Jamal Bnari, who moderated this discussion, is an Emirati national, who has worked for years in the cable and new media business, and works closely with telcos and broadcasters in the region to promote multiplatform initiatives in the region. Bnari summed up this panel discussion. Are telcos and broadcasters competing in the area of multi-screen […]
Jamal Bnari, who moderated this discussion, is an Emirati national, who has worked for years in the cable and new media business, and works closely with telcos and broadcasters in the region to promote multiplatform initiatives in the region.
Bnari summed up this panel discussion.
Are telcos and broadcasters competing in the area of multi-screen video services? This was the main question posed to the panelists, who represented a good spread: an operator (Du), a national broadcaster (DMI), a consultant for a private broadcaster (MBC), a manufacturer (Harris), a broadcast consultant (SAWA Media), and last, but not the least, a leading pay TV operator (OSN).
dus Gurewan said the operator were not competing but rather, enabling and complementing the broadcasters own multi-screen offering. This opinion was shared by Heba AlSamt of DMI, who stated that the broadcaster had recently availed of the services offered by the operator. However, the view was challenged by Mohammed Windawee of MBC and Bas Wijne of OSN who expressed difficulties in working with the operator, especially when it came to connectivity and the costs associated with it. The subject of connectivity costs in the region is a sensitive one and would generate some heated debates as the panel session continued.
Switching gears, the operator was put back in the driving seat to explain how they were helping to improve the connectivity options, specifically when it comes to delivering content in and out of the region. Du revealed it had launched a new initiative, titled Datamena that greatly reduces the cost of delivering content-based services within the region by providing a centralised peering point between operators. The understanding was that if an entity hosted their services within Datamena, they would benefit from greatly reduced connectivity prices and the direct links to operators serving customers in the region. This approach would also enable non-regional content providers to do the same, thereby increasing competition within the region. The broadcasters on the panel conceded that this was a welcome shift in the right direction, whilst previously they viewed the operator as an obstacle in their path to a sustainable multi-screen business model.
OSN was then asked to describe its ability to harmonise the user experience between the subscribers on its satellite-hybrid service and the subscribers on the various operator platforms. OSN admitted to a difference in user experience across platforms but said it was working with its operator partners in the region to share subscriber information so end users could benefit from features not available on their operator-run pay TV platforms. This is easier said than done, as operators are not used to sharing information with potential competitors.
This behaviour as Robin Gould of Harris pointed out presents the advancement of advertising revenue, and consequently, the improvement of the business case for many of the regional players.
Ali Ajouz from SAWA Media added that as operators own the customer relationship, they have access to information crucial to online advertising in the region taking off. This information subsequently needs to be verified and published, typically by a research company, as is the case in other markets.
At that point, the discussion grew more heated as fingers were pointed at the operator, viewed as blocking the success of broadcasters deploying profitable multi-screen services in the region.
The overwhelming response when it came to costs in their business case was connectivity or delivery charges, second only to content costs.
While this was not a major concern in the case of the public broadcaster, the private entities were clearly unhappy as MBC quoted connectivity prices from regional operators to be several magnitudes higher than global pricing.
The feedback was broadcasters in the region were being held hostage and taken advantage of by the operators for several years.
Just as emotions flared up, it was time to wrap up. Despite not having covered all of the parts of the multi-screen business case, we were left with a few key takeaways: The multi-screen services space is riddled with broadcasters and operators with clear examples of competition and in other cases, co-operation. The challenge for operators will be to align internally on how they manage the divisions that are enabling broadcasters to improve their services while not cannibalising their own pay TV offerings.
Broadcasters will continue to seek ways to ensure their users have a consistent experience with their brand offering no matter who the network or service provider is.
However, given the pace of advancement in service offerings by broadcasters, this may lead to subscribers adopting direct offerings as opposed to the operator-driven pay TV services.
When it comes to online advertising revenue, all players, broadcasters or operators need to reach an agreement to share user information so they can all improve their advertising revenues and the overall business case.