Canal Plus Spain has thrown away the playbook for its new channel, Canal Plus Dos.
Since its 1990 launch, Spain’s only premium paybox has followed its French namesake and co-founder, offering firstrun movies and soccer in a single channel.
Last week it announced it would revise that 20-year business model for a less-expensive new channel, which bows Aug. 23.
Canal Plus Dos will carry firstrun films such as “Avatar,” “Agora” and local hit “Cell 211,” plus U.S. skeins including “Damages,” “Mad Men” and “The Tudors.” (If you want soccer, you can still turn to the original Canal Plus Spain.)
That’s not the only change for the feevee, the major subscription driver for Prisa-controlled satcaster platform Digital Plus.
The paybox has traditionally aired only on satellite. Canal Plus Dos will go out on digital terrestrial TV and offer its content a few days after it appears on the main Canal Plus channel.
In June, Prisa sold carriage of Canal Plus Spain to regional Spanish cabler Telecable and Orange’s IPTV service.
To access Canal Plus Dos, clients don’t have to subscribe to any platform at all. And it costs €15 ($19) a month, compared with $71 for a full Canal Plus offering of soccer and movies.
“Given its know-how, Canal Plus is perhaps the best-positioned TV operator to launch a pay DTT offer,” says Banco Sabadell financial analyst Leon Izuzquiza.
Digital terrestrial TV has been an unexpected success in Spain, and there’s no other DTT channel offering U.S. TV series, so Canal Plus Dos is targeting a potential new audience.
But Izuzquiza warns of the possiblity of collateral damage.
“Though not including soccer may help stop customers from leaving Canal Plus, there’s a risk of Canal Plus Dos cannibalizing Canal Plus,” the analyst says.
Whether the new DTT feed will do much to right Canal Plus Spain’s fortunes is another matter.
Though Digital Plus is the country’s dominant satcaster, its 1.8 million subscriber base pales before numbers for Canal Plus France’s satcaster CanalSat (4.8 million) and Sky Italia (4.7 million), according to Screen Digest figures. Among satellite subscription services, only Sky Deutschland (1.2 million), operating in TV channel-sated Germany, has few subscribers than Digital Plus.
Digital Plus clients have slumped over the last two years from a peak of 2.08 million in the first quarter of 2008. And Digital Plus is the only pay TV operator in Europe’s Big Five countries for which Screen Digest predicts further decline this year.
Historically, pay TV has never been very successful in Spain, points out Maria Aguete, at Screen Digest.
Unlike France, there isn’t a large enough middle class that can afford pay TV, and Digital Plus faces added competition from rampant piracy, which undercuts its movie offerings. According to IDC Research Iberia, income lost from pirated movies in Spain hit $3.1 billion in the second half of 2009.
New anti-piracy regulations up for parliamentary approval this fall would effectively decriminalize (ostensibly for private viewing only) unauthorized downloading of Hollywood movies and series — undercutting one of Digital Plus’ main lures.
Free DTT, popularized by Spain’s April analog switchoff, is savaging Digital Plus more than the economic crisis, Aguete says. For instance, although it has only about 200,000 subscribers, Mediapro’s pay DTT soccer channel Gol TV has increased Digital Plus’ churn.
“Digital Plus faces significant challenges,” Aguete concludes.