Collaboration is the key to success for broadcasters in the battle against global digital giants. That was one of the key messages from Alexander von Woikowsky, Managing Director at 7TV, as he told delegates at Videoscape Europe this week: “We need alliances, alliances, alliances. If we do not do that, given the aggressive market strategies, [of companies like Netflix and Amazon Prime] the American players will over-run us.”
7TV is one of the most important examples of European broadcaster collaboration in the digital space: the joint-venture between ProSiebenSat.1 Media and Discovery was established as an open platform for other broadcasters to join, with Axel Springer and the private German sports broadcaster SPORT1 the first non-shareholder third-parties on the platform.
As we reported previously, the corporate structure at 7TV is designed so it can accommodate more shareholders. At present, ProSiebenSat.1’s linear channels and catch-up content and Discovery’s free-to-air channels are on the platform. Eurosport Player (part of Eurosport, owned by Discovery) and the German SVOD service maxdome (owned by ProSiebenSat.1 Media) are both coming to the platform next year.
One of the stated objectives for 7TV, when it was launched, was the creation of a ‘broadcaster-friendly’ digital home and somewhere that local production companies and European studios could reach a broad demographic in a multi-thematic offering without selling rights to the giant U.S. OTT providers. At Videoscape Europe in London, Nicole Agudo Berbel, Chief Distribution Officer for ProSiebenSat.1 Media, alluded to wider efforts around localised collaboration.
Confirming the importance of alliances for the incumbent television industry in Europe, she revealed that ProSiebenSat.1 Media may start investing more heavily in local content. “The global players lack strength in the local market and we can fill that [position]. I think that [strategy] works well for [maintaining] younger audiences, and on the business model side. There are lots of new platforms coming into the market, and others consolidating their position, and we have our own OTT platform to strengthen,” she added.
Berbel, who is responsible for all external platform relationships across broadcast and streaming environments, stressed how important it is that ProSiebenSat.1 Media content reaches audiences through all the platforms consumers are now using. The broadcaster will cooperate with providers like Amazon and Netflix, too, confirming the complicated nature of modern distribution.
ProSiebenSat.1 Media has various owned-and-operated digital destinations, including its websites, and 7TV is not intended to replace these. Nevertheless, Berbel confirmed: “We are putting a lot of effort into making 7TV successful. We want the app in all the devices that young people use. There is lots of promotion for the app.”
7TV prepares both its shareholders for a more digital future. “We are not seeing any cannibalisation [of standard TV viewing] from OTT in Germany yet, but that might be coming,” Berbel noted. “We are trying to prevent it [any decline in overall ProSiebenSat.1 Media audiences] by enriching and enlarging our portfolio on all distribution points. As a company, we are moving towards a ‘consumer-first’ and ‘digital-first’ approach.”
This means having a bigger digital presence but also proactively encouraging digital viewing. “We want to focus on digital-first releases for shows, ‘airing’ content on digital platforms well in advance of linear channels, to increase digital consumption,” she revealed. 7TV will be one of the beneficiaries from this policy.
There are potential backoffice and front-end (app design and lifecycle management, user experience and UI design, etc.) synergies for the broadcasters involved in 7TV, if they collaborate on a single ‘app’. von Woikowsky acknowledged some internal efficiencies at ProSiebenSat.1 Media as maxdome comes under the same roof. But cost-savings have never been part of the business case for this offering, he added. “This is about the digital strategy of our shareholders.”
ProSiebenSat.1 Media is aware of the danger that one of its major shows could one day be snatched by Netflix or Amazon Prime, and believes that the presence of 7TV, providing the streaming scale they hope for, reduces the chances of this. “We are really trying to build a platform that helps the broadcast industry to find a digital home,” von Woikowsky confirmed.
Greater collaboration is firmly on the agenda for the broadcast industry, and not just in Europe. Some of the recent initiatives focus on advertising tech and sales, such as the European Broadcast Exchange (EBX), combining Mediaset, TF1, ProSiebenSat.1 Media and Channel 4.
RTL AdConnect combines eight RTL broadcasters but also third-parties like Medialaan, ITV, RAI and Goldbach Media to help advertisers find audiences across multi-broadcaster inventory. OpenAP is a U.S. platform where Fox Networks, Turner, Viacom, NBCU and Univision provide a common planning, audience delivery and reporting platform for audience-based TV buying. Some Canadian broadcasters are talking up the prospects of a Canadian version of OpenAP.
Looking beyond advertising, a shared streaming/OTT platform has been proposed by RTVE, Mediaset España and Atresmedia in Spain. As explained above, 7TV is a shared streaming platform focused on the German market. BBC Worldwide (the commercial arm of the BBC) and ITV are running a joint-venture SVOD service in the U.S.and Canada called BritBox.
All of these are important examples of how, working together, broadcasters can improve their competitive position for digital/linear advertising sales or content distribution. The most important, in our view, are those that focus on a domestic market, since that is where you need the most delicate balance between collaboration and competition.
That makes 7TV one of the most important digital broadcaster initiatives today, while OpenAP stands out as the most notable advertising broadcaster cooperation anywhere.
If you are interested in broadcaster advertising collaborations, check out Future TV Advertising Forum in London this December, where we have a session dedicated to the subject. Very senior executives from NBCU and Fox Networks are also on the agenda and, among other things, will be discussing OpenAP.
You can see the full agenda here.