Austrian cable operator Lampert has set up a DVB-T transmitter in neighbouring Switzerland in order to be able to distribute the popular TV channels of Swiss public broadcaster SRG on its network again.
After the national DTT switch-off in June 2019, digital terrestrial television can thus be received from Switzerland for the first time again.
Swiss telco Swisscom put the DVB-T transmitter Hoher Kasten back into operation on July 8, 2020, Christoph Schmid, head of marketing & sales at Lampert, told Broadband TV News. “Unfortunately, due to Corona, it took a very long time to finally implement it.” The two German-language SRG channels SRF 1 and SRF 2 are broadcast from the transmitter site. Redistribution on cable has already commenced.
With the move, first reported in November 2019, Lampert is creating the technical and legal basis for making SRG’s channels available to its cable customers again.
After the shutdown of the nationwide DTT network by SRG in June 2019, SRF 1 and SRF 2 disappeared from cable networks in neighbouring countries as redistribution was only permitted if the channels could be received terrestrially unencrypted in the border area. On satellite, SRG encrypts its signals to restrict the reach to Swiss citizens. Therefore, this provided no alternative way of reception for cable operators.
In an aim to bring the channels back to its customers, Lampert applied for an authorisation at Swiss media authority Bakom to use a Swiss DVB-T frequency. The permission, which was subsequently granted, enables the company to broadcast SRG’s channels unencrypted via a DTT transmitter site on Hoher Kasten, a 1,800-metre mountain in the Swiss Appenzell Alps. Because the signal also reaches bordering parts of Austria, local cable operators can thus add SRG’s channels to their networks again.
According to Schmid, demand for the Swiss public TV channels has been “extremely high” among customers as they had always been an integral part of daily television consumption: “They offer added value for cultural exchange and intercultural understanding.”
Because all cable operators in the Austrian Vorarlberg region – the area served by Lampert – benefit from the solution, they also share the costs for the DVB-T transmitter site.
Virgin Media is adding 100 linear channels in one following an agreement with ViacomCBS.
The UK cablenet now features a dedicated app for Pluto TV, which also comes with an extensive on demand library. Its streaming platform includes thematically curated channels such as Pluto TV Movies and Nosey with full episodes of The Steve Wilkos Show, The Maury Show and The Jerry Springer Show. There are also single series channels like FBI Files and Unsolved Mysteries, and a variety of branded channels, curated from the libraries of more than a hundred content partners, including parent company ViacomCBS.
Pluto TV’s VOD selection spans more than 1,000 titles, with hit series Skins, British drama The Commander and Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen.
“At Pluto TV, we strive to create a new digital TV experience for audiences with an ever-expanding universe of original channels and on-demand programming,” said Maria Kyriacou, President, ViacomCBS Networks UK. “Being present on a high-quality platform such as Virgin Media helps us target new viewers and brings us closer to our goal.”
“Pluto TV is a great app that provides a diverse range of programmes from top movies to top TV shows. The good news for our customers is that the app is available at no extra cost and joins our collection of top apps on our TV platform,” added David Bouchier, Chief Digital Entertainment Officer, Virgin Media.
Pluto TV is the latest app made available to all Virgin Media TV customers. It can be found in the Apps & Games folder. In recent months, Virgin Media has added BBC Sounds, My5 and All 4 apps to its TV platform.
The Competition and Markets Authority is to ask the European Commission to take full control of the review into the merger of Liberty Global’s Virgin Media and Telefonica’s O2.
It’s likely to be the opening round in a battle as to which regulatory body has the final say over the £31 billion deal.
The Financial Times reports the UK will argue that it should take the lead because the merger is one that “solely affects UK consumers”.
Ahead of the end to the transition period on December 31st, when the UK will sever its remaining ties with the European Union, the UK can like any other nation request to take the lead on competition issues.
However, the Virgin-O2 deal is of a size where the Commission could oversee the case.
It’s not the first time that there has been a dispute over who takes the lead in a European cable transaction. Germany’s Bundeskartellamt sought to take the lead in the 2018 purchase of Unity Media by Liberty Global, but ultimately failed in its bid.
To date the Virgin-O2 transaction has not been formally notified to the Commission.
Negotiations between Dutch cabler VodafoneZiggo and Disney, owner of the Dutch live football channels Fox Sports/Eredivisie Live, have reached deadlock, because a new carriage agreement would amount to a 300% increase in costs to the operator.
Carriage disputes are nothing new to the world of TV channels distribution – with the most recent example the spat between Discovery and the M7 Group, which led to the removal of all Discovery channels including Eurosport from the M7 platforms across Europe. However, the stand-off between VodafoneZiggo and Disney’s premium Fox Sports channels is a case apart – the broadcaster demands payment for all its customers, whether they subscribe to the premium channels or not.
The two parties have been negotiating for months now with no deal in sight. Problem for Disney/Fox is the fact that the broadcaster has deals in place with most other Dutch distributors including KPN, Canal Digitaal and T-Mobile (only Tele2 has no deal for live football) that involve payment for the entire universe of subscribers. Should VodafoneZiggo reach another deal with Disney/Fox, then the new conditions will automatically apply to all other carriage comtracts.
Eredivisie Live is owned by Disney, Eredivisie CV (a joint venture of Dutch football clubs) and the Dutch football association KNVB. The joint venture was launched in 2008 and according to local newspaper De Telegraaf has racked up losses to the tune of EUR250 million, and now only has five more seasons to turn its figures into black.
“Clubs will receive the same amount of money in our proposal as they got before”, said VodafoneZiggo’s Strategy Director Robin Kroes on Dutch NPO Radio. “In our proposal Disney receives a very healthy profit. We think that’s justified. But we are not going to pay more than we do now. That proposal is on the table.”
Kroes wants to avoid the live football channels going black. “We’ve made a very clear offer. We want our customers to be able to keep seeing football, but we won’t pay too much. That we also have to pay for those 3.5 million customers who don’t like football [is not acceptable].” Around 300,000 Vodafone custmers currently subscribe to Fox Eredivisie Live.
VodafoneZiggo’s final offer consists of all subscription payments for the channels going directly to Disney/Fox without charging a carriage fee to the broadcaster. In a reaction a spokesperson for Disney/Fox said “We ask nothing else than to continue the cooperation on the basis of the same agreements made with all other TV providers over four years ago.”
Meanwhile, more problems amount for Disney/Fox, as distributors including KPN have been in talks with the broadcaster for some time about paying distribution fees for Fox Sports. Because the Eredivisie in The Netherlands was shut down in mid-March due to the measures taken as a result of the corona crisis – and has since been definitively shut down – no live Eredivisie matches can be seen on the channels of Fox Sports. However, distributors do pay around EUR30 per subscriber per year to be able to the distribute the channels. According to distributors, the product purchased is therefore not (fully) supplied. Distributors would like to receive compensation for this.
Dutch public broadacster NOS also refuses to pay for the last instalment of the broadcasting rights. NOS buys the broadcasting rights of the summaries of Eredivisie matches. No Eredivisie means no summaries of matches on public service channels. NOS takes the view that no payment should be made for undelivered services.
According to De Telegraaf, the position of distributors and NOS is not supported by the broadcaster, who has treatened to go to court if talks with distributors and NOS about full payments for the 2019 – 2020 football season will break down.
As a result, all Vectra customers, rather than just those receiving TV services, can now access VOD from a web browser and mobile devices.
According to Vectra, its VOD offer consists of almost 13,000 titles including feature films, series, programmes documentaries and cartoons, with several hundred new productions added each month.
The service has now also been refreshed and includes content in both HD and 4K.
The standard rental cost of an HD movie without ads is PLN17.90 (€4), while stories cost from PLN1.
Commenting on the development, Dmitrijs Nikitins, CEO of Baltcom, said: “We did not want to sacrifice any of the service quality of stability and we wanted to be sure the CAS solution will be supported for many years ahead. With CryptoGuard all this was in place, as well as their financial flexibility and attractive business model, which were the deciding factors in selecting CryptoGuard CAS”.
Krzysztof Wieczorek, sales director CEE & CIS at CryptoGuard, added: “I am very happy to be working with Baltcom and with our new presence in the Baltic region. Our CAS solution provides Baltcom with a modern technology platform and cost-effective business model”.
Kjell Carlswärd, CEO at CryptoGuard, said: “Baltcom is the latest addition of major operators to select CryptoGuard CAS for their content security needs. This proves the appeal of a feature-rich and cost-effective CAS platform while maintaining top-level security. CryptoGuard CAS will also offer Baltcom a wide range of card-based and cardless client devices enhancing the viewer experience”.
Baltcom covers 20 cities across Latvia with its fibre-optic network. It has been fully owned by the mobile operator Bite Latvia since earlier this year.
Meanwhile, CryptoGuard is a global provider of content security for digital TV and streaming video on any platform.
The partnership has been extended as part of a new, long-term carriage agreement.
“For our sports-interested TV customers, the continuation of the partnership with Sport1 is good news. The two channels enrich our extensive channel line-up on the GigaTV platform with top events from the eSports sector and international sports highlights from the NBA and NHL,” said Rolf Wierig, global head of entertainment & video at Vodafone.
GigaTV customers can now access the programmes free of charge in the video-on-demand library.
“We have been producing a wide range of UHD content both globally and locally for years. With Vodafone, we now have the opportunity to deliver the new quality standard for the first time in the video-on-demand area,” said Thomas Bichlmeir, director distribution & commercial strategy at Discovery Deutschland.
With Discovery Ultra, the US broadcaster is also planning a linear UHD channel, which is soon to be offered to networks operators in Europe.
Commenting on the packages – Volia Live TV, Volia Sport, Volia Movies, Volia Kids and Volia World – the company’s CEO Anton Dziubenko said: “We studied audience tastes and found that the families of users of traditional television place news and politics in first place. At the same time, these categories are much less interesting for users of interactive television, who are more likely than others to buy packages with movies and series. Fans are ready to buy a package that combines only the best sports channels – nothing special. 40% of households that watch TV have children, so the Volia Kids package, which includes a Volia Cine + Kids channel with several audio tracks, is ideal for young viewers to learn foreign languages. We have developed this channel with the help of child psychologists, international video content specialists and parents”.
Users of Volia’s multiscreen platform can independently choose packages based on their interests and watch content on different screens.
Dziubenko added: “We want to change the situation where people pay 100% of the tariff and watch 10% of the content. And we offer them to watch 100% of the content and pay only for what you watch. The TV users themselves, their tastes and habits helped us create these flexible thematic tariffs, and the price makes them as affordable as possible for everyone”.
Volia says that its multiscreen platform, which made its debut in May, is the first such service in Ukraine to offer such flexible packages.
Ukraine’s leading cable operator Volia has been subjected to sustained cyberattacks in the last few days.
In a statement, it says that they have been focused on the city of Kharkiv and began on May 31. Although they were initially aimed at subscriber systems, they later switched to telecommunications infrastructure. As a result, more than 100,000 subscribers experienced problems using the internet, IPTV, multiscreen platforms and digital TV.
In total, a complete lack of access to services lasted 12 minutes on Sunday, May 31 and 45 minutes on June 1. An attack on the volia.com website was also recorded but it neutralised.
Volia notes that the types of attack -UDP flood and the overflow capacity of channels with traffic of more than 200 GB – were “massive and well-organised”. They originated from tens of thousands of different IP addresses around the world, including the US, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and others.
It also says: “Attacks of this magnitude have their customers and performers. Sometimes they are followed by extortion and other attempts to influence the company. Therefore, Volia firmly states: these attacks will not help criminals to achieve their goals, because the company operates exclusively within the law, protecting its service and each subscribe”.
The company has passed all available information to the cyber police to investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice.
According to ComNews, the stake was sold by Viktor Vekselberg’s Renova Holding, which will retain a 49% share in Akado.
It adds that AVK Investments is solely owned by Maxim Mayorets, who up until 2018 was the M&A director at Renova.
His other interests include an 80% stake in MTV Networks East, which is represented by the Russian company Viacom through Legacy Media.
Although no financial details of the transaction have been disclosed, it is believed to be in the region of R10-20 billion (€130-260 million).
It’s a case of hostilities resumed between French fibre rivals SFR and Bouygues Telecom after the two launched separate connected TV offers within hours of each other.
At the centre of both of the offers is a smart TV from the leading manufacturer Samsung.
For a monthly €39.99 per month, Bouygues is offering its customers fibre access and a Samsung TV (for between €49 and €349 more according to the chosen screen size). But for once there is no separate set-top box. Instead, customers rely on an app that is already downloaded onto the Samsung set and available on post 2019 models.
The B.TV+ application will go live on June 2 with the app carrying 151 channels, 14 catch-up services and 83 pay-TV channels.
“We are always attentive to the needs expressed by our customers, even if we have to overturn market codes to meet them,” recalls Benoît Torloting, Deputy Managing Director of Bouygues Telecom. “TV remains the central screen of their homes and their desire for Smart TV is important, so that they can easily enjoy their favourite content live, replay or SVOD. Today marks the start of a new era in 3P offers by eliminating the TV box and replacing it with a Smart TV, for simplicity and the possibility of accessing an even larger content universe.”
SFR is working along similar lines, in this case a Samsung TV at €193 that’s close to a third of its normal price and broadband starting at €25 per month, rising to €45 after the first year. For SFR the traditional box remains a part of the offer.
This offer is available from June 9 for new customers and will be available during the summer for current customers.
Samsung is almost a rival to the two operators with its Samsung TV Plus offer, but the manufacturer is smart enough to with with the pay-TV sector.
Virgin Media has no plans to reopen its network of retail stores once lockdown has been lifted.
It means the permanent closure of 53 outlets across the UK.
The Liberty Global company said it had taken the “difficult decision” as a result of changes in consumer behaviour.
341 staff are affected by the change all of whom will be offered jobs elsewhere within the company.
“We are focused on delivering the service customers want, in the ways they want it and at a time and place that suits them,” said Rob Orr, executive director for sales, Virgin Media. “By creating new jobs in our most popular care and sales channels, we will be better able to provide our customers with the top service and support they rightly expect while retaining our talented workforce.”
Virgin Media has been building its customer service department and plans to create 300 customer facing roles who would work from home using new techology that’s been trialled during the pandemic.
In March, Virgin Media announced plans to recruit an additional 700 engineers as to enhance its customer service.
This latest move is not thought to be connected
OIBDA was 23% higher at R5,130 million and net profit up by 40% to R1,135 million.
B2B revenues were 37% higher at R4,987 million and B2C 10% to R7,548 million.
Commenting on the company’s latest results, Andrey Kuzyaev, president of ER-Telecom Holding, said: “Our company is developing in accordance with the stated strategies. In 2020, we, as well as a significant part of entrepreneurs around the world, faced unprecedented challenges against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.ER-Telecom is adapting to the changed reality, providing reliable services for the life and remote work of our customers!”.
Broadband TV News notes that the company has not provided subscriber figures in its release statement.
Speaking in a virtual press conference, Euskaltel Group’s CEO, José Miguel García described the move as “a landmark event in the Euskaltel Group’s history and for telecommunications in Spain also. 20 years ago, a dream was set in motion with a group of innovative thinkers and today we take yet another step forward by including Virgin as a Group brand. Our customers should be proud to be a part of this piece of history and to know that they will always have access to the best telecommunications services”.
The expansion through Virgin telco outside Euskaltel’s local regions – the Basque Country, Galicia and Asturias, where the Euskaltel, Telecable and R brands operate, respectively – is the cornerstone of the group’s 2020-2025 Business Plan. By its completion, services will be offered to a total of 18.4 million homes.
With regards the national market where Euskaltel will now operate, the García added: “Euskaltel is the only national operator with its decision-making centre outside Madrid, holding on to its roots in the regions where it started out”.
Euskatel says that the expansion plan will enable it to access new profitable growth opportunities on which it can base the company’s positive growth in customers and profitability. It is confident that by 2025, half of its customers will be located in the new Spanish regions targeted by the launch of Virgin telco and it hopes that its 2019 revenues will have doubled, up from €685 million to €1.3 billion. The group is certain that in five years, 40% of its total revenue will come from the Virgin telco business, i.e. around €520 million.
The Euskaltel Group expects the move to expand nationally will more than double the current customer base both in terms of fixed and mobile services. It expects to multiply its current fixed services customer base by 2.3 to over 1.5 million customers, taking on around 800,000 new fixed service customers from the markets included in the expansion strategy.
Contracts for mobile services are also expected to exceed 3 million in 2025, compared to the current 1 million, almost tripling the current number of mobile services provided to users.
Named Volia TV, it gives access to licensed content on all screens and around a million customers will be able to watch almost all Volia’s content on it free of charge until the end of this month.
Commenting on the development, Anton Dzubenko, Volia’s CEO, said: “Several years ago, telecommunications giants such as Sky and Virgin Media (UK), Telia (Sweden) and our neighbours at Polsat (Poland) began offering multiscreen tools. Volia, in turn, launched the mobile application Volia TV as a “to go” service in 2017. Today, smart TVs and boxes for Android are quite popular in the market, people use them not only to watch linear channels. About 30% of Volia subscribers have smart TVs, most of which have been purchased in recent years. That is why now the equipment and digital technologies of Volia allow launching the multiscreen platform Volia TV. And I am very proud that quarantine is not an obstacle for our employees – they were able to remotely complete the main stages of product development, which will provide new opportunities for content consumption for our viewers and new audiences”.
In Ukraine, 89% or 12.7 million households currently have at least one TV set. According to the Industrial Television Committee, 27% have a desktop computer, 34% a laptop, 23% a tablet and 83% have a mobile phone or smartphone.
Dzubenko added: “56% of our subscribers watch movies every day. A quarter of our channels are in HD quality. Now subscribers can watch their favourite content anywhere, from all screens and at any time. The new multiscreen platform will help us expand the geography of our products outside the company’s presence – in Odessa, Mykolayiv, Uzhhorod and other cities. After all, we also strive for those market viewers who do not have the opportunity to connect to our network, but are looking for legal world class content”.
The new multiscreen platform is already available to customers of any ISP in Ukraine. It has online video content from Disney, Pixar, Fox, Universal, ABC, Paramount and others and includes a number of interactive features.
It amounted to 400 new users and 3,000 broadband net additions, driven mainly by the expansion that has taken place outside the group’s three traditional regions.
Euskaltel also saw a second consecutive quarter of revenue growth of 0.1% in Q1 compared to the same period in 2019. Operating efficiencies also delivered savings that contributed to EBITDA of €88 million, which was an 8.1% up on the same period in 2019.
Euskaltel has in addition reported that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was limited and controlled in Q1. The financial position of the business remains strong with continued operating cash flow generation. At the end of the Q1 the company had €98 million of cash, which was increased by €150 million in April due to the full drawdown of its revolving credit facility.
Furthermore, Euskaltel has reconfirmed its guidance for 2020 and indicated that the national expansion plan is ready for full commercial launch.
Commenting on the development, Andrzej Szweda, Inea’s marketing manager, said: “The most important change in new Inea Online TV is a much richer TV offer – customers within our network have over 100 channels which they can watch on three devices at the same time. We hope that these changes and a modern, user-friendly interface will make using Inea Online TV easier in these difficult times, where we spend a lot of time at home, with the family, wanting to watch various programs. Our customers can watch TV not only on the screen of their laptops but also on a tablet or smartphone”.
Norbert Kaczmarek, key account manager at Insys Video Technologies, added: “Inea Online TV is based on the InsysGO solution created by Insys Video Technologies. It is a complete and flexible solution addressed to the TV broadcasters, cable, and ISP industry who want to launch their TV channels offer in the new technology. Adding new features and changing the interface improved the comfort of end-users. Subscribers have now access to the platform from both the website and mobile applications, Android and iOS”.
Inea was the first provider of fibre-optic network services in Poland to launch its multiscreen service six years ago and Insys Video Technologies was responsible for its implementation. The application allowed users to watch selected TV channels in a browser, and on mobile devices, view an EPG and record movies or series.
As a result, the services are now available to a total of 2.5 million homes in 62 towns and cities throughout the country. This is equivalent to 70% of its total network reach.
Commenting on the latest expansion, UPC Polska’s CEO Robert Redeleanu said: “This is proof of our commitment to investing and developing the best internet and digital entertainment that are key to creating a digital economy and gigabit society, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic”.
In a separate development, UPC Polska has announced it will reopen all its showrooms across Poland following the government’s decision to lift some of the restrictions brought in to stop the spread of the pandemic.
International travel and lifestyle channel Travelxp 4K HDR is now available to network and platform operators in the German-speaking markets for distribution to their subscribers. The channel shows reports and features covering holiday destinations in more than 60 countries around the world 24 hours per day. The programmes are offered in German language on networks supplied by M7 in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
“We are excited about this attractive new addition to our UHD line-up: Travelxp 4k brings foreign cultures and exotic locations directly into the living room and enables viewers to experience destinations far away, particularly now that travelling is difficult,” said Christian Heinkele, managing director of Eviso Germany, business partner of M7 in Germany.
“Travel reports and landscape images are the perfect examples of content where excellent TV/video resolution and powerful distribution infrastructures are essential. This is a great opportunity for public utility companies, network operators and fibre-optic providers to show what their networks are capable of,” added Heinkele.
Sumant Bahl, managing director Europe & Africa, Travelxp, said: “We are delighted to further strengthen both our relationship with M7 Group as well as our 4K distribution in Germany. Travelxp 4K HDR is among the best in 4K and travel shows in the world. Apart from the vivid and immersive picture quality our channel offers, we are also excited about showcasing the original and interesting travel content we produce in diverse genres. We are confident that M7 audiences will love our shows.”
With Travelxp 4K HDR, Insight TV UHD and LoveNature 4K, M7 Deutschland offers its partners a total of three UHD channels for distribution on their networks. This agreement builds upon the cooperation M7 Group and Travelxp have already established in the Benelux and Central Eastern European markets.