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Zappware Strategy Summit: WIND Hellas reinvents TV experience with UX Focus

A year ago, Greek telco WIND Hellas launched its new multi-screen pay-TV service in Greece. Built and operated by Zappware as a turnkey service, WIND VISION has taken the market by storm, combining DVB and OTT in one hybrid Android TV box and propelling rapid growth.

Hermann Riedl

“Our goal was to offer our customers a unique TV experience both in terms of technology and content,” explained Hermann Riedl, Chief Strategy & Digital Transformation Officer of WIND Hellas, speaking at Zappware’s Strategy Summit in Ghent, Belgium on May 15. “The problem was that while we were the number three mobile and fixed operator in Greece (with four million mobile subscribers and 600,000 broadband customers) we were the only one in our market not to have a TV product.”

WIND Hellas identified TV as a strategic must-have if it were to grow its market share but knew it would be launching against incumbent OTE, pay TV satellite platform Nova and Vodafone’s IPTV offer.

“Coming last to market with a zero-customer base it was clear to us that going for exclusive content was not an option. For us it would never make sense and be prohibitively expensive. But we did have an opportunity to differentiate ourselves around the UX – if we acted quickly.”

In April 2018, WIND VISION was among the first in Europe to launch with Android TV including 5000+ apps and Google Assistant voice search.

“We required a platform to really engage customers, create loyalty and trigger users to enjoy all the available content. The only viable differentiator for us was the UX.”

The process began in earnest in late 2016 when the company ran an RFP out of which it selected Zappware to bring its high-end TV services to the Greek market.

“We had no idea how to run TV,” Riedl admits. “That’s why we turned to Zappware as our managed service provider and its NeXX 4.0 turnkey video solution.

“If anything did go wrong, we would know who to kick,” he adds, candidly. “But we had no major issues. On the contrary, “Zappware built the complete end-to-end system from satellite dish and video head-end up to a leading edge UX on the devices in less than 12 months”

Zappware’s turnkey solution reaches from video head-end infrastructure and cloud-based ‘back-end’ to client software for Android-TV set-top-boxes, smartphones, tablets and web-browsers. The whole video-chain is provided and managed by Zappware.

Features include linear and catch-up TV, and network recordings. Along with the cloud-based back-end, the Android TV STB platform offers the flexibility to integrate third party content and applications to end-users in one seamless experience.

“The key UX criteria for us was simplicity and openness,” says Riedl. “We believe in forging a new role for media that goes beyond the walled garden of pay.”

To help entice consumers, the operator designed a compact stylish STB which its ad agency described as “iconic” and made the device a centrepiece of its marketing campaign.

“It has a very small form factor- one button, one LED, complemented by fewer buttons on the remote to avoid complicating the user experience,” explains Riedl. There are no colour buttons, for example.

Simplicity also meant WiFi connectivity. “The STB is a full unicast ABR solution to give our customers the option to unicast. Feedback tells us it is the most highly valued feature.”

The UI itself is a “Netflix-like interface” on which WIND expose catch-up services alongside app integrations. “Some run directly from our UI, including Netflix and Spotify, and the rest from the Android Play Store. The UX is cross device. A customer’s user name and password for the mobile app is the same for the TV platform.”

By using Android TV, the integration of third-party content from the likes of Netflix and YouTube is done in an efficient way, resulting in a great user experience.

Openness, in WIND’s strategic equation, means dominating HDMI 1. “Our base proposition is pay TV channels with catch up also all FTA channels.”

Riedl explains, “Due to the geographic complexity of the Greek market I cannot make an agreement with channel owners in all 100+ islands but with a DTT tuner we allow any viewer to have any content they want on our box.”

‘Openness’ further means open to Chromecast and Bluetooth connectivity. It is 4K-ready compatible with HDR 10 and HEVC.

“Currently, except for high performance online gaming, you can use our STB for any TV or gaming app you like,” Riedl says.

Zappware’s Amazon AWS-based cloud back-office serves the Android TV boxes as well as the mobile devices with WIND’s new multiscreen TV service. This makes for a very scalable, flexible and future-proof architecture.

By fortune or design, the launch of WIND VISION coincided with that of Netflix in Greece in April 2018. It meant that while not having major TV brands or exclusive content from day one the operator was able to advertise availability of Netflix exclusively on its service.

“One year in and our expectations are more than fulfilled,” Riedl shared. “We have amassed a 40,000 subs base representing about 4% of the market and on track to grow this rapidly. We have significant churn reduction and our NPS (Net Promoter Score) is a double digit number of points higher than our fixed subs without TV.

“What’s more we have achieved a substantial shift in brand image. TV is the  key product that differentiates us now. Our competitors simply don’t have this functionality.

“Our users are now able to enjoy a unique TV experience in which smooth integration of all available content is available on all screens. Users are now one click away from their favourite channel, sports game or Netflix series. We now look forward to growing our business with our new attractive household propositions.”