BUDAPEST -- Digital TV Central & Eastern Europe -- We are looking at a changed content acquisition landscape today, resulting in considerable confusion from new terms and their implications in parts of the video value-chain upstream of the pay-TV operator, according to Katalin Radóczy, chief programming officer for AMC Networks in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). (See We Must Support Both Existing & Emerging Subscriber Needs — Cyfrowy Polsat .)
Speaking at the Digital TV CEE event in Budapest yesterday, Radóczy said that in many cases operators were asking AMC Networks Inc. to negotiate movie rights that they didn't entirely understand. A whole new set of terms had emerged in recent years that cable channels and movie studios have had to try and get their heads around: stacking, reverse EPGs, holdbacks, day and date parity, catch-up, network PVR and others.
Not only has it been necessary for her team to understand the terms and the implications on their own business, but as an aggregator of filmed entertainment, they are also required to explain it to the studios and to help them navigate the impact these new services are having on decades old revenue models based on release windows. As such, they are caught between the pay-TV providers, keen to launch new services; and Hollywood studios, wary of any new approaches damaging their revenue.
As the provider of huge global hits such as Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Night Manager and The Walking Dead, AMC needs to understand the implications on its own original programming as well.
But this is happening, Radóczy said, pointing out that there were 500 OTT video streaming services live today worldwide.
"Viewers are also moving from passive to active," she said, describing how search, navigation and social interaction was different among younger viewers, forcing changes in services and how the industry approached them.
According to her, each segment of the value-chain was changing its business approach in some way. The pay-TV providers were adding VoD services and delivering video to multiple screens, while the cable and broadcast channels were supporting catch-up services, creating boxsets and developing their own branded apps and multiscreen services where possible. OTT providers, meanwhile, were trying to compete by developing their own original content.
Radóczy also listed some new initiatives AMC was taking in the CEE region. Firstly, the operator is offering day and date release parity for new episodes (with the US). This is partly because of the resulting perceived value for local viewers, but also because piracy is a major issue in Hungary and other CEE countries.
"If we offer a show in the morning, by 6 p.m. that day it will show up on torrent sites," she said. "We need to do more to reduce piracy."
AMC also "localizes" content across its regional footprint, which in Hungary and some other countries means dubbing shows into local languages. This can be an expensive process, but Radóczy feels the investment in high-quality dubbed content is important to fully leverage the value of their original content. Even for children's shows where sometimes they have to dub songs with a range of different voices to match the characters in the video, they do so because they feel it makes a difference. In other countries subtitles are more acceptable to the audience, so they are able to get away with it.
AMC is also developing its own local content, studio shows, news and documentaries for local markets in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia.
AMC is supporting catch-up services with its pay-TV partners, and also offering stacking rights for shows, to support binge watching behaviors. This helps with pay-TV partner relationships and also allows AMC to reach viewers who may have missed the live broadcast, according to Radóczy.
The company is also developing its own subscription and transactional (pay-per-view) VoD services, including a new OTT horror service called "Shudder."
"There's a small base for this kind of horror content," said Radóczy, "but it's there, and we are offering it in the US and Canada today."
Based on the success of co-productions such as Top of the Lake, The Honourable Woman and The Night Manager, AMC has also invested $200 million in a $49.9% stake in BBC Americas, the US arm of the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) . AMC now manages the channel at an operational level.
Radóczy quoted a Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) study that developed five scenarios for TV's future, along a scale stretching from gentle evolution to disruptive "revolution." She didn't take a position on which scenario was most likely, but said that content was essential in all scenarios.
"Content is essential. Whoever controls the content will control and guide the direction of industry."
— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation