Long reads

The Euro 50 Q&A – Hans-Holger Albrecht, MTG

The latest issue of Digital TV Europe was dedicated to the Euro 50, our annual survey of the views of 50 of Europe’s leaders in pay TV and broadband. We asked our readers to nominate individuals who had made a difference across five categories: content, new media, technology, marketing and overall industry leadership. Over the next few weeks we will publish interviews with the executives that make up Digital TV Europe’s Euro 50, 2011.

Despite the tough economic conditions, Modern Times Group, led by president and CEO Hans-Holger Abrecht, has continued to grow its free-to-air pay TV businesses across Europe and further afield. The company has extend its footprint in sub-Saharan Africa, and launched a connected pay TV service, Viaplay, available on connected TVs, tablets and smartphones.

Age 48

Education Doctorate in Law from the University of Bochum in Germany

Previous positions I joined MTG in 1997 and served as head of  pay TV operations and then as president of Viasat Broadcasting. I am co-chairman of CTC Media (Russian TV broadcaster), chairman of CDON Group AB (Nordic internet retailer), and a member of the board of directors of Millicom International Cellular SA (an emerging market mobile telecoms operator), and the International Emmy Association in New York. Prior to joining MTG, I worked for Daimler-Benz and CLT Media Group.

Last year’s highlights We have managed to grow our sales by 8% in the first nine months of 2011 and our operating profits are up 17%. We also paid out an increased dividend – these are the key achievements for me. We have been investing to drive up our audience shares and subscriber bases in virtually all of our markets and we have also launched a number of new channels – so we have been as busy as ever and in pretty volatile market positions.

Most significant industry development The rapid rise of online video services like Netflix and Hulu, as well as Amazon’s acquisition of Lovefilm. What happens in the US will happen here in Europe but not necessarily in the same way. The advent of Apple and Google TV, and the moves being made by other major online brands poses big questions for the media industry – in terms of content provision, consumer behaviour and the business models of the future. As ever, these developments are symptomatic of a bigger shift – one that is accelerating before our eyes as the consumption of entertainment is no longer restricted in terms of time or location, but will be enjoyed anywhere and anytime on any device.

Goals for next year MTG is ‘made to grow’ so we will continue to be one of the fastest growing media companies in Europe. I am determined that we make the most of the opportunity that we have with our Viaplay online video streaming service, but also that we continue to pioneer new geographical markets with the development of our satellite platforms in Ukraine and Russia, and our expansion in Africa. We intend to maintain our 50:50 split between advertising and subscription revenues and, therefore, to benefit from a continuing balance of advertising market share gains and subscriber growth across the 35 markets in which our channels are present.

Industry challenges and opportunities The geo-political changes including the Arab Spring will change the media landscape in a number of markets – offering both challenges and opportunities – while the power of the BRIC economies is only increasing. While growth in eastern Europe remains subdued, we do anticipate a return to strong growth over time as KPIs like ad spend per capita are far too low – the question as ever is when and how fast. At an industry specific level, people are watching more TV but more and more media consumption is taking place on the internet, so the challenge is to brand and monetise this trend. As to where the macroeconomic instability is taking us – I wish I knew. What I can tell you is that most of our revenues and profits are generated in Scandinavia and that these economies have fared reasonably well by comparison with others. In addition, almost half of our revenues come from pay TV subscriptions, which have proven to be relatively resilient. We are investing now to build our market positions for the future because we have a long-term view, we are growing stronger, and because we have the financial firepower to do so.

Alternative career choice Professional footballer.

TV character most identified with Captain Jack Sparrow – probably the best and worst pirate I have ever seen! Everyone needs a bit of luck but it helps if you have a plan.

Most admired personality Bill Gates, because he has combined starting up and running one of the world’s most successful companies with establishing the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, which is doing amazing work that is creating real and sustainable change in areas and lives that need it most.

Life outside work Play and watch football, sail, listen to music and read good books.