When ProSiebenSat.1, one of Europeâ€™s largest commercial television companies, signed a deal with the OTT platform Magine in late January allowing it to distribute its linear channels on the Internet, it was further confirmation that major broadcasters are ready to back a platform that has all the hallmarks of a true Cloud TV service. This is the first time any third-party has been allowed to stream ProSiebenSat1â€™s linear channels, which is why the deal is significant. It means that in Germany, Magine now has carriage agreements with ARD, ZDF, RTL and a selection of international Pay TV channels.
Magine is an OTT content aggregator that is starting to look like a Pay TV operator except online. It is worthy of the description â€˜Cloud TVâ€™ because of the way it includes linear TV from different channel owners. These are wrapped into a backwards facing programme guide that also gives access to catch-up TV and start-over functions. With a monthly subscription you can access the content on a range of devices including smartphones, tablets, computers, streamer boxes and a growing number of Smart TVs. Magine started in Sweden and is now available in beta versions in Spain and Germany, with commercial launches promised for those markets.
The company claims that its arrangement with ProSiebenSat.1 (covering six channels including SAT.1, ProSieben and ProSieben MAXX) makes it the first OTT provider to offer a full TV replacement service in Germany. â€œWe can match traditional TV services, with an added flexibility and mobility thanks to content being available across all screens,â€ it says.
Clearly the availability of a multichannel linear bouquet is the key to providing a â€˜replacementâ€™ TV service. Unlike Aereo in the U.S., Magine is doing this with the blessing of content owners. Speaking late last year, Jon Gisby, EVP Business Development at Magine, said: â€œBroadcasters are our best friends and we treat them properly, and we are enabling them to reach new audiences and gain incremental reach. We believe that over time that will open up new business models.â€
Broadcasters come onto the platform on the basis of a good old-fashioned carriage deal. â€œFrom the consumer point of view, it is important that we are aggregating linear content,â€ Gisby said. â€œYou do not have to go in and out of other apps; nobody wants to do that.â€
This aggregation could provide a boost to Smart TV app stores. Samsung, LG, Panasonic and TP Vision have all agreed to carry the app in various European territories. In Germany, having key broadcasters within a single app, with their linear and on-demand content close together through a single (in-app) UI, means Smart TVs can start to match some of the advantages of HbbTV (where you can link seamlessly from linear into on-demand via the Red Button).
Magine are fans of linear TV and broadcasters, and Gisby has pointed to the ongoing strength of both in the face of Internet competition and the ready availability of on-demand viewing. That is partly because large widescreen TVs are so attractive and partly because we are in a golden age of TV production, he believes.
Magine reckons it has the right balance for a Cloud TV service and talks about its platform as â€˜TV Reinventedâ€™ and the next generation of live TV. That means more personalization; the service authenticates you as an individual rather than at household level, using Facebook, Twitter and Google+ for your ID.
You can also use the app as a companion when watching on the main TV. Features include remote control, content discovery and social integration. When it comes to mobile viewing, the service will work on a 3G network with only one-bar of coverage strength showing on the phone, Gisby reckons.
This is very much a multiscreen offering. The company says that in Sweden, where the service has been available commercially since March, consumers are watching it on every device they own.
There are over 10,000 hours of content on the platform in Sweden including the national broadcasters SVT and TV4 and Disney, Discovery, Fox, CNN International, BBC, Eurosport, National Geographic, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. â€œHalf of our Swedish users say they are now watching more TV than they did,â€ Gisby said last November. In the Spanish beta version, Chello Multicanal, Viacom Spain and National Geographic Channel Spain are among the content partners.
The company raised $19 million in a Series A funding round last July and seems to have ambitions beyond its current three markets.
Gisby says the platform is a good place for smaller and niche broadcasters to come, as well as the majors, because catch-up services make them more attractive for viewers. â€œIn a programme guide you might not scroll to the niche channels because there is nothing you want from them right now [because of the bigger broadcast brands above them] but if their catch-up content is there, it is more likely that over the last week there was something from them that you are interested in.â€