The Digital TV CEE Q&A: Bill Wijdeveld, M7 Group SA

Bill-WijdeveldBill Wijdeveld, VP, business development at M7 Group SA talks about pay TV challenges and opportunities ahead of this year’s Digital TV CEE conference in Warsaw.

How big an advantage is it to operate a pay TV service across multiple territories? Are there content synergies as well as technical and operational efficiencies to gain?

Operating across various regions allows us to utilize satellite capacity in a cost-efficient manner. For example:  while using the 19.2 East position primarily for Wallonia (TeleSAT) and Austria (HD Austria), the 23.5° East position is dedicated to the Netherlands (Canal Digitaal), Flanders (TV Vlaanderen), the Czech Republic and Slovakia (Skylink). The key benefit for broadcasters is that we provide them with an immediate reach of more than three million satellite homes, while also offering them the possibility of using the same satellite signal for channel delivery to third party operators within the European satellite footprint – rather than using a separate stand-alone satellite solution. The combination of DTH and headend distribution via the same satellite feed proved to be an attractive concept for various international customers including FOX, Scripps and IMG. Via M7 Platform Services we offer them an end-to-end DTH & headend distribution solution, from uplink and encryption to first level help desk support and marketing support.

How far do pay TV operators have to go to embrace content from multiple sources, including OTT services, as part of their offering?

We strongly believe that the ability to offer content in a hybrid manner, both in a linear broadcast and IP-based mode, is critical for the future of the pay-TV business and is therefore core of our strategy. One of the first steps for our Group was the acquisition of Stream Group and, providing multiplay solutions including IPTV, VOD and OTT services to Dutch consumers, while in Germany IPTV platform mein Fernsehen was launched following the acquisition of cable TV platform KabelKiosk in 2014. Stream Group can provide other platform operators in Europe and Asia with enhanced interactive video, OTT and multiscreen services through the Solocoo platform. The roll-out of IP based platforms in the Netherlands and Germany will soon be followed in other markets like the CEE where M7 Group already has an established Direct-To-Home subscriber base combining all the best features of satellite distribution and IP based features enriching the entertainment experience of customers.

How much demand is there in CEE in particular for non-linear services such as VOD, catch-up and multiscreen delivery and how far is this a priority for you?

Though Western Europe has until now taken the lead in this respect, the CEE market is clearly catching up. That’s why we are currently preparing the ground for a broadening of our service portfolio from just DTH into a hybrid offering including various non-linear services. With our cross-regional experience and building upon a solid DTH subscriber base of about 2 million Skylink subscribers, we believe to be in a very good position to capture this important future growth potential and maintain our market leading position in the region.

What is your view for overall pay TV growth prospects in the region over the next two to three years?

We see solid further growth potential in the CEE market, both by organic subscriber growth and thanks to the growing consumer willingness to pay for additional premium services.  This is also the reason why over last years, we have substantially invested in the extension of the Skylink HD channel offering. While linear broadcasting is at this point still the key focus for pay TV revenue growth, we expect that over the coming years the addition of non-linear services will become an important additional  revenue driver for the CEE region.

Bill Wijdeveld will speak on Day 2 of the Digital TV CEE conference, which takes place at the DoubleTree Hilton in Warsaw from October 27-28. Click here to find out more. 

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