Telefonica adds to Movistar content

FICOD reflects fast-moving new media scene

MADRID — Spanish telco Telefonica will launch the contents of Internet TV operator Imagenio, one of the most successful IPTV operators in Europe, on its market-leading mobile phone service Movistar.

Imagenio has gathered more than 500,000 subscribers from a 2005 soft launch, thanks to its inclusion in Telefonica’s Trio triple-play offer and a cut-price offer of Euro 11 ($16) for the basic package.

Launch will take place in 2008.

“Telefonica will merge its IPTV and cell-phone content,” Luis Velo, Telefonica Espana multimedia projects director, announced at Spain’s first FICOD International Forum of Digital Content.

Backed by Red.es, a state-backed R&D company driving new tech growth, FICOD was low on international attendance, being put together helter-skelter over the summer and fall. But it attracted many key Spanish digital TV honchos, and was strong on pronouncements and news.

Also, it afforded a snapshot of Spain’s mixed progress toward analog switch-off and digital TV growth.

“FICOD saw a strong turnout in high-level digital content execs and creators, and allowed participant networking in a still fragmented market. The next step is to have an around-the-year presence, and become an international reference,” said Red.es general manager Sebastian Muriel.

News-wise, broadcaster Antena 3 TV emerged as one of Spain’s most energetic DTT contents creators. Antena Neox, the net’s youth-skewed DTT feed, will double its straight-to-DTT programming to 22 slots in 2008, said A3TV general manager Mikel Lejarza.

Pere Villa, TVC technology director, commented that the Catalan pubcaster has morphed its pioneering pay-based Internet VOD provision of programming into a free-to-download, ad-supported system.

Talking about VOD in general, “The ad-driven free-to-consumer model has consolidated” as a first market option, said Rosalia Lloret, RTVE interactive director.

Murcia, a region in the Southeast of Spain, will set up an ambitious animation and multi-platform content production center, to be known as Ciudad de los Contenidos Digitales. The Ciudad, budgeted at $759.2 million, will be fully-operational in 2012, said Jose Maria Salinas, Murcia audiovisual secretary. Projects will be able to tap subsidy coin, he added.

Soccer was also a hot topic at the confab. Jaume Ferrus, business development and new projects chief at Mediapro, said the bustling conglom, which has acquired rights to most Spanish clubs from 2009, is totally serious about developing an Italian-style subscription/PPV soccer offer on its DTT service.

With Siemens, Sidsa and Techfoundries, Mediapro has tested card-capacity set-boxes in a Spanish town, Alcazar de San Juan. DTT pay TV soccer faces multiple challenges.

As with BSkyB’s Picnic mini pay-bouquet in the U.K., pay DTT needs a governmental thumbs-up. Only 5% of Spanish set-top boxes has a free-to-view, PPV capacity.

But, said Ferrus, upgrading decoders would cost just $21.6-$28.8 per box.

Mediapro co-owns broadcaster La Sexta. As in Italy, however, a Spanish-league soccer rights split would probably go beyond La Sexta and DTT to include traditional pay TV services. The rub is how this rights split could play out economically.

“DTT soccer would hit established pay TV operators’ subscription bases,” said Velo. But DTT could be the kicker that take-up needs. Digital TV systems shows some, though not spectacular, success in Spain.

According to Jacques Roldan, head of the new media content unit at pay TV operator Sogecable, the company’s cell-phone offer on Vodafone handsets, Digital Plus Movil, now boasts 75,000 clients, paying $9 a month. Disney kid channel Jetix is the most-watched feed.

Three years off a skedded 2010 analog shut-down, Spain boasts a relatively high DTT penetration.

“A little more than half of households can now technically access DTT,” said Andres Armas, secretary general of Impulsa TDT, a DTT operators lobby.

But take-up this year is being driven by Spaniards buying DTT-integrated flat-screen TV sets, not an interest in DTT itself. Soccer could change that.

FICOD ran Nov. 6-8. Event’s sponsors included Variety.

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