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Today β€” April 20th 2018Broadband TV News: Telecom

Sky Deutschland keeps DFB Cup rights

By JΓΆrn Krieger

German pay-TV broadcaster Sky Deutschland will show all matches of German football tournament DFB Cup live for another three years.

The new agreement with German football association DFB covers the TV rights for the 2019/20 to 2021/22 seasons. The contract enables Sky to continue broadcasting all 63 matches of the competition live, 50 of them exclusively on German television. Financial details were not disclosed.

The rights deal covers transmissions via cable, satellite, IPTV, internet and mobile TV.

The free-to-air TV rights for selected matches were acquired by public broadcaster ARD and commercial sports channel Sport1.

Yannick BollorΓ© steps up to Vivendi chair

By Julian Clover

Yannick Bolloré has been appointed as chairman of French media giant Vivendi, replacing his 67 year old father Vincent.The Board also confirmed Philippe Bénacin as Vice-Chairman.

Yannick Bolloré is a graduate of Paris Dauphine University. He is also chairman and chief executive officer of the Havas Group.

Before joining Havas he spent five years with Bolloré Media, which ran the D8 and D17 channels, prior to their sale to Vivendi subsidiary Canal+.

Changes at the top for Hispasat

By Chris Dziadul

Hispasat has announced changes to the composition of its board of directors following the completion of the sale of Eutelsat’s stake in the company.

As a result of the sale, Eutelsat’s representatives – Rodolphe Belmer, Michel Azibert, Ariane Rossi, Almudena Arpon de Mendívil and Edouard Silverio – have left the board.

The new board members nominated to represent Abertis are Aristoteles Aunon, Martí Carbonell, Jose Luis Viejo, Laura Grau and Sebastian Morales.

Furthermore, a new board member, Marta Casas, has also been added to represent Abertis and to replace Francisco Reynes, who resigned on February 6 after leaving his position as head of Abertis.

Hispasat is now 89.68% owned by Abertis, with Sepi holding the remaining 7.41% and CDTI 2.91% of its shares.

Amazon Prime delivering to 100 million customers

By Julian Clover

13 years after its launch Amazon’s Prime service has now exceeded 100 million members across the world.

In a letter to shareholders, founder and CEO Jeff Bexos said more than five billion items had been shipped in 2017, while more members joined Prime than in any other previous year.

What began as an extension to its parcel delivery service, promising unlimited free two-day shipping, has expanded into streaming music and, significantly, video.

In March, documents obtained by Reuters revealed the US audience for video streamed on the Prime service amounts to around 26 million and has become a key tool in both member adoption and retention.

Last Prime Channels launched in the UK and Germany and the service is constantly linked with big sports acquisitions.

This week it was announced that Amazon had acquired the exclusive live rights to US Open Tennis in the UK and Ireland.

Amazon Prime Video wins US Open tennis rights in the UK

By Julian Clover

Amazon has signed an exclusive agreement with the organisers of the US Open Tennis Championships.

The five-year deal with the USTA gives the streaming service live rights to the tournament in the UK and Ireland. Prime members will have access to live matches and on demand highlights.

“We are proud to partner with the USTA to add the US Open to the growing portfolio of sports available on Prime Video,” added Alex Green, Managing Director, Channels & Sports, Prime Video Europe. “This prestigious event, along with the other exciting tennis coming this year and next, makes Prime Video a destination for tennis fans in the UK and Ireland.”

“This new partnership allows the USTA to showcase our live and on-demand content to Amazon Prime members throughout the U.K. and Ireland,” said Lew Sherr, USTA Chief Revenue Officer. “We are excited to market the telecasts via Prime Video and provide fans more ways to watch tennis matches.”

Up until 2016 the rights had been shared between Sky Sports and Eurosport, before Eurosport took on the coverage exclusively in 2017.

Amazon is also said to be in conversation with the Premier League over one or more of the two unsold packages in the 2019-22 rights round.

Anton Fedotov joins Russia’s STS Media

By Chris Dziadul

Russia’s STS Media has announced the appointment of Anton Fedotov as the general producer of its flagship TV channel STS.

He will report to the general director of STS, whose duties are performed by Vyacheslav Muugov, the general director of STS Media.

STS Media, which at one stage was majority owned by Modern Times Group (MTG), is one of the leading broadcasters in Russia, where it operates the TV channels STS, Domashny, Che and STS Love.

In addition, it operates Channel 31 in Kazakhstan and the international versions of STS, Domashny and Peretz, and has a number of digital entertainment assets.

Earlier this week, it was reported in the local media that Darya Legoni-Fialko had resigned from the position of director of STS.

Inea secures new funding

By Chris Dziadul

The Polish cable operator Inea has obtained credit totalling PLN930 million (€223.2 million).

According to Wirtualne Media, it will be used to pay off existing debts and invest in the company’s fibre-optic infrastructure.

It adds that the funding is being provided by eight banks, with an agreement having been signed on March 29 and the credit obtained by April 17.

As previously reported by Broadband TV News, Inea, which is the largest cable operator in Wielkopolska (Western Poland) was recently acquired by Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund 5 (ME1F5).

The deal was approved by Poland’s Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) in January this year.

Chris Dziadul Reports: Spotlight on United Group

By Chris Dziadul

United Group’s decision to invest an additional €293 million in Serbia over the next five years is certainly a vote of confidence in the country.

Backed by the global investment fund KKR, with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) a minority shareholder, United Group is already an important player in Serbia’s electronic communications industry, and indeed South Eastern Europe, or more specifically the countries of the former Yugoslavia, as a whole.

Founded in 2007 by the merger of Serbia Broadband (SBB) and Telemach Slovenia, it was subsequently enlarged by Telemach Bosnia and Telemach Montenegro.

More recently, it has grown still further through a number of acquisitions in the region, including the cable operators M-kabl in Montenegro in 2016 and Ikom in Serbia last year.
On the other hand, it also disposed of assets. Earlier this year, for instance, it sold Total TV, the Dutch parent company of Croatia’s Totalna Televizija, thereby exiting the non-core Croatian retail pay-TV market.

This paved the way for the Croatian authorities to finally approve United Media’s acquisition, through a subsidiary named Slovenia Broadband, of the national commercial broadcaster Nova TV from CME. The deal, first announced last year, had originally run into difficulties due to concentration concerns.

The engine for United Group’s growth has undoubtedly been KKR, which has been its majority owner since 2014. Even before this week’s announcement, the operation in Serbia had already benefited in investment to the tune of €264 million since it took over the company.

By now publicly committing additional funds to Serbia, United Group has arguably underlined its intention to remain the leading alternative telco in the region. Its business, which spans both platforms and media (content and advertising), is likely to continue growing for the foreseeable future.

Thomas Arnoldner nominated as Telekom Austria CEO

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Thomas Arnoldner will be nominated as the new CEO of A1 Telekom Austria Group by the Austrian telco’s two main shareholders, América Móvil and Österreichische Bundes- und Industriebeteiligungen (ÖBIB).

The supervisory board will confirm the nomination at its next meeting following the upcoming annual general assembly. Arnoldner is expected to take up his new position on September 1, 2018.

Arnoldner, currently Vice President Sales & Service at T-Systems Austria, will replace Alejandro Plater who held the CEO position in addition to his COO position since 2015 and will subsequently focus on the latter.

Yesterday β€” April 19th 2018Broadband TV News: Telecom

RTL Nederland to merge OTT services

By Robert Briel

RTL Nederland is to merge its two OTT activities, Videoland, RTL XL, into a single platform.

Just recently RTL terminated its catch-up service RTL Gemist, which was available for free on a number of smart TVs as well as on various distribution platforms including KPN and Ziggo.

The combined platform provides the basis for further online activities. Videoland is a SVOD service offering movies and TV series, priced at €8.99 a month, while RTL XL offers catch-up programming as well as paid-for premieres of TV series.

The move is part of a new strategy outlined by RTL in the Netherlands, where under the banner ‘fan centric’ the viewer and RTL fans are at the centre of the broadcaster’s decision making process.

“Videoland is growing faster than ever. We have to, because not only do we want to be the market leader on TV, we also want to be the local number 1 in video on demand,” said RTL Nederland CEO Sven Sauvé.

“Our video on demand activities have taught us a lot about ‘fan centric’ working. It is about continuous testing while you are developing something, learning from your mistakes and sometimes it means to kill your darlings if that is in the interest of the consumer. By talking to our subscribers, we know that they want to have one place where they can see everything and where a lot of attention is paid to Dutch content. This year we are taking the step of merging all our online activities.”

NBC, Fox, Turner and Viacom create joint ad data

By Julian Clover

Four major US broadcasters are combining to offer advertisers automated buying, advanced formats and cross-platform measurement and currency for new platforms.

The move has been instigated by NBCUniversal which has dropped its previous reluctance to join the OpenAP platform. NBC will now join with OpenAP, alongside Fox, Turner and Viacom, bringing with it data capabilities from its own Audience Studio.

Krishan Bhatia, Executive Vice President, Business Operations and Strategy, NBCUniversal, said, “We have spent the last four years developing the industry’s best tools to empower advertisers to better target their marketing campaigns to desired audiences. We’re excited to unleash the capabilities of our Audience Studio for the rest of the industry and share our underlying technology to propel the entire business forward.”

In a joint statement, Fox’s President of Ad Revenue Joe Marchese, Turner’s President of Ad Sales Donna Speciale, and Viacom’s Head of Marketing & Partner Solutions Sean Moran said: “OpenAP was formed with a clear mission: to bring the industry together in order to advance the experience, efficiency and effectiveness of advertising. With NBCUniversal aligning with the consortium, we are all accelerating the industry’s efforts in providing more premium scale to drive greater adoption of advanced audience targeting, while laying the groundwork for future innovation.”

Giving advertisers a consistent platform, OpemAP helps them identify the viewers they want to target, using data from Nielsen and comScore to reach the same audience segment across their network.

HSE24 owners said to favour sale over IPO

By JΓΆrn Krieger

US investment group Providence is moving ahead with plans to sell German home shopping TV network HSE24.

Providence has selected Apax, BC Partners and Pamplona as second-round bidders, reports Reuters with reference to several people close to the matter.

The suitors will get management presentations next week with a view to getting ready for final bids in a few weeks for the asset which is expected to fetch more than €1.5 billion, according to the report

The simultaneous preparations for a pre-summer flotation (IPO) of HSE24 on the Frankfurt stock exchange are currently not the first choice, but may be revived if final bids come in below expectations, reports Reuters.

HSE24 launched in 1995 as Germany’s first home shopping channel under the name H.O.T. (Home Order Television). The broadcaster which mainly competes with Liberty’s QVC also covers Austria and Switzerland and operates subsidiaries in Italy and Russia. In 2012, Providence acquired the majority stake.

Movie previews for mobile Netflix viewers

By Julian Clover

Netflix is bringing in mobile previews for subscribers watching on the go.

Mobile previews are launching today (Thursday) on iOS and will follow on Android.

Each preview is about 30 seconds long and presented in a vertical format, so they can be watched them without turning your phone. By showing the previewa as a slideshow, subscribers can either tap to play, add to their list, or simply swipe the screen to advance to the next preview.

Last year, previews were added for large screen viewing.

Kennet Radne to head Telia in Latvia

By Chris Dziadul

Telia has appointed Kennet Radne as its country manager in Latvia, with responsibilities for Telia Latvia, LMT and Lattelecom and collaboration with the Latvian government.

According to Telia, representation in the LMT supervisory council has been adjusted in view of this appointment.

It adds that following dissolution of Telia Company Corporate Holdings, responsibilities for operations in Latvia have been handed over to Ingrid Stenmark, head of CEO office, strategy and combined assurance, to whom Radne will report.

Stenmark said: After the decision of the Latvian government in November 2017 to keep the structure of LMT and Lattelecom as is, we are looking at how to best implement Telia Company’s strategy in the Latvian context. Our immediate focus is to work with the other shareholder on improving the corporate governance of the two companies in a way that fits the vision and strategy of both shareholders and contributes to enhancing the digitalisation potential of Latvia”.

Radne added: “We have three excellent companies in Latvia but I see a good potential for improvement through better cooperation between these organisations as we work to establish a more active way to engage with their management teams. I am looking forward to interact with all stakeholders to improve companies’ service offerings to the market and to drive the digitalisation and innovation agenda in Latvia. There is a big potential to develop new services in the areas of Internet of Things, data analytics and new media”.

Until January, Radne was acting chief operating officer in Azercell, a Telia subsidiary which was divested in March 2018. He has held a variety of commercial positions during his 17 years at Telia, which have also included representation on the boards of Telia entities in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.

In addition to his role as country manager, Radne has become the new chair of the LMT Supervisory Council.

Telia is the biggest shareholder in LMT, with an around 60% direct and indirect stake in the company. It has a 49% direct stake in Lattelecom. Telia Latvia is a fully owned Telia subsidiary.

Separately, Lattelecom turnover in Q1 amounted to €47.8 million, a 7% increase on the same period last year. Its profit was €7 million, which was unchanged on a year earlier. Revenues from TV services increased slightly, with a growing number of Lattelecom Interactive TV users and the growing popularity of the Shortcut app, which offers customers versatile content and interactivity.

Best Buy to sell Amazon Fire TV smart TVs

By Robert Briel

Amazon and retailer Best Buy will bring the next generation of hybrid Fire TV Edition smart TVs to customers in the US and Canada.

As a first step in the partnership, Best Buy will launch more than ten 4K and HD Fire TV Edition models from Toshiba and its own brand Insignia, beginning this summer.

The newly designed hybrid smart TVs come with the Fire TV built-in, they combine over-the-air TV and and streaming OTT content including Netflix, Prime Video, HBO, PlayStation Vue, Hulu, and many more.

Fire TV Edition includes a Voice Remote with Alexa to launch apps, search for TV shows, play music, switch inputs, control smart home devices, and more. It can also be paired with any Echo device.

“Amazon and Best Buy have a long history of working together, and today we take our partnership to a new level,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO.

“These Fire Edition smart TVs by Insignia and Toshiba deliver beautiful visuals and all the movies and TV shows you love, with an experience that gets better every day with Alexa. We could not have a better partner in this endeavor.”

“Our goal is to enrich the lives of our customers by offering them the very best products and services, whether they come to us online, visit our stores, or invite us into their home,” said Hubert Joly, Best Buy chairman and CEO.

“Our partnership with Amazon is exciting because we believe Fire TV Edition delivers an incredible user experience and further strengthens the growing connection between home theater, home automation and voice control.”

Xite and SpotX are launching programmatic advertising on TV

By Robert Briel

Amsterdam-based music channel Xite, with the help of video ad serving platform SpotX, is now offering advertisers the possibility to advertise fully programmatically on the television screen.

In the summer of 2017, Xite was the first to make it possible to purchase online advertising campaigns for television. After a successful pilot of more than six months, IPG Mediabrands’ customers are now the first to benefit from this revolutionary way of buying programmatic TV.

Xite is the first music station in the world to provide personalised music services on linear television via the set-top box. In recent months, SpotX and Xite have worked together to expand this service with programmatic advertising solutions by optimising the data of household viewing behaviour and the advertising process. As a result, advertising campaigns can now be purchased cross-medially, on both TV via the set-top box and the online channels, by means of programmatic and targeted advertising.

Xite founder and CEO Derk Nijssen (pictured): “Advertisers want to reach more specific audiences across all screens and we want to deliver on those targets. What started as a modest step, now seems to be a revolutionary way of purchasing advertising for multiple screens. We’re excited to collaborate with SpotX on empowering media buyers to leverage ads to target viewers based on content consumption, all the while improving the user experience. This step is a true evolution from audience-based planning to audience-based buying across the television ecosystem. I’m proud that together with SpotX we have developed an integrated approach from an audience-first perspective that ensures effective and efficient advertising campaigns.”

Xite users can search for videos, create their own music video channel, watch curated channels, and like and/or skip videos, enabling the product to learn the viewer’s preferences by automatically jumping to the interactive environment on the set-top box and informing algorithms. The algorithms are then used by SpotX to build audience segments for targeted advertising which allows for targeted, personalised ads, measurement of audience engagement, and audience-based buying on linear TV.

In the Netherlands this is mainly possible because the interactive product is available through the linear channel on the Ziggo set-top box. Xite and SpotX are the first in the world to combine music, advertising technology and television in a way that bridges the gap between traditional television viewing and a digital, on-demand, personalised experience.

“With this first in programmatic TV purchasing, IPG Mediabrands is once again the first to offer its customers an innovative platform within the digital landscape, added Thomas Welle, Head of Video IPG Mediabrands.

“With the advanced targeting options this technology offers, we create for our customers an effective scaling-up within a target group that is difficult to reach. By embracing initiatives like this, we strengthen the unique character of local parties and, of course, their growth.”

Elwin Gastelaars (pictured), managing director at SpotX Benelux and Nordics: “Just like Xite, we strive for a personalized future in which the viewer is central. The fact that in a relatively short period of six months we were able to expand the targeting possibilities on the set-top box from only the different music channels and specific periods to full programmatics shows that programmatics advertising is also the future for TV. A future in which consumers and their personal preferences are at the centre.

Strategy Analytics: Mobile screens essential for live TV services

By Broadband TV News Correspondent

The continual expansion of display real estate, faster data speeds, specialised data plans and improved video displays, presents a real opportunity for live TV streaming services like Sling TV to be marketed as mobile.

A recent study from the User Experience Strategies (UXS) service at Strategy Analytics, Sling TV Hits 2.2 Million Subscribers: How UX will Determine Future Growth has identified key factors in the success of Sling TV in addition to consumer motivations to replace traditional pay TV services. Smartphones should be prioritized as an alternative screen to consume live TV services – not just for ‘on the go.’

There is a rejuvenated focus on mobile viewing, particularly with 5G, from companies such as Facebook and Snapchat in addition to mobile operators such as Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile. Live streaming TV will also be an important part of this evolution.

Mobile media enthusiasts, whether video or music, have grown accustomed to the instant gratification of streaming content on smartphones, particularly to consume new content. Failing to make a large impact on this space as a video streaming service allows competitors to gain further market share.

Dedicated mobile apps create a starting point to capitalize on an existing customer base. Developing a live TV service within an existing app will allow users to instantly access all types of content remotely.

“Sling TV is losing to a much bigger competitor, Hulu, mainly because of Hulu’s SVOD catalog and history. Hulu has also incorporated their new live streaming TV service into their existing mobile app, thus enabling them to gather a different wave of subscribers from their existing, large subscriber base,” commented Chris Dodge, Associate Director and report author.

“What really helps to drive mobile usage from YouTube, Hulu, and to a lesser extent DirecTV, are their existing dedicated mobile apps. Both Hulu and YouTube have very prominent mobile apps which are optimized for mobile viewing.”

Added Chris Schreiner, Director, Syndicated Research UXIP, “DirecTV as a traditional pay TV service provided a mobile app allowing users to view their DVR and live TV content remotely. However, like YouTube TV, DirecTV built their new live TV streaming app outside of their preexisting popular app. Building from within like Hulu will be key for live TV services such as Sling TV to generate a stronger mobile presence and ramp up their subscriber base.”

RTL’s Videoland grows, but fails to name numbers

By Robert Briel

RTL Nederland said that during the first quarter growth continued for it’s video on demand platform Videoland, bit failed to give exact subscriber numbers.

Videoland’s customer base grew by 40% with subscribers watching an average of 2.5 hours of series, films and documentaries per session, an increase of 30 minutes (2 hours in 2017).

Videoland said it is also better at reducing churn. The number of paying customers that do not renew their subscription after registration fell by 44% in the first quarter compared to the same period last year.

However, the SVOD platform still does not supply the actual number of paying subscribers. Last August, Telecompaper estimated the number to be around 300,000, while research from Multiscope suggested viewing time for Videoland lagged far behing Netflix, Youtube, Fox Aports and NPO Start. We estimate the current number of subscribers to Videoland to be around 500,000.

In a press release, Lucien Brouwer, CCO at RTL, said: “RTL is already the market leader on TV and our ambition is to grow fast as the number one local VOD player. Content from our own soil is important to our platform, because Videoland is 100% focused on the Dutch viewer. We prove that it works with Temptation Island, among other things. The programme is not only a great success on television, but also great online and on social. Therefore, from June onwards, we will be presenting our subscribers with an extra and absolutely high-profile season of Temptation Island, which can only be seen at Videoland. In addition, we have two formats in which seducers known from Temptation Island play a leading role, The Best Leaders and I Love You Tattoo. No one will have to go through this summer without their favourite guilty pleasures. Certainly not now that we can be seen all over the European Union from 1 April.”

Videoland also entered into a content collaboration with Vice for homegrown product with a diverse range of Vice documentaries.

Sky Q in 2.5 million homes

By Julian Clover

Sky’s next generation platform Sky Q is now in 2.5 million homes in the UK, Ireland and Italy. The broadcaster announced the figure with its third quarter trading statement and confirmed that the Spotify premium music service would launch on the platform next week.

Sky reported a 5% increase in like for like revenue at £10.1 billion. Operating profit was up 22% at £857 million (€984m).

As well as a rollout in Germany, as reported in Broadband TV News earlier this week, there are plans for a redesign to the user interface, a new dedicated kids mode and new voice controls.

CEO Jeremy Darroch said Sky’s priorities remained unchanged against a back drop of a challenging consumer environment. “We’re giving more customers the best viewing experience with the further development and roll out of Sky Q, now in millions of homes and launching in Germany & Austria in two weeks’ time as part of the ongoing transformation of our business in these markets. Customers can look forward to an even broader choice of entertainment through our pioneering new partnerships with Netflix and Spotify, together with our new Premier League deal which secures the UK rights until 2022.”

However, while Germany waits for the May 2 launch of Sky Q, the subscriber base fell by 30,000 on the quarter, though overall the year-over-year figure was up at 5.2 million. Italy also saw an erosion of 2,000 customers at 4.8 million; growth in DTH customers offset by the continuing decline in Telecom Italia IPTV.

The UK market continues to grow with another 70,000 customers taking the installed base in the UK & Ireland to 13 million.

Hungary’s Hir TV to shed staff

By Chris Dziadul

The Hungarian news channel Hir TV has announced layoffs in a move that reflects wider changes in the country’s media landscape.

BBJ reports that the channel is owned the entrepreneur Lajos Simicska, who was until three years ago considered close to the Prime Minister Viktor Orban and ruling Fidesz party. However, the relationship has since deteriorated, with the channel becoming increasingly critical of the government.

It adds that the changes in the Hungarian media got under way following the re-election of Fidesz earlier this month and have already seen the closure of the daily Magyar Nemzet and radio station Lanchid.

Hir TV, which was officially launched at the beginning of 2003, is expected to shed 30-40 staff, though it will continue to show popular programmes.