Maturing VOD helps boost Vodafone Iceland

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    Vodafone Iceland is pleased with the uptake of its on-demand services, which are benefiting from the popularity of catch-up TV and a new user interface that it says makes it easier to update the VOD portal and gives faster response times for users, whether for on-demand services or on the linear EPG. The company, which provides IPTV via ADSL and FTTH, recorded 350,000 VOD rentals in December last year – not bad when you consider the 25,000 subscriber count being reported in 2011 and the fact that the entire population of Iceland is 320,000.

    Sixty per cent of Vodafone Iceland users rented at least one VOD title last year. Today, 50% of all on-demand viewing is catch-up TV and 25-30% is paid VOD, with the rest being other free on-demand assets. “The big challenge for us, and I think every VOD provider, is increasing the paid numbers,” declares Jens Sigurðsson, IPTV Product Manager at Vodafone Iceland.

    Vodafone Iceland is a quad-play provider with IPTV, fixed line voice, broadband and mobile. The company also operates a completely separate DVB-T subscription TV service and is upselling some of those customers to IPTV. Because of its on-demand services in particular, the IPTV package achieves higher ARPU. The company is now looking at whether it can create a hybrid offering that combines DTT and IPTV delivery but this will require new set-top boxes.

    Vodafone Iceland saw a 35+% increase in its customer base last year and Sigurðsson says it now has 40% market share for IPTV and the figure is growing fast. The next big project is multi-screen TV. Sigurðsson says Vodafone Iceland will deploy next year, starting with iOS and Android tablets and smartphones. Phase one will make VOD available anywhere to broadband and 3G subscribers. Linear content will follow later.

    Vodafone has prepared itself for multi-screen TV with a middleware solution that means it can unify all services around a common backend and workflow, whether they are then distributed via fibre, ADSL, online or on mobile. “With the new platform there is a single place for content ingest and where we create the VOD streams, and one place where our marketing department can handle the marketing materials, for example,” explains Sigurðsson. “The architecture is streamlined.”

    Vodafone introduced the Espial Media Services Platform and Espial Evo Client plus the Espial MediaBase multi-screen VOD platform last autumn. Besides the on-demand services, the IPTV provider also offers around 70 channels of linear TV. With HD VOD and now HDTV channels, the company has also introduced HD graphics to the user interface as part of the overall upgrade.

    According to Sigurðsson, one of the benefits of the new generation middleware is the ease with which the user interface can be changed, including the VOD portal, and the ability to adapt quickly across the service. The UI is based on what Vodafone Germany developed, which itself incorporates the market research performed by Vodafone Global on the best ways to present entertainment to consumers. There has been an effort to make the VOD catalogue more dynamic, pushing the higher value titles to the front and one of the next steps will be to implement a personalised recommendations solution.

    With its catch-up TV services covering the major domestic channels and encompassing Hollywood studio content, and the programming available for 2-3 weeks after broadcast, Vodafone Iceland has set a high benchmark for network recording. The company does not provide DVRs but is looking at ways to enable customers to use their own external storage, including USB stick drives, with their set-top boxes.

    As a country, Iceland is well suited to IPTV with three-quarters of the population living in the capital city Reykjavik. Vodafone can reach 85% of the total population via fibre or ADSL (and its customer base is split evenly between the two access methods). The DTT service can reach over 99% of the Icelandic population.

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