BUDAPEST -- Digital TV Central & Eastern Europe -- OTT poses the same threat for commercial broadcasters across Europe, according to Christian Anting, founder and co-chairman of the European Media Alliance (EMA) and senior executive at Scripps-owned Polish broadcaster TVN S.A. .
In his role at the head of EMA, Anting is tasked with identifying challenges posed by OTT, finding solutions that work for members and building scale for new EMA initiatives. Speaking at the Digital TV Central & Eastern Europe event, Anting introduced EMA, its key objectives and outlined the major initiatives the organization was currently spearheading.
Established in 2014, EMA is a group of commercial broadcasters across Europe that have come together to collaboratively address challenges brought about by OTT and the emergence of new technologies. It was initiated by the German ProSieben Group and the Scandinavian Modern Times Group, and others including TVN have come on board subsequently.
"It's a C-level network," notes Anting, "not an industry association as such." The goal is simply to pull together a group of like-minded people facing similar challenges, and share solutions and initiatives. Where it makes sense, members collaborate and everyone can decide when to join in or not, based on where they are in terms of their digital evolution.
This works better than traditional industry associations with regulations and rigid structures, according to Anting. "Not everything works for everyone," he said. "Speed is the most important element in some cases, and if you don't have consensus…!"
With EMA, every member can decide if they want to be a part of every initiative. They don't have to join any effort they are not ready for or don't see as useful. Others can join, and they can join later, when their technology, organization structure, economics, etc. are ready.
"It's a more pragmatic approach," according to Anting. "We can move faster -- maybe not as fast as an Internet company, but much faster than [traditionally structured industry associations.] Over-formalization of these associations leads to failure."
Anting listed four main areas targeted by EMA:
Content production and licensing: All broadcasters face the threat of OTT cannibalizing their business. Working together could help create co-productions, contain costs and provide high-quality content for local distribution.
Online advertising and digital ad sales: Anting said that Google and Facebook get almost 90% of digital advertising revenue in Europe. It is important that broadcasters "do something about that."
Competition for eyeballs from OTT providers: This is causing disruption, affecting pricing and having an impact across markets. Broadcasters need to develop a solution at a pan-European level.
New ventures: Broadcasters also have an opportunity to use their advertising revenue and reach to develop new businesses and target new areas.
EMA has already rolled out some new initiatives and Anting took us through some of them.
Monetizing Scripps lifestyle content by extending it into digital channels: TVN and ProSieben are using content from TVN parent Scripps to distribute and monetize across ProSieben platforms. As part of this initiative, some ProSieben ventures will be brought into Poland, and TVN will use Poland as a hub to produce both long- and short-form content for ProSieben.
Studio 71: ProSieben is the majority owner in this "multi-channel network" or MCN, which consolidates multiscreen initiatives from several European members, including fellow owners
Mediaset S.p.A. from Italy and TF1 from France.
The European Broadcaster Exchange: The EMA has set up a pan-European ad exchange for trading premium inventory across members. It's a new monetization initiative for ad sales sold centrally and programmatically, allowing advertisers to buy "brand-safe" inventory on leading broadcaster properties across Europe in one, centralized location.
Co-production of Capetown: TVN has co-produced a premium six-episode drama titled Capetown with "international production values" for exclusive distribution in Poland. Local content is very important in eastern Europe, but so is high-quality production, which can be expensive. This co-production delivers both, but by sharing cost of production across several members, who can then "localize" (add subtitles or dubbing) it and use it in their markets.
Development of an OTT Platform: While others, such as Vivendi have spoken of a European Netflix, EMA is in the process of developing one. The first step is to expand catch-up services in Germany, and add more content beyond catch-up. Discovery has come aboard as a partner for this service, with the goal of creating a new multiscreen platform for national and international streaming services. The idea is to keep adding EMA members as they are ready, and expand the library with their content and their reach, under their brand in their local market. (See Vivendi to Merge Struggling Dailymotion With Besieged Watchever.)
New ventures: The EMA is also working on developing a new solution for unsold inventory. It is looking at ways to finance and cooperate with startups in the digital and e-commerce sector to enable this. EMA members are scouting deals together currently, to develop a common European platform and resources and create international scale quickly.
Anting's vision is interesting, and by creating a common pool of European broadcasters to share resources, but leaving it up to them to join each individual initiative, EMA is approaching this in a more pragmatic way. International co-productions have long been an effective production approach for cash-strapped public broadcasters; it's ironic that it's now commercial broadcasters that are turning to it. But it does make sense bringing resources together to target a common threat.
But as Anting said, speed is the most important element in many cases, and most members will not move at the pace of ProSieben, MTG, Mediaset and TF1. The smaller, eastern European broadcasters do not have the resources for most major initiatives. This could end up being entirely driven and managed by a handful of larger players who might tire of "carrying" the little guys in time.
Meanwhile Netflix is spending $6 billion in original production this year, and has $7 billion planned for 2018.
— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation