Clara Mai Kunstmann's responsibilities encompass an exhausting swathe of topics, including digital strategy, trendspotting, technology development/selection, and user interface/experience design, among others. She is the senior director and head of OTT & VoD Solutions at TDC Group , responsible for developing OTT and IPTV products for all platforms (mobile, web, connected TV, STB, gaming consoles etc.)
Kunstmann took over the department in 2014, and has grown her team from 15 people to more than 60 in just two and a half years. She has been responsible for some of the largest OTT launches in Denmark, such as YouSee Play (an in-house service) and Blockbuster, TDC's movie VoD service, after acquiring the Danish rights to the name. She also ranks highly among the 50 Top VoD Professionals in the Nordic region.
The Nordics are a particularly interesting market for video innovation, because consumers are very quick to adopt OTT services. In fact, four out of the top five OTT spending countries (by average household spend) are in the Nordic region. The US, at second, is the only non-Nordic country to make the top five. (See Norwegians Are Biggest OTT Spenders: NRK's Distribution Chief.)
Keeping up with that kind of demand would keep most people busy, but Kunstmann is keen to push the boundaries of innovation still further. Telco Transformation caught up with her recently, to discuss the main areas of focus for her team currently.
Telco Transformation: What are you most focused on right now?
Clara Mai Kunstmann: Right now there are two main video services we are focused on. One year ago we launched Blockbuster, and we also have a streaming app -- YouSee. That was launched six years ago, but two and a half years ago, we launched a new app and website. And we have also launched a new set-top box recently. This is mostly because we are transforming our middleware, so we can scale capacity on the fly. Our traffic is up 700%, we really need to be able to handle traffic.
We are also onboarding customers at a high rate -- 40% of our customers are now on our OTT services. So at the moment we are looking at infrastructure solutions to secure the customer experience.
We are also looking at taking on an aggregator role, rather than just offering our own services. We have brought in Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), and are bringing in HBO Nordics as well, into our service.
TT: Can you talk about the OTT two services you offer?
CMK: Blockbuster is very straightforward: Basically it's just for renting and buying TV series and movies. We are now building a new platform to roll out in Nordic countries and plan to launch before the summer. It's been in Denmark for one and a half years and picked up a lot of users, it's doing really well. Now, we'd like to extend it to the Nordic countries.
It's very simple, and easy to use -- that's the differentiator compared to iTunes and others. You don't need a specific platform, you can download the app and use it on the PlayStation or smart TV -- it's an easy user experience, not platform dependent.
The YouSee app -- that's our investment in the OTT area. We have basically three platforms [for it]: the set-top box, mobile and website. The new set-top box was launched about a year ago, and now we are also adding other connected devices, such as the Apple TV, Android TV etc. But we are still deciding if those should have the full feature set. For us, the set-top box will be the primary device.
Our new box has been very well received. Frankly, we were a little surprised because rather than go for a TiVo or other well-known platform, we picked middleware and hardware from Humax, and did the user-interface and app development in-house. We were able to launch it in nine months -- very fast. I've never before seen such a fast launch.
The box has a really unique user experience. We have been able to get people using the archive VoD section without really promoting it. Usually, one of the big challenges is to get people to use the VoD service when it's rolled out.
In fact, we had a new director join us from another operator, and he said there the goal was to get 50% [of their base] using it in three years when they launched VoD. We had 50% using it last year, and already we have grown to more than 80% today. He couldn't believe we were already over 80% -- his first reaction was, "Your numbers must be wrong!"
One and a half years ago we could see that 85% of our viewers were watching live TV. Occasionally, if everyone was watching the football game, maybe someone would take the tablet and watch something else instead. But mostly, people watched live TV. Now we see that its 60% watching live, and 40% watching on-demand. It's not because they are watching more content, it's just that they are watching on-demand.
TT: Do these numbers include DVR viewing as well?
CMK:No, this is not the DVR function. We don't include what they are watching on the DVR because we use an external hard drive. This is VoD -- all forms of VoD including TV series, movies, TV archive, catch-up -- but not including DVR.
We are launching a network DVR this year, though. I'm really looking forward to that because it's great for people to be able access shows they might have missed, and they will be able to use it on all our platforms.
TT: Do you think this shift from live to VoD will continue, or will it at some point flatten out?
CMK: I think it will continue for sure, but not entirely replace live. There are still live events -- people want to see live. Football, sports -- you don't want to see these afterwards. There are also family-driven events, like X Factor-type shows, which people still watch as a family. So there will remain a lot of live, but if people don't see it, maybe they will use catch-up to view it later.
TT: You mentioned you were taking on a third-party aggregator role. How have third-party OTT providers Netflix and HBO Nordics been integrated into your package?
CMK: Our box has Netflix implementation, but there is no point adding it to mobile or our website -- users can just go straight to the Netflix site, or app. But HBO Nordic will be integrated into the YouSee app -- it will be like a front door into the HBO service from the YouSee app. It's easier for the user, rather than having so many apps.
We had 100,000 users for Netflix in the first weekend we added it to the YouSee STB and a third of our users had used it in a month. That is also why I feel the aggregator strategy is the right one. People are spending more time on our platform. On our mobile app, users have doubled over the past year, and they are also spending more time within the app. People are getting used to entering their services wherever they are.
Watch out for Part II of this interview, where Kunstmann will address emerging technologies and new packaging trends.
— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation