News & Views

“As an operator we want to be perceived as the gateway to all the content our customers love to watch.”

On 6 May MEDIAGENIX VP Product Management Ivan Verbesselt was at Nextv Content Distribution Europe, on a panel with:

Michael Bärlin, Chief Content Acquisition Officer, Allente
Alex Martinez Roig, Content Director, Movistar+
Elke Walthelm, Executive Vice President Content, Sky Deutschland
Thomas Rajman, Head of Content blue TV, Swisscom

The lively one-hour discussion touched on many topics, including:

o content aggregation, curation, bundling, packaging, discovery and recommendations;
o bringing intelligence to subscription management;
o the evolution of usage and viewing patterns;
o strategies;
o upcoming forms of content, besides sports and movies;
o regulation;
o Linear, as one more way of content discovery;
o the relationship with content providers.

Here are a few extracts from the discussion:

On the role of aggregators

14:00 — Ivan Verbesselt, MEDIAGENIX: “Today everyone has the same opportunities because we are operating on a level playing field, with three currencies of success: the DTC relationship, the data that comes from this consumer relationship, and a granular handle on the content itself. Curation is increasingly important. The aggregation game is too sophisticated now to just put some channels together. I have the impression that here in Europe, even with the immense growth of SVOD, the consumer’s expenditure wallet for video entertainment has still room for more subscriptions, as opposed to the US where it’s more like a zero-sum game between pay-tv and SVODS. That is probably due to the fact that the pay-tv packages here offer very good value for money. This opens opportunities to bundle packages such as Disney+ and DAZN. Operators are very well placed to play that aggregator role. SVODs are fighting for eyeballs. And eyeballs are driven by context, by how you put it in front of people. I think as an aggregator you can play an enormous role. By bundling them in an elegant way you have much more leverage. I’m also wondering whether it shouldn’t be an additional endeavour for infrastructure-centered aggregators to invest in local cooperations, like the kind of alliances broadcasters are forging in local markets with Britbox, Viaplay, TV 2 Play, Salto, and so on.”

On subscription management

17:12 — Thomas Rajman, Swisscom: “We operators come from a legacy business that is geared to keeping the subscriber locked into a subscription model for many years. But what we see is that customers would like to play with more SVOD subscriptions. What is holding them back is that they are nor sure how to cancel those subscriptions again. Which means that Swisscom can be their trusted partner not only for aggregation but also for subscription management. We need to have an interface where people can easily sign off and on to multiple subscriptions.”

“We can be the customer’s trusted partner, not only for aggregation, but also for subscription management.”

20:00 — Elke Walthelm, Sky Deutschland: “It is very important for us that our customers feel that we are the gateway to all the content they love to watch. Our ambition is not to say, don’t watch Netflix. On the contrary, we bundle Netflix into our entertainment. The numbers prove that we need to make it as easy as possible for our customers to get access to all the content they love to watch across different providers. At the same time it’s really important that we have exclusive content with Sky. That creates willingness to pay and is a second way to make sure that we are relevant players. We need to have something of our own that is compelling in this competitive environment.
As for SVOD streaming services, customers do not want to subscribe for longer periods of time. They want the flexibility of monthly subscriptions. They don’t want a set-top box in their living room. They’re more focused on flexible viewing via mobile devices. That is why our site is so important, to give them an easy entrance into our exclusive sports content and entertainment. The site is designed so that customers can subscribe to an SVOD in addition to another subscription. Our data suggests that the volume of different subscriptions people are willing to subscribe to is increasing. People may have 2 to 3 subscriptions at a time and that might rotate depending on the offerings. But our ambition as a content provider, which we share with everybody else, is of course to create enough reasons for the customer to stay.”

On upcoming forms of content

23:43 — Elke Walthelm, Sky Deutschland: “If you ask me what’s new on the content side, apart from sports, movies, and series, we see a new invention of non-scripted in a more premium way, for instance, cooking shows and documentaries. I still think fiction is king, but there is a demand for more choice, for more light-hearted entertainment. But as soon as viewers have to pay for it, the differentiator is quality.”

26:40 — Alex Martinez Roig, Movistar+: “We are working in different ways. We are creators. We create our original content but also offer Netflix content and Disney content. This is the third year we are working with Netflix, for instance. At Movistar we are thinking a lot about our interface. It has to be more dynamic and proactive, to create new kinds of relationships with the subscribers. Our subscribers should be convinced that they have to stay with us if they want the best entertainment. We think that entertainment will be big in the coming years. I’m thinking of non-fiction, reality shows. With the same tools we have been creating fiction we are now also creating non-fiction and we apply a lot of what we have learned, not only in production but also with regard to creating authority. Our late-night shows are very important for us. They are our daily touchpoint with our audience. Such non-fiction programmes are the soul of the platform.”

30:00 — Michael Bärlin, Allente: “In our market we see that scripted drama is still growing rapidly. A lot of that is driven by the move from importing international scripted drama to producing it locally. We have some strong local players in the SVOD space who are competing with the global brands. Some of our most important partners are local SVOD players, such as Viaplay, TV2 Play, and C More. The global brands are also producing local content now, so we’re seeing a lot more scripted local productions. That is the growing segment, in both production and viewing.”

On integration and the relationship with content providers

32:40 — Thomas Rajman, Swisscom: “It’s hard to believe but until about 18 months ago, if we had partnerships with SVOD providers, access to their metadata was a red flag. Today it is the first topic we even tackle: what is the timeline to get our metadata integrated into your search feed? These things have definitely evolved. The exposure of key assets has become a standard way to integrate. What we are looking at now is to have these integration points and create an upsell path through the combined offering. How do we win over people who are not used to paying a subscription fee? Maybe with a free preview? Historically, Switzerland has not been a country that is very open to paid services. You see remnants of this where people are very hesitant to even explore something when they think they might have to pay something on top of what they are paying for TV access. It is up to us to lower that hurdle, make it kind of fun to subscribe, and give them that reassurance that with us as a partner they will always be able to get out of that subscription.”

“Until 18 months ago, access to metadata was a red flag.”

On the new Linear

35:24— Michael Bärlin, Allente: “We have quite a traditional target group and Linear is maybe not the most sexy thing, but it is still the core of our business. It is what our subscribers watch the most, and the EPG is still how they find content. The fact that streamers are emulating that linear feeling in their service shows that it serves a purpose to have a continuous stream of linear content. That is also content discovery.”

“Linear is a form of content discovery.”

38:45 — Alex Martinez Roig, Movistar+: “Local strength is very important as an advantage we have over the global players, because we know our consumers very well. We know what they want to see and what they’re watching. I agree that linear channels are not dead. They are another form of consumption and they are working well. But they are working differently now. We have to learn how to use them.”

On regulation and global competition

39:40 — Alex Martinez Roig, Movistar+: “Our biggest problem is that in Europe we are operating in relatively small countries, which makes it hard to compete with the global players and brands. I think that our European audiovisual sovereignty is in danger. Before long local shows will be decided in Los Angeles. We have to learn to work together with bigger investments to create shows that can work in different countries. We have to change the rules, otherwise it will be very difficult to maintain our operations.”

“Our European audiovisual sovereignty is in danger.”

On operator strategies for the immediate future

41:39 — Elke Walthelm, Sky Deutschland: “For us making content searchable and easy to discover is one of the key differentiators. We have just improved our voice search. We are finding more intuitive ways of presenting the content to the customer, finetuning recommendation, personalization and how we bring new content to the subscriber’s attention.
With all the new things we are launching it is sometimes hard to give everything the attention it deserves. That is why we are working on how can we resurface content that has already been launched last summer and that has not been discovered in a way that fits the local audience. This strengthens the perception that Sky offers a lot of originals.
Our research shows us that value attribution and willingness to pay is more likely linked to first runs, to something new, but if we look at total consumption and high spend, we see that there are movies and series people want to see over and over again. These movies and series keep getting those great ratings over many years because they have some kind of cult status. But there are not that many.”

“Making content searchable and easy to discover is a key differentiator.”

54:17 — Elke Walthelm, Sky Deutschland: “Content discovery and recommendations will be key in the next five years. Another thing will be to create more talkability around relevant content to stand out in the mass of the offerings and create more engagement. Personally I don’t think we will have a lot more of those big, Game of Thrones kind of mass-market productions everyone will talk about. I think it will go more into communities and bubbles and different segments. That is the big challenge for us, to get into the relevant segments and engage with those target groups, create more talkability and interaction on social.”

55:30 — Alex Martinez Roig, Movistar+: “I agree, I think being in the conversation and creating relevant content is key. We’ll have to create a bigger sensation with less content. Luckily for us, Spanish is a language that travels very well. We are creating content for a community of 300 million people, be it with subtitles in Latin America given the regional differences. But regulation is a problem. The game is very difficult to maintain with this situation in Europe.”

57:03 — Thomas Rajman, Swisscom: “For us the three key topics are engagement, relevance and adding smartness/intelligence to subscription management. In the meantime we will combine linear with on-demand content and move our model for bundling content from the linear to the on-demand world. But it will be an evolution rather than a revolution.”

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