Johanna Berlinde is unequivocal: it’s not possible that every company that is launching a streaming service will survive in the future.
Telia’s Head of Global TV & Media was stargazing ahead of an annual pilgrimage to the IBC show in Amsterdam, where she plans to meet with a range of partners to discuss the issues of the day.
Delivering TV and video over the internet arguably remains the subject on most people’s lips. Just this week, Sky announced plans to launch an OTT streaming service in Spain, even though it does not provide any dedicated broadband, mobile or TV offerings.
CCS Insight analyst Paolo Pescatore notes: "With so many companies piling into video and TV services it's becoming harder to differentiate.
“It's all about the content and creating the next blockbuster."
Berlinde heads a 100-strong team at Telia’s HQ in Stockholm, where she oversees the operator’s TV offering in five markets: Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Lithuania and Estonia.
“Everyone is starting their own streaming service and my personal view is that I don’t think it will be possible for all the players on the market to survive,” she says.
Amid the increasing competition, Berlinde is focused on delivering Telia’s core TV strategy: to provide a broad amount of high-quality content in the most convenient way for consumers.
“We want to be the primary service – where customers go first to check if we have the content they want,” she says.
The company has a growing TV subscriber base of 1.7 million, with only Finland, which lost 2,000 customers during the 12 months to June, posting a negative score.
Berlinde says Finland is a special case, given mobile operators in the country all offer unlimited mobile data, thereby pushing customers to watch their favourite series on smartphones and threatening Telia’s base of cable subscribers.
The operator has looked to hit back by investing in exclusive content rights for the very first time.
In May, it spent an undisclosed sum on acquiring rights to Liiga, Finland’s top professional ice hockey league.
As part of the deal, Telia will produce and broadcast all the games to its 483,000 customers via IPTV, cable TV, tablet, mobile, PC and Apple TV.
Berline says she chose to pursue exclusive rights as “sport differentiates, it engages”.
The challenge with acquiring content such as TV series is that it requires telcos to “spend much more time explaining” to customers about what it is exactly and why they should watch it, she notes.
However, “big sports events are [more] known so not so difficult to market,” she says.
Buying exclusive content is not Telia’s main strategy – Berlinde says the telco is more of an aggregator – but it will look at opportunities on “a case by case basis”.
She continues: “We won't sit still [if] our product doesn’t live up to expectations.
“We will do what is needed to secure [content] for our customers.”
By way of example, Telia has signed up to distribute a new sports channel in Sweden. Developed by C More, the former Canal+ business, the new channel will launch next month.
Telia is the only company thus far to stump up for a distribution deal, as it looks add to the 779,000 TV subscribers it has its home market.
Berlinde, who has also worked for ComHem and Tele2 in her career, although never for a bona fide TV company, remains upbeat about the future given Telia has, she claims, “the most satisfied customers in the market”.
“My work is not a walk in the park but it is most inspiring and interesting,” she says.
If that is to continue, her prediction about streaming companies would do well to come true.
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