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Spain Sees Rapid Growth in VOD as Audiences Tap Into Digital Streaming

While Spain’s economy and box office are still reeling, the country also is undergoing a revolution in the way consumers, particularly younger ones, watch TV, as new technology including smartphones and tablets drive up numbers in the exploding video-on-demand market.

Netflix and Amazon Prime have yet to bow such services in Spain, but the country’s audiences have access to several local and international VOD platforms such as Wuaki.tv, owned by Japan’s Rakuten Group; Apple TV; Cineclick; and Yomvi, the video on demand/Internet service of Canal Plus, Spain’s biggest pay TV operator.
None has seen more spectacular growth than Yomvi, which is accessible — as are many of the other services — on smart TVs, smartphones, iPads, iPhones and, in the case of Yomvi, on XBox 360s.

According to Rentrak, Yomvi users shot up 96% from July to November to 546,996. VOD views are growing at 9% per month on TVs and smart TVs, while views on connected devices such as smartphones and tablets are increasing 11% each month. That is outstanding growth, said Arturo Guillen, Rentrak VP of Europe, Middle East and Africa. On Dec. 30, Wuaki.tv announced 900,000 registered users, although its range of series and films is more limited than Yomvi’s.

Meanwhile, the percentage of Spanish households with three or more TV sets dipped from 42% to 40% between 2012 and 2013, according to market research film the Cocktail Analysis. But 85% of households now have a smartphone, up 23% from 2012; and 31% of households own a tablet, up 10% in that timeframe.

“Before, the proliferation of new free-to-air DTT channels encouraged consumers to buy new TV sets. This isn’t happening any more,” maintained Pablo Romero, Yomvi content director.

Guillen said tablets and smartphones generate almost 50% of VOD transactions on Yomvi. As elsewhere, monthly mobile rates from telcos — Spain’s Telefonica offers smartphone TV from a flat rate of €19.40 ($26.70) — and smartphone messaging services such as Wassap TV are driving TV viewing on mobile devices. A traditional Canal Plus subscription costs $21-$69 per month, but Spaniards can subscribe to a Yomvi movies and series package for as little as $14 a month.

Another factor driving VOD uptake is the popularity of imports and the binge viewing that comes with those imports. Spanish auds can’t get enough of “Breaking Bad,” “Sherlock,” “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Lies” — the latter two exclusive to Yomvi. According to Canal Plus, catch-up viewership rose from 2 million views to 3.8 million from July to November. As a comparison, linear TV viewership on devices — mainly of soccer matches and other live sports — shot up 178% to 9.4 million views over the same four months. Yomvi-connected devices also grew from 410,000 to 1.8 million from August to November.

Spanish VOD is also posting surprising results. “Homeland,” for example, has proved an even more popular VOD buy on streaming services than on cable, with more than 50% of VOD transactions coming from tablet viewers, Guillen said.

Meanwhile, the feeding frenzy for hot U.S. series is helping to change the Spanish TV business, too. Broadcasters, cablers and satcasters air series from Warner Bros. TV, Disney, Sony, Fox, TNT and NBCUniversal close to day-and-date with their Stateside showing, not only to capitalize on audience demand but also to combat piracy. Canal Plus launched a new channel, Canal Plus Series, on Dec. 4. Its biggest hits are “Orange Is the New Black, “House of Lies,” “Nashville” and “The Blacklist.”

According to the Cocktail Analysis, 87% of Spanish Internet users still share unauthorized content or download from illegal sites such as Mega and Rapidshare. But Yomvi and other legal VOD/Internet platforms — such as Wuaki, Apple TV, Cineclick and Filmin — are pushing back on piracy thanks to the day-date strategy, as well as easy portability and lower pricing.

Romero said the most pirated shows in Spain — “The Big Bang Theory,” “Game of Thrones” and “How I Met Your Mother” — are also Yomvi’s biggest hits. “Our focus groups confirm this: Clients declare no interest in piracy when we offer the product they want the way they want it — hot from the U.S. on their device, and they control access,” Romero added.

Guillen agreed: “Content needs to be available on legal platforms to fight piracy, and that is just what Yomvi is doing: Showing that viewers in Spain prefer to pay for a better service, rather than the ‘free’ one.”

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