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Yesterday β€” July 20th 2018Broadband TV News: Telecom

Quentin Carbonell appointed at FilmStruck

By Robert Briel

Quentin Carbonell has been appointed Director of Content and Editorial for FilmStruck International.

FilmStruck International is the premium movie streaming service which launched this year in the UK, France and Spain as the first three markets of a joint venture between Turner’s Digital Ventures & Innovation group and Warner Bros. Digital Networks, with plans to expand to additional markets in due course.

Carbonell, who takes up his new role with immediate effect, is responsible for defining and executing the overall editorial strategy for the service and leads content acquisition, programming and curation across all regions. He will work closely with the local programming teams, and with the marketing, creative, product and analytics teams to help optimise user acquisition efforts as well as content consumption and discoverability.

His role also includes working closely with existing and potential content partners, overseeing the programming strategy, liaising on content localisation requirements and ensuring an efficient metadata production flow.

Carbonell joins Turner from Mubi where he was responsible for acquisitions and led strategic editorial partnerships, notably with Cannes’ Film Festival Directors’ Fortnight. A native of France with a masters in Cinema from the University of Lille, he is fluent in English and also speaks Spanish. He reports in to Kerensa Samanidis, General Manager, International for FilmStruck who joined the service earlier this year.

“Quentin brings to Turner a great track record in digital programming, a deep knowledge of movie content across the full breadth of genres from classic to indie to world cinema and fantastic experience in direct to consumer services, including an understanding of the importance of the user experience, all of which we can’t wait to tap into,” said Samanidis.

OTT usage among M7 subs grows by 30%

By Robert Briel

The addition of OTT services to DTH and IPTV distribution of Canal Digitaal in The Netherlands proves to be a successful move for M7 Group.

Meeting the rapidly growing subscriber demand to watch content at any time on any device, OTT is now an essential part of M7’s hybrid TV offering, both for linear and on-demand content.

Bill Wijdeveld, VP Business Development at M7 Group comments: “While the usage of hybrid set top-boxes and Smart TVs is growing steadily, the take-up of the M7 TV app is impressive. By July, the total number of users of the M7 TV app, available via Apple and Android devices, has grown to close to 300.000, representing a 30% growth since December 2017.”

The M7 TV app allows subscribers to watch content from the various M7 TV platforms at any time on any device. In addition, M7 has introduced a dedicated app for Smart TVs in partnership with Samsung, allowing viewers to access both linear and interactive services via a Smart TV, without the need for a settop box. Other TV manufacturers to follow shortly.

As a result of the rapid uptake of hybrid TV viewing among M7 subscribers, special interest channels targeting smaller viewing audiences are now primarily distributed via OTT. In The Netherlands, these include thematic Dutch channels NPO Zapp, NPO1 Extra, RTL Crime, RTL Lounge and AT5.

OTT distribution also allows for the addition of new channels. NPO2 Extra, NPO3 Extra and NPO Nieuws will be added shortly to the Canal Digitaal line-up. These new – and other OTT channels – can be received by all Canal Digitaal subscribers with a hybrid box and users of the Canal Digitaal TV App. The programmes on these channels can also be watched at any time on any device thanks to interactive applications like restart and replay TV.

30% of Netflix subs in premium service tier

By Broadband TV News Correspondent

New Parks Associates OTT video research reports that 30% of Netflix subscribers are in the premium service tier, up from the 21% in late 2017.

At the same time, uptake of Netflix’s basic tier has fallen from 35% of subscribers in late 2017 to 27% in early 2018. These shifts come despite Netflix’s price increase to its premium tier in October 2017.

“This shift reflects trends that we are seeing across the industry, beyond Netflix,” said Brett Sappington, Senior Director of Research, Parks Associates.

“Netflix’s basic tier is limited to one screen and SD quality, while the premium tier offers viewing on up to four screens and access to Ultra HD content. Many OTT-subscribing households have multiple people who want to watch similar content at the same time. Rather than competing for access, consumers are willing to pay extra for the convenience of multiple streams. At the same time, consumers want to watch on TVs, making HD viewing a must. Demand for Ultra HD TV is small but increasing.”

Media Broadcast expands executive board

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Klaus Baumhauer is the new chief commercial officer B2B of German technical services provider Media Broadcast.

The 34-year-old replaces Holger Meinzer (41) who is leaving the company by mutual agreement.

James Kessel (39) has been appointed to the executive board as head of product development in the business customers segment.

Baumhauer has been with Media Broadcast since 2008 in various sales and management functions, most recently as head of sales support, for which he will remain responsible as sales manager.

Kessel has been with the company for three years and is currently responsible for B2B product development in the business unit radio.

Meinzer worked at Media Broadcast for more than ten years and was most recently responsible for the segments TV B2B, radio, event and sales.

“James Kessel and Klaus Baumhauer are two long-standing executives from within the company,” said Wolfgang Breuer, CEO of Media Broadcast, in Cologne. “We thank Holger Meinzer for his many years of contributions to the success of our company and wish him all the best for his future career.”

Pay-TV operators in the Americas look at OTT

By Broadband TV News Correspondent

Pay-TV operators in the Americas look at OTT video opportunities to offset client loses, says data and analytics company GlobalData.

Pay-TV penetration in the Americas is set to decline through 2022 due to ongoing cord-cutting trends in North America, where an increasing number of households are swapping their traditional pay-TV subscriptions for over-the-top (OTT) alternatives.

In Latin America, where cord-cutting is still not affecting any markets yet, GlobalData expects subscriber growth to decelerate in the coming years.

“Despite its initial status as a complement to traditional pay-TV service, cord-cutting and cord-shaving trends are pushing pay-TV operators across the region to embrace the OTT world,” commented Eulalia Marín-Sorribes, Technology Analyst at GlobalData.

“Over the past several years, a significant number of pay-TV service providers have launched OTT video services to protect their market position and enhance their existing TV proposition with OTT features.”

Pay-TV operators are also establishing partnerships with pure OTT players in order to enhance their content propositions, an option often combined with their proprietary OTT platforms. Netflix has become one of the most prolific OTT platforms in this regard, stablishing successful global and regional partnerships with some of the leading pay-TV players in both mature and emerging pay-TV markets.

MΓ©diamΓ©trie measuring myCanal OTT

By Julian Clover

The French audience measurement service Médiamétrie has begun measuring the OTT audience of myCanal.

The results will be included in the company’s Programme Focus 4 screens service, which measures daily ratings for live and catch-up content across 4 screens: television, computer, smartphone and tablet.

“This project illustrates the technological and scientific developments that we have implemented over the past few years in our TV and digital capabilities, combining panels and big data, with the aim of delivering ever more comprehensive and refined measurement to the marketplace, said Julien Rosanvallon, Médiamétrie’s Head of Digital and TV Departments.”

myCanal worked with Médiamétrie to identify consumption across its internet and app environments.

Frank Cadoret, Deputy Director General of Groupe CANAL+ in charge of France added “The innovative technological developments deployed by CANAL+ Group and Médiamétrie during this project confirm myCANAL platform’s unique status as an OTT content aggregator mixing live, catch-up and VOD content. 4-screen audience measurement is one step in the establishment of services which myCANAL will offer to its broadcasting partners, both subscribers and non-subscribers, based on CANAL+ Group’s expertise in DATA. »

Programmes watched on TV screens via myCANAL are already taken into account in Médiamat’s reference measurement on television.

BeIn Sports to pull out of Spain

By Robert Briel

The BeIn Sports channel will cease broadcasting in Spain from August 1, as a result of Telefonica’s acquisition of rights to Uefa’s Champions League and Europa League football.

BeIn Connect’s website is no longer accepting subcriptions to BeIn Sports, offering instead a stripped-down football bundle similar to that unveiled this week by Vodafone Spain, which is in dispute with Telefonica over the cost of screening UEFA content over the coming season.

Telefonica revealed in June that it will pay UEFA EUR360 million per year for the rights to screen Champions League and Europa League games in Spain over the next three seasons and while Orange agreed to pay for access to the content, Vodafone refused.

BeIn Connect’s website however that UEFA games will be available to its clients on an as-yet-unnamed “new channel” for which details will be announced “soon”.

In the competitive Spanish market, Telefonica also acquired the rights to LaLiga for the period 2019-2020, making it the premier provider of football coverage.

KPN signs Insight TV for more UHD content

By Robert Briel

Insight TV has signed a distribution deal with Dutch telecoms operator KPN.

The agreement will allow viewers in the Netherlands to watch Insight TV’s 4K UHD HDR and HD content via KPN’s IPTV service.

KPN provides a wide range of services offering both 4K UHD and HD packages to suit the requirements of its subscribers. The 4K UHD package is made available via its 4K UHD TV receivers.

Graeme Stanley, Commercial Director of Insight TV adds, “We’re thrilled to announce that we’re working with KPN. This latest distribution deal further underlines our strong position in the market. We are working with distributors and partners across the world so that more people have access to the best content in stunning 4K UHD HDR.”

Telia buys Bonnier Broadcasting

By Julian Clover

Telia has purchased the company behind Sweden’s TV4, C More and the Finnish MTV.

The telco has purchased Bonnier AB for SEK 9.2 billion (€886.9m) creating a company that combines mobile and fixed networks with one of the most successful commercial media houses in the Nordic region.

“This is a very important day for Telia Company. The acquisition is a natural next step to complete Telia Company’s core business, where our millions of customers give us a very good position in the market. Together with TV4, we will offer customers and viewers completely new experiences and create new business opportunities,” said Johan He Lind, President and CEO of Telia Company. “We have great respect for our new role as media owners and will protect the business editorial independence ahead. I look forward to welcoming some of Scandinavia’s most skilled TV people to us.”

It’s the second major media transaction made by Telia this week. On Tuesday it acquired Get and TDC Norway for a combined enterprise value of NOK21 billion (€2.2 billion) on a cash and debt free basis.

The deal creates Telia Company, a new business area, where both Telia’s existing TV operations and the activities of Bonnier Broadcasting will be included.

Bonnier Broadcasting’s current CEO Casten Almqvist become president of the business area.

The transaction is subject to regulatory clearance.

United Group to invest in SE European content

By Chris Dziadul

United Group has announced plans to invest €100 million in local content production in Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Croatia.

According to the company, 2017 saw it produce over 30% of the content broadcast on its channels, up from 5% five years earlier. Plans for further content investment include commissioning new screenplays, series and other local productions.

Commenting on the development, Dragan Solak, chairman of the board, said: “In the era of global media players such as Netflix, local audiences still value shows and movies that reflect their lives and experiences. United Group’s plan to invest €100 million in local content is a show of faith in the network of local talent including producers, actors and musicians. I am excited to see what more the region has to offer.”

Dragan Bjelogric, director and screenwriter, added: “United Group’s investment and belief in local films, drama and talent is extremely welcome. As technology changes the way we consume content, giving viewers more control over what and when they watch, I believe that channels like Top channel are revolutionising broadcasting in the region.”

United Group is the largest alternative telco in the South East European region and has two main business segments, namely telecom platforms and media (content and advertising).

It has been majority owned by the investment group KKR since March 2014 and is also backed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

Chris Dziadul Reports: MTG’s Bulgarian headache

By Chris Dziadul

Modern Times Group (MTG) has just received a shock in Bulgaria.

Five months after agreeing to sell the Nova Broadcasting Group to the Czech-owned PPF Group for €185 million, it has had the deal blocked by the competition authority CPC.

The writing was arguably on the wall at the beginning of June, when CPC launched an in-depth investigation into the sale. Normally, it would have given its approval, and with little if any delay.

In an analysis, the Bulgarian daily Capital says CPC used “weird arguments” in coming to its decision. These include that a merged entity would give it a significant advantage over other providers and distort competition, which seems strange given that PPF Group currently has no media interests in Bulgaria.

It also points out that this is precisely the same argument that CPC used to start its investigation. Moreover, its decision is “unprecedently short” and not backed by any facts and figures.
Capital is in addition of the view that there is political resistance to the deal.

Significantly, CPC has used similar arguments this week in blocking a major transaction in the electricity market that would have seen Intercom buy CEZ’s Bulgarian assets.

In both instances, CPC’s decisions can be appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court within a period of 14 days.

While this option will almost certainly be taken up by MTG, there is little doubt CPC’s decision has dealt a major blow to the Swedish company. Disposing of Nova was to be the last step in a strategy that has seen the Swedish company withdraw from the broadcast market in Central and Eastern Europe, starting in Ukraine and Russia and then moving on to the Baltics and Czech Republic. Given the way it has completely re-oriented its business in the last 2-3 years, there really is no reason for it to remain in Bulgaria.

CPC has in addition dealt a blow to PPF Group, which is also currently awaiting a European ruling on its proposed take-over of Telenor interests in the CEE region.

The bottom line is that securing regulatory approval is never a straightforward process. UPC found that out earlier this year when it decided to drop its bid for Multimedia in Poland. CME, too, has struggled to complete the sale of its broadcast assets in Croatia and Slovenia in a deal announced a year ago.

SeaChange promotes Marek Kielczewski

By Chris Dziadul

SeaChange International has promoted Marek Kielczewski to CTO.

Currently based in the company’s engineering centre of excellence in Warsaw, he will join the executive leadership team in the Acton, Mass. headquarters.

Kielczewski joined SeaChange in May 2016 through the acquisition of DCC Labs, where he was the CEO. He was previously director at software developer 7bulls and COO at Sentivision.

Since joining SeaChange, Kielczewski has been responsible for the company’s global engineering spanning all product lines: content management, back-office, client and set top box and advertising. He has overseen the successful launch of several new innovations and offerings by SeaChange.

Commenting on Kielczewski’s promotion, Ed Terino, CEO, SeaChange International, said: “Marek is inspiring and passionate about building end-to-end video delivery and management platforms for live, linear, VOD and time-shifted video. He will be a great addition to our C-Suite, helping us to continue equipping video providers with a comprehensive set of solutions for video management and personalisation”.

Meanwhile, Jon Rider, SeaChange’s COO, has resigned to pursue other opportunities.

Terino added: “We are thankful for Jon’s leadership and guidance during his tenure as CIO and COO, and wish him well in future endeavours”.

Before yesterdayBroadband TV News: Telecom

Virgin Media to drop UKTV channels

By Julian Clover

Virgin Media has said it will replace UKTV channels including Dave, Gold, Alibi and Drama after it failed to reach a new agreement with the broadcaster.

In a message released on Thursday evening, Virgin said while it was still in discussions with the BBC-Discovery-backed network it had already lined up a slate of replacement channels and on demand content. UKTV said Virgin Media was seeking a significant reduction in the amount paid for its channels.

“Virgin Media has had a long relationship with UKTV, but viewing behaviours amongst our customers are changing and we are committed to investing in the kind of programming they want to watch, whenever and however they want to watch it,” said David Bouchier, Chief Digital Entertainment Officer, Virgin Media “Unfortunately, due to the restrictions put on UKTV by the BBC, UKTV is not able to provide the significant on-demand programming that we know our customers want.”

At issue is UKTV’s content supply agreement with the BBC. While the linear channels feature a mix of recent and classic BBC shows and an increasing number of popular original productions, BBC content is absent from on demand service UKTV Play. Instead the BBC sells the rights directly to streaming services Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Darren Childs, Chief Executive of UKTV, said: “We want to continue to provide our channels to Virgin Media, but the huge cut in fees that Virgin has requested doesn’t reflect the value we bring to customers.

“UKTV’s channels account for over a quarter of pay entertainment channel viewing within Virgin Media’s basic subscription pack, while our on demand viewing has grown by over a third in the last year.”

As part of a new deal, UKTV is proposing to offer Virgin Media an increased range of on demand catch-up and boxsets, enhanced distribution rights, and an additional channel, Gold HD.

The existing agreement will expire at midnight on Saturday 21 July.

Virgin in touting new launch the Paramount Network as well as new Fox launch Your TV and quiz network IQTV.

It’s not the first time that Virgin has been involved in a row with a major channel supplier. In March 2007 it began an 18 month dispute that saw the loss of Sky basic channels including Sky News and Sky One.

CME Croatian deal receives regulatory approval

By Chris Dziadul

United Group has received the final regulatory approval for its subsidiary Slovenia Broadband to buy CME’s assets in Croatia.

The transaction is now expected to be completed on July 31. However, the sale of CME’s assets in Slovenia, announced at that same time as those in Croatia in July 2017, has still to be approved by the authorities in Slovenia.

The cash purchase price for Nova TV in Croatia is €85 million plus a still-to-be-finalised working adjustment, while that for CME’s operations in Slovenia is €145 million, again plus a working adjustment. In the latter’s case, the long stop date has been extended to September 13.

Commenting on the development, Michael Del Nin, CME’s co-CEO, said: “We are extremely pleased to see the final approvals to complete the sale of our Croatian business, as it marks an important step towards the realization of our deleveraging goals. The proceeds will immediately be used to repay outstanding debt, completely retiring our nearest maturity and contributing to an approximately 25% reduction in total gross debt since the start of the year. We continue to cooperate with regulators in Slovenia to complete the sale of our operations there, and will use the proceeds expected on completion of that sale to reduce borrowings even further.”

Christoph Mainusch, CME’s other co-CEO, added: “We sincerely thank the management team at Nova TV for their hard work over the years, building the business into the leading network in the country. Their expertise and experience will undoubtedly benefit the United Group as Nova TV continues its long-standing tradition of providing the most popular local content in Croatia.”
Following then closure of both sales, CME will continue to have TV interests in Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Bulgaria blocks MTG Nova sale

By Chris Dziadul

Bulgaria’s Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) has prohibited the sale of Nova Broadcasting Group and its subsidiaries Net Info and Agency Eva by Modern Times Group (MTG) to PPF Group.

In a statement, the CPC says it took into account the acquirer’s leading position in the field of media services, which in turn raised concerns about the effect of a transaction on the competitive environment.

It also says that the dramatic number of media available to a merged entity would give it a significant advantage over other media service providers. Ultimately, not only competition in the market but also the interests of end-users would be limited or distorted by such an entity.

Responding to CPC’s decision, MTG said it is “surprised by the decision and will review it further before deciding on the next steps to be taken”.

As previously reported by Broadband TV News>, MTG agreed in February to sell its 95% stake in Nova Broadcasting Group and its subsidiaries to PPF Group for €185 million.

The CPC launched an investigation into the proposed sale last month.

Comcast pulls out of Fox bid

By Julian Clover

Comcast has announced it will no longer pursue a bid for Fox, turning its attentions solely to Sky.

The US cablenet, which also owns NBCUniversal, had been locked in a bidding war with Disney for the company seen as a glittering prize in Hollywood’s attempts to see off the new money of Amazon, Apple and Netflix.

“I’d like to congratulate Bob Iger and the team at Disney and commend the Murdoch family and Fox for creating such a desirable and respected company,” said Brian L. Roberts, Chairman and CEO, Comcast Corporation.

Comcast had tabled a $65 billion bid for the majority of Fox assets including Sky.

Comcast’s July 12 bid for Sky values the business at £26 billion.

Match TV secures key football rights

By Chris Dziadul

Match TV has signed a new four-year contract with the Russian Football Premier League (RFPL) following months of negotiations.

Kommersant reports that the channel, which is owned by Gazprom Media, will pay R1.7 billion (€23.2 million) plus R250 million production costs a year for the rights to the Russian Football Championship.

The next (2018/19) league season kicks off on July 28. The last contact between the two parties was signed in 2015 and worth R1.98 billion a year, including production costs.

Although the RFPL wanted more on this occasion, loss-making Match TV was unwilling to increase the amount paid.

The RFPL also held talks with a company named ASM, which was supported by a group of investors and had implied support from Channel One.

On demand quiz channel IQTV to launch on Virgin

By Julian Clover

IQTV, the on demand quiz channel for the more cerebral contestant, is to launch on Virgin TV.

The channel focuses on points-based, game shows such as Mastermind, Countdown, The Weakest Link and Only Connect, with over 100 episodes available at launch.

David Bouchier, Chief Digital Entertainment Officer at Virgin Media, said: “Quiz shows prove hugely popular with viewers and have been a staple of British television over the years. What makes these programmes so appealing and enjoyable is not only that you can watch on your own but also they can bring out friendly family competition. We are sure Virgin TV customers will love this addition to our Video on Demand service.”

Rod Henwood and Nick James, co-founders of IQTV, added: “There are 3.5 million superfans of intelligent quiz shows in the UK and Eire, and IQTV is the first service dedicated exclusively to them. The great thing about intelligent quiz shows is that they entertain and challenge in equal measure; it’s a form of television that viewers can fully participate in. Launching IQTV on Virgin TV, a pioneer in on demand television, is a great boost to our service and a strong addition to their offering.”

IQTV is available through Virgin TV’s Video on Demand service and can be accessed by customers on Mix packages and above.

BBC received 1.6m requests for Ultra HD sport

By Julian Clover

The BBC has revealed it received over 1.6 million requests during its recent Ultra HD trials for the World Cup and Wimbledon.

The most popular day was Saturday 7 July when England met Sweden in the World Cup quarter-final. It was also the first weekend (Day 6) of the grass court tennis championships.

Phil Layton, Head of Broadcast and Connected Systems, BBC R&D, said: “The trial is an important step forward, showing for the first time that Ultra HD and High Dynamic Range (HDR) can be delivered live and “free-to-air” over the Internet. It’s part of the BBC’s mission to ensure that future audiences can enjoy the benefits of improved picture quality, and this trial follows on from our work ensuring viewers were not left behind by the move to HDTV, albeit with different technologies.”

In a blog post, Layton said the BBC was aware of a number of recent models that would be able to display the Ultra HD/HDR content, but didn’t know how many of the TVs were connected to a suitable high-speed Internet connection.

The result was the need to provide a mechanism to control numbers on a first-come, first-served basis. Layton reveals this was only briefly used once for controlling access and once when it was needed to move traffic between CDNs.

The majority of viewers were receiving one of the two Ultra HD resolutions.

Wimbledon was also available to Sky viewers through the Sky Q box.

Rosa Maria Mateo to head Spain’s RTVE

By Chris Dziadul

The Spanish government has proposed Rosa Maria Mateo as the temporary head of the public broadcaster RTVE.

According to El Economista, she will remain in the role until a new board of directors is elected by competition.

The move follows the failure of Tomas Fernando Flores, a journalist and director of Radio 3, to secure a majority vote in the Congress of Deputies making him the head of RTVE.

Mateo, also a journalist, has spent most her career, which spans several decades, at RTVE.

She worked on La2 when it was a UHF channel, and also at one stage presented the news on the private station Antena 3.