Long reads

The Euro 50 Q&A – Niels Breining, YouSee

Under CEO Niels Breining, Danish cable operatpr YouSee has had a strong year, introducing new à la carte TV products and driving digital pay TV uptake. The company also recently launched iPhone and iPad apps.

Age 56

Education MSc. Economics

Previous positions TDC Business, CFO (1996-99); Det Danske Hedeselskab, senior executive vice-president (1995-96); TDC, excecutive vice-president ((1991-95); Jydsk Telefon, chief of staff (1988-91); Jydsk Telefon, CFO (1979-88).

Last year’s highlights First of all, that we’ve managed to introduce a new digital à la carte product as a supplement to our basic TV package. This has required renegotiation of several contracts with the broadcasters, reshuffling the channels in our network and building a completely new user interface to allow our customers to pick and choose their own channels. The product offers 70 TV channels from 19 national and international broadcasters. It requires a subscription of at least four channels and subscribers can change channels on a monthly base. I’m convinced that the industry need to acquire the increasing consumer tendency towards demand for more individual choices. Many consumers consider TV packages old fashioned or obsolete, therefore, we have to meet the demand for individual choices by renewing our portfolio. The increasing range of OTT services will strengthen the tendency even further. I believe, however, TV packages will remain. But we need to be able to offer à la carte without the restrictions of four channels as a minimum to meet the consumer expectation and the reality of a stronger competition from among others the the OTT concept.

Most significant industry development The continuing growth in the number of digitised costumers. Nearly 70% of our customers have a digital flat screen TV or digital box. And also, the fast growing movement of the TV technology going from broadcast DVB to unicast, interactive IP-based distribution.

Goals for next year We need to increase the capacity of our network to meet the increasing request for on-demand services. We’ve initiated a rather large scale investment programme which hopefully will decrease the average size of our network segments from 2,000 to around 500 customers during the next couple of years. At the same time, we intend to develop and implement an OTT strategy with which we will be able to offer our products on other platforms than the cable network. Since 2009, YouSee has  offered web TV, both as a free value added service to our broadband customers and as a subscription product to non-YouSee customers. Just recently, we have launched an iPad and iPhone app making it possible to watch your TV channels on tablets. An android app will follow shortly.

Industry challenges and opportunities OTT has it all. New operators will challenge our position as TV distributors by offering their products on top of our network. We can fight it by closing broadband offerings on cable network, but in my opinion, that strategy is far too short sighted and highly unsustainable. We – as an industry – have to embrace OTT, instead of being locked to a specific technical platform we should see OTT as a way to expand our activities to new markets. We would not have the benefits of being alone on the market nor to control the gates. Competition will be strong and maybe much stronger than we’re used to, but we have the benefit of being a long term partner of the broadcasters and rights owners. We know how to make a business out of collecting entertaining content and putting up attractive products.

Alternative career choice Based on my career it would probably have been in telecommunications. My years in forestry felt great. An interesting alternative could’ve been within the health sector.

TV character most identified with Having watched TV for so many years it is difficult to single out one specific personality. And I wouldn’t exactly say that I identify with them; I’ve been entertained, informed, shocked, thrilled, felt happy, but nonetheless, I have never identified with any of them.

Most admired personality The men and women who participate in public debates and constantly defend their opponents’ rights to express their views, no matter how much they disagree with them.

Life outside work Whenever and wherever the time and the weather permits it, you’ll probably find my on the green chasing a lower handicap.