely significant for the region.

It will see the company become a major player in all three, and indeed the leading provider of converged services in Europe as a whole. In Hungary, for instance, the combined Vodafone/UPC operation will have 25%, 24% and 19% shares of the country’s mobile, fixed-line broadband and pay-TV markets respectively, while in the Czech Republic its new operation will include over half a million next generation broadband customers and 539,000 receiving its cable TV services. In Romania, Vodafone will finally be able to establish a strong presence in the country’s TV market.

However, as in the case of the sale of Liberty’s assets in Germany to Vodafone, the transactions in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania will come with strings attached. They address the EC’s competition concerns for the combined €18.4 billion deal, which was first announced in May 2018 and is expected to close at the end of this month.

Questions now arise as to how long Liberty Global plans to remain in the CEE region, where it will only be left with a presence in Poland (UPC Polska and a minority stake in the DTH platform nc+) and Slovakia (UPC Slovakia). Its UPC DTH operation, active in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania for nearly two decades, was recently sold to M7 Group.

The wider picture in the region remains one of consolidation and re-alignment, with long-established players such as Liberty Global and CME fading from the picture and new ones, including the Czech Republic’s PPF Group, expanding rapidly. It seems that we are only in the early stages of this process.

NENT seizes Nordic streaming market

By Julian Clover

NENT added 65,000 subscribers to its Nordic streaming business in the second quarter.

The figures are significant in what is traditionally a quiet quarter.

The company says it made “substantial progress” during Q2 in seizing what it sees as a significant opportunity in the Nordic streaming market.

A total of 244,000 subscribers were added in the last 12 months and Viaplays 1,421,000 subscribers now represent 60% of its total subscriber base.

“NENT Group comes out of Q2 even better positioned to benefit from the shift to on-demand and online viewing. Scaling Viaplay is the best way to create long-term shareholder value, and we intend to do so while continuing to deliver profitable growth,” said President & CEO Anders Jensen.

Net Income for the quarter was SEK 348 million (€33.1m), up from SEK 329 million.

Sky Deutschland to launch Sky Cinema Summerfeeling

By JΓΆrn Krieger

German pay-TV broadcaster Sky Deutschland will show more than 40 films about summer, holidays and travel on pop-up channel Sky Cinema Summerfeeling.

The line-up includes titles like Hangover, Hangover 2, To Rome with Love, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (pictured) and Crazy Rich.

Sky Cinema Summerfeeling will broadcast from August 23 to September 1, 2019, replacing Sky Cinema Comedy during this time.

Many of the films will also be available on-demand and on streaming services Sky Ticket (Germany) and Sky X (Austria).

Telia’s TV business flatlines

By Julian Clover

Telia’s TV platforms struggled in the second quarter.

In the telco’s home market of Sweden a fall of 9,000 in TV subscriptions was compounded by the loss of 12,000 broadband subs.

In Norway, Telia was down 10,000 subs following the loss of a partner operator.

Finland met with some success as Telia based its TV proposition around the Finnish ice hockey league “Liiga”. TV subscriptions grew by 6,000 and Telia says it has a solid platform for the next season starting in September.

Estonia saw a gain of 3,000 TV subs and Denmark a loss of 1,000.

Separately, Telia has announced the creation of a new unit that will house Bonnier Broadcasting. It says the acquisition of TV4, C More and MTV is of strategic importance to Telia Company as it strengthens the company in the fast-growing area of video content consumption.

Com Hem pushes Tele2 up

By Julian Clover

Revenues at the Swedish telco Tele2 increased by 33% following its merger with cablenet Com Hem.

Tele2 reported revenue of SEK 6.8 billion, representing an organic decline of 2%.

The Com Hem TV base grew by 2,000 subscribers year-on-year following smaller price increases.

However, the Boxer pay-TV business continued to decline with a loss of 9,000 subscribers, largely due to customers connecting to fibre as it became available in their area. Revenues fell by 6%, largely on subscriber numbers, but offset in part by successful price adjustments.

EU clears Vodafone/Liberty Global cable deal under conditions

By JΓΆrn Krieger

The European Commission has approved the acquisition of Liberty Global’s cable business in Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania by Vodafone.

The approval is conditional on full compliance with a commitments package offered by Vodafone to ensure that customers will continue to get “fair prices, high-quality services and innovative products”, according to Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy.

To remove the EU Commission’s competition concerns in the German market, Vodafone committed itself to grant its competitor Telefónica access to the merged cable network of Vodafone and Liberty Global’s subsidiary Unitymedia.

In addition, Vodafone will refrain from contractually restricting the possibility for broadcasters that are carried on the merged entity’s TV platform to also distribute their content via an OTT service.

Vodafone has also agreed not to increase the carriage fees paid by free-to-air broadcasters for the distribution of their linear TV channels via Vodafone’s cable network and to continue carrying their HbbTV signals which enable viewers to access the broadcasters’ interactive services.

“We’re pleased that the European Commission has recognised the considerable benefits that this important transaction brings to millions of consumers across Germany, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic,” said Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global. “And it is good news for our employees in each market who will become part of a fixed-mobile national challenger with the strength and scale to take on national telco incumbents.”

Vodafone and Liberty Global announced the acquisition in May 2018 at a purchase price of €18.4 billion. Competitors, industry associations and the housing industry strongly criticised the plan because of competition concerns.

The EU Commission examined the planned takeover in detail. In April 2019, it was rumoured that the Brussels-based competition authority will probably approve the deal.

The transaction is now to be completed by July 31, 2019.

Les Echos and Canal+ acquire Mezzo

By Julian Clover

Les Echos Group – Le Parisien and Canal+ Group have announced the joint acquisition of Mezzo from Lagardère Group and France Télévisions.

The 21-year old broadcaster runs two pay-TV channels, Mezzo and Mezzo Live HD, centred around classical music, jazz and dance.

Pierre Louette, chief executive officer, Les Echos – Le Parisien Group said: “This acquisition confirms our desire to develop a diversified range of thematic media, particularly in the world of culture. Mezzo is the opportunity to consolidate a leading media centre in classical music alongside Radio Classique, owned by the group and the first radio station in France in this segment”.

Les Echos and Canal have taken ownership on a 50/50 basis. Les Echos will be responsible for acquisitions, scheduling and marketing, while Canal will handle distribution.

“Although positioned in a niche segment, Mezzo is a recognised brand both in France, with our subscribers, and internationally as evidenced by its distribution in more than 60 million homes around the world,” said Maxime Saada, Chairman. Canal+.”

Mezzo has a portfolio of 700 titles, mostly co-productions.

ATEME and Eurovision Services trial watermarking solution

By Julian Clover

A proof of concept to trial an innovative watermarking solution was tested at last month’s Women’s World Cup in Paris.

The three-day trial run by ATEME and Eurovision Services used BISS-CA, an enhanced, secured standard of the BISS protocol with dynamic rolling keys support for encryption, to help broadcasters in the fight against piracy.

“Together with ATEME, we have successfully shown that it is possible to enhance the security of live content during major events using an open, interoperable standard developed by the EBU. This, of course, is an asset for us as it will enable us to protect our client’s live content and ensure that it is only delivered to those who should have access to the content,” said Oscar Teran, Head of Technology & Development.

Julien Mandel, Contribution Segment Manager, ATEME added: “We are proud to assist Eurovision Services in demonstrating the protection of video streams delivered as part of international events. As a co-founder and early adopter of BISS-CA, we are expertly placed to propose different watermarking solutions to suit the needs of broadcasters and ensure their content is delivered securely.”

The latest version, BISS2, was published in March 2018 as EBU Tech 3292v2.

Sky 4K programming added to Virgin Media

By Julian Clover

UHD/4K programming from Sky is to be made available to Virgin Media customers for the first time.

It follows a new multiyear agreement between the two companies that also includes an expanding collection of boxsets.

The agreement ensures Sky channels, including Sky Cinema and Sky Sports, will continue to be available across Virgin Media platforms.

New Ultra HD linear and additional video-on-demand content from Sky next year, including live sport and shows like Jamestown and the forthcoming comedy Brassic, starring Michelle Keegan.

Lutz Schüler, CEO of Virgin Media said: “This expanded partnership with Sky really shows that, despite vigorous competition between us, we can join together to put viewers first. Our customers can keep enjoying a vast collection of TV shows, films and live sport but now with greater flexibility and enhanced viewing quality.”

NBCUniversal’s suite of channels, including Universal, E! and SyFy, are included as part of the deal and will now appear in HD. Virgin Media customers also able to watch Sky Cinema through the Virgin TV Go app for the first time.

Stephen van Rooyen, CEO UK & Ireland, Sky said: “Thanks to this extended partnership, millions more people will now have access to hundreds of Sky boxsets and our incredible UHD content, as well as all the great Sky content they had before, from top Premier League fixtures to BAFTA-winning Sky originals. This partnership shows what can be achieved when you put the customer first and is a great example of industry collaboration.”

Sky Atlantic is not included in the deal.

NENT Group secures ISU ice skating

By Julian Clover

ISU speed skating and figure skating events will be available on NENT Group’s Viaplay and Viafree streaming services and Viasat pay-TV channels from autumn 2019.

The broadcaster is also promising “substantial exposure” on its free-TV channels for the events that had been seen on public service channels.

More than 400 hours of the popular Nordic sports will be shown across the region, complementing NENT Group’s existing Alpine and Nordic winter sports rights.

Anders Jensen, NENT Group President and CEO: “ISU skating attracts millions of viewers and is an ideal complement to our recently acquired winter sports rights. The planet’s fastest and most skilled skaters, at least three ISU competitions in the Nordic region, and NENT Group’s world-class commentary and production capabilities mean our viewers have even more to look forward to over the next four seasons.”

The deal is one of the first for brokers Infront since it secured the ISU rights previously held by the EBU.

Bruno Marty, Senior Vice President of Winter Sports at Infront, said: “This marks one of our first deals in our new partnership with ISU. We are proud to have brought NENT Group on board, who with their intensifying commitment to winter sports and diversity of platforms and outlets will surely help us further elevate interest in these thrilling sports.”

In April 2019, NENT Group announced a long-term, pan-Nordic deal to become the home of Alpine and Nordic winter sports from 2021.

DAZN sublicenses Bundesliga rights from Eurosport / Subscription price rises

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Sports streaming service DAZN will show live Bundesliga football matches from next season in Germany and Austria.

This is made possible by a comprehensive partnership that Eurosport has concluded with DAZN. Under the agreement, which has been approved by German football league DFL, DAZN will be able to broadcast the Bundesliga matches acquired by Eurosport in the previous rights tender in the upcoming two seasons in Germany and Austria.

The rights package sublicensed by DAZN comprises 40 Bundesliga matches on Friday evenings at 20.30 CET, on Sundays at 13.30 CET, on Mondays at 20.30 CET as well as the DFL Supercup and the four relegation matches.

Kick-off will be on August 3, 2019 with the Supercup between FC Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. The first Bundesliga match on DAZN will be the game between FC Bayern Munich and Hertha BSC on August 16.

The matches sublicensed by DAZN will no longer be available via the Eurosport Player online and in the app; they will be produced and distributed by DAZN. Eurosport Player customers who sign up for DAZN will receive a free month as a welcome gift.

Eurosport and DAZN are also working on an offer enabling existing Eurosport Player subscribers to continue watching Bundesliga content. In addition, Eurosport will grant Eurosport Player customers an extraordinary right of termination of their subscription contract.

The linear channel Eurosport 2 HD Xtra will continue to be shown in the Eurosport Player offer for Amazon Prime customers and on Swisscom TV (Switzerland) including the Bundesliga matches produced by DAZN. DAZN will also produce the Bundesliga matches distributed on German DTH satellite platform HD+ on Astra (19.2° East).

At the same time, it was agreed that DAZN will be able to integrate Eurosport 1 HD and Eurosport 2 HD on its streaming platform in Germany, Austria, Italy and Spain.

In return, DAZN will increase the subscription price from €9.99 to €11.99 per month from August 1 in Germany and Austria. There will also be an annual subscription for €119.99, equalling a monthly price of around €10.