The sun was shining at the IBC show in Amsterdam but it did not reflect off the telcos present, whose executives did little to dispel the notion that they are just not content people.
The annual event, which showcases the best in all things TV and video, is becoming increasingly important to the telecoms industry as operators move ever deeper into the field of content.
Keynotes from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon director Ang Lee and Chariots of Fire producer David Puttnam this weekend reflect the razzmatazz associated with this world but jarred with those given by several operators on the opening two days.
Deutsche Telekom, Liberty Global and Vodafone Germany seemed to reinforce the opinion of Virgin Media’s Chief Digital Entertainment Officer that telcos just “don’t know the conversations they need to have with the TV industry”.
It all started so promisingly in the event’s opening keynote.
Vivendi Content Chairman Dominique Delport said telcos were “the only way” to compete with the likes of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, and that he wanted to work with them.
Not only that, he revealed details of the company’s mobile-first TV product, Studio+, which he said offered a great opportunity to leverage telcos’ core asset – the network.
Dr Manuel Cubero, CCO of Vodafone Germany, didn’t seem very excited about it and even moaned about “the burden” of having to invest “so much” in infrastructure.
We will see if Delport’s claim that telcos really are interested in his new product comes to fruition in the coming months.
Netflix also wants to work more with telcos.
Chris Whiteley, the company’s VP of Business Development EMEA, said he wanted to grow the 40-odd number of partnerships it has in place.
Working together offers a “mutual customer acquisition tool” according to Whiteley, who said the partnerships he wanted were “long-term”.
Telcos may have some legitimate concerns here.
As we reported earlier this year, researchers at IHS warned of the risks of “insignificant” revenues and said Netflix was not an "appropriate partner if telcos are producing their own content".
However, it is clearly important that they do work with one of the world’s leading content platforms.
One that does is Deutsche Telekom.
Peter Kerckhoff, VP Content at the Germany-based operator, used his keynote to dispel what he said were the myths about telcos and the TV industry.
He said it was “wrong” to think that that the two couldn’t work together successfully, as was the belief that there are no profits to be had.
Kerckhoff is no stranger to television, having worked for Bertelsmann back in the 1990s.
But beyond talking about rights DT has acquired for basketball and ice hockey, there was little to get excited about.
Have 14 years at a telco dulled his spirits? Kerckhoff admitted that DT was still “weighing up” its options in terms of its content strategy.
The exec clearly thinks there is time to refine it given he said that “the age of content” is just about to begin.
Currently, the operator offers a wide range of content to its subscribers and to non-subscribers in an OTT approach.
Kerckhoff said it was “very difficult” for telcos operating in the TV space to attract millennials.
“The Telekom brand is rather ignored,” he lamented.
Given DT was ranked as Europe’s most valuable telco brand this year, that it somewhat concerning.
It is also precisely why telcos need OTT players for their content strategies to survive.
Kerckhoff described partnerships between the two as being “like a marriage”.
He added: “If you have the same expectations at the beginning then you lower the risk of failure.”
Marc Giesbers, VP of Video Products at Liberty Global, was keen to point out that telcos should not rush to sign up as many partners as possible.
The exec, who has helped to launch a range of products across Europe, including an app for fans of Formula 1 in the Netherlands, said quality is key.
He added: “It is one thing to invest in breadth of content, you have to help users find it.”
Given the large number of content partnerships and initiatives that operators have signed in the past year, the showing of the execs here was somewhat puzzling.
All three refused interviews prior to the event and the impression they projected from the presentations and on-stage chats was underwhelming.
Certainly, content businesses want to work with telcos, who are setting themselves up as aggregators for the most part.
Yet telcos appear somewhat fearful of this brave new world.
Hopefully they will demonstrate a bit more chutzpah next year.