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Know your audience, know your business

It’s half way through the busy season for TV Connect events, with TV Connect MENA wrapping up yesterday and only last week I made a whistle-stop trip to Budapest for Digital TV CEE. Next week sees the co-located OTTtv World Summit and Content Delivery World, followed in two weeks by TV Connect Africa.

So perhaps now is an opportune time to press the pause button and reflect on some of the messages from operators that offer a different lens on the disruptive forces hitting TV land.

While Netflix storms its way around the world with its utopian plan to bring its subscription video services to everyone, while at the same time failing so far to achieve a profit – or at least for now – there are opportunities for both pure-play OTT services, as well as more traditional operators wanting to extend their reach.

As Luana Alexe, Senior Product & Service Development Manager, Slovak Telekom told attendees at Digital TV Central & Eastern Europe last week: “Netflix has very good brand awareness with high customer expectations, but when they launched without localised content it was a disappointment for customers.”

And perhaps localisation is key, not only of language but of what customers are willing to pay. “The price point Netflix are asking and no localisation, not even in its user interface, if we came to market in the same way, we would get slaughtered,” commented Nikola Francetic, Head of Group Content, Media and Broadcasting, Telekom Austria Group.

He might be right and it will be interesting to see how Amazon gets on with its India launch and its bet on home-grown content to establish its presence there.

One truism that pervades the industry though was reflected by Simon Slonjsak, Head of Triple Play& Pay TV, Telekom Slovenije, who said: “If you know your customers you will be ok.”

The issue, he told Digital TV CEE attendees was that “as an industry, we are telling customers what they want, forcing them to take the packages we want. We are still using the same model from the 1990s today. This is a critical problem.”

The issue, he told Digital TV CEE attendees was that “as an industry, we are telling customers what they want, forcing them to take the packages we want. We are still using the same model from the 1990s today. This is a critical problem.”

As Conax’s Tor Helge Kristiansen told me ahead of his talk on piracy at TV Connect Africa, the TV industry needs to start behaving more like internet companies, with rapid release and agile methodologies for testing and learning from digital product launches. “The TV industry has been used to long release cycles, releasing things every two years and so on. If you look at operators like Netflix, these guys change things on a daily basis,” Kristiansen pointed out.

Slonjsak followed the same point, but looked to the challenge to advertising caused by catch-up TV, among other services. “Big data is changing this,” he said. “With STB, we know our customers, we know what they watch. We can use this for the big spenders on advertising.”

He pointed to research showing that advertising revenue hadn’t fallen very much, “the differentiation is just digital vs non-linear ratio”.

Audience, again, is key here and Slonjsak suggested operators need new “customer-centric” services such as recommendation and discovery will be the differentiators in future. “There is too much content in the market, so viewers just go to what they know, so editorial content is important here,” he said.

Customer-centricity is placing pressure on networks to provide skinnier bundles, as discussed by a panel on content distribution. Katalin Radóczy, Chief Programming Officer, AMC Networks Central Europe, said: “The pressure is there. In some countries where we don’t have huge portfolios, we are thinking about adding to the bundles and looking at a la carte. There is a pressure and we have to create a strategy for that.”

But the continued rise in user-generated and cheap content is doing nothing to erode higher-quality programming, the question put to a panel at Digital TV CEE by Digital TV Europe editor Stuart Thomas was is there too much good content?

AMC’s Radóczy agreed that there is “a lot and it is hard to manage”.

Dimitar Radev, Head of Content Distribution & New Platforms at Nova Broadcasting said: “Original content is the key to the success of content, not only for return on investment but also for targeting customers. It is all about originality. It is about finding a clearly defined audience with a clearly defined content.”

This theme was reflected this week at TV connect MENA, including an excellent session by Roque Solabarrieta, COO of Etisalat/E-Vision, who discussed content diversity in the Middle East, as well as how media companies and telcos could partner to offer TV services.

Now, as we look forward to both the OTTtv World Summit and Content Delivery World next week, these topics will continue to be fiercely debated. Should operators look to OTT as a brand extension, aimed to woo customers or should they ignore cord-cutting and jump fully into the dog-eat-dog world of al la carté TV on demand, which seems to be what customers want. And can they beat Netflix and Amazon at their own game? This report from Ovum might give some tips on exactly that – or at least somewhere to start. And let’s leave the impact of VR and AR for now…

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