It’s not often that you get to discuss pornography with a telecoms exec, either on or off the record, but Stephanie Rockmann doesn’t blink when this rather unusual topic is raised.
Indeed, Proximus’ Director of Content and Media raises a “new trend” in the Netherlands – adult content made for couples.
“We offer that too,” Rockmann (pictured) says.
The discussion comes up after a look at the Belgian operator’s website reveals one of four TV “offers” available to subscribers is adult content (the others are entertainment, kids and sports).
Click on the “Learn more and order” button and you are faced with promises of “erotic clips and exciting videos”, news that “it’s getting hot on Proximus TV” and the reassurance that it is “discreet, secure and regularly updated”.
It is accompanied by an illustration of two scoops of ice cream shaped into women’s breasts.
The surprise here is not that this sort of content is offered – a lot of European telcos do in some capacity – but that it can be accessed in just two clicks of a mouse at a company whose CEO and TV chief are both women.
“I don’t find it that prominent,” Rockmann responds.
“At the end of the day this is content that people want access to.
“We’re responding to a very clearly expressed demand from parts of our customer base.”
She adds: “We’re definitely not ashamed of it.”
Rockmann goes on to assure me that Proximus has “very strict rules” about what it broadcasts and that there is an “equality chart” providers have to comply with.
“People say ‘Why have this when everything is for free on the internet?’ Well, [what we have] is totally different, it’s much higher quality,” she says.
Citing the novel Fifty Shades of Grey and its subsequent movie adaptation, Rockmann adds: “[This type of] content has become a lot more acceptable in society.”
It is arguably a cultural thing. A look at the Orange TV website shows similar adult offers – the Bouquets Adulte et Charme – whereas there is no sign of any equivalent content bundles on BT TV, for example.
Rockmann, in post since March 2014, heads up a team of 60 within Proximus’s consumer business unit.
While some operators – notably Orange, Altice and Telefónica – are pushing on into production, Proximus is very much in the camp that says it knows its own limits.
“We’re not a media company, we’re a telco,” says Rockmann.
“We consider content to be one of our pillars – it is what binds us to our customers.
“As such, our mission is to give access to content in the easiest, smoothest way.
“We’re a content aggregator, not a content creator.”
She adds a caveat: “There are a few exceptions – we produce our own sports channels – but there is clear differentiation from competitors who call themselves media companies.”
Does she think those who are going down the production route are making a terrible mistake?
“Every company is different but we just don’t consider this to be our core business. It’s not what we’re good at,” Rockmann responds.
“We’re good at putting fibre in the ground, at maintaining a mobile network.
“The RoI of content production doesn’t make sense.
“We’re way better off investing in networks.
“You can have the best content but if it’s delivered over a shitty network it’s not going to work.”
This is an extract from a feature in the Q3 issue of European Communications magazine, out tomorrow. Click here to subscribe