International Newswire: OTT Gains Ground on Traditional Pay-TV in Western Europe, Study Says

David Harbour Stranger Things Season 2
Courtesy of Netflix

In today’s International Newswire, OTT providers gain ground on traditional pay-TV operators in Western Europe; Bavaria’s feature film arm hires a new boss; ‘Kon-Tiki’ director helms biopic about Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen; and Spanish broadcasters team on a new digital content platform.

The writing is on the wall. In 2017, in Western Europe, there were eight new subscriptions to Netflix and other over-the-top streaming services for every new traditional pay-TV subscription, a study by IHS Markit finds.

If you can’t beat them, join them. Sky announced March 1 that it would integrate Netflix into a new Sky Q app showcasing big draw hits series like “Stranger Things” and “The Crown” next to Sky’s key attractions like “Game of Thrones” and “Big Little Lies.”

In Spain, where market regulator CNMC estimates Netflix had 1.1 million subscribers by June 30, press reports suggest Telefonica’s near three-year-old pay-TV unit Movistar +, though with far more clients than Netflix and already ramping up subscribers, is near to following suit.

All of which doesn’t mean that traditional pay-TV is a write-off. Global digital pay-TV subs around the world, including cable, satellite and IPTV, exceeded one billion for the first time in 2017, driven by the Asia-Pacific region, which accounted for 83% of net additions, mostly from IPTV growth in China.

But the onus is on traditional pay-TV to suggest to investors where future growth could come from. One driver is investment in original content – which gives an extra edge to early April’s MipTV/Canneseries festival-market, where many of Europe’s biggest pay-TV operators will have new shows or new seasons, such as Canal Plus original “Versailles” Season 3, which kicks off the event on April 4.

Markus Zimmer, the former head of German movie distributor Concorde Filmverleih, is to become CEO of Bavaria Filmproduktion, Bavaria Film Group’s film production and acquisition arm. He will serve as executive producer for all the company’s theatrical movies and other high-end productions.

In 1996, Zimmer joined German major Tele München Group, where he headed national and international feature film acquisition until the end of 2016. In 1999, he became CEO of TMG subsidiary, Concorde. From 2001, he served as a producer for TMG, turning out feature films directed by A-listers like Margarethe von Trotta, Joseph Vilsmaier and Oskar Roehler.

His production output included local hits like “Emerald Green” (2016), “Gaming Instinct” (2013) and “The Story of Brandner Kaspar” (2008). Teen dystopia “The Cloud” was nominated for the German Film Award 2007.

Espen Sandberg, director of 2012’s Oscar nominated “Kon-Tiki,” is in Iceland filming a biopic based on the life of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. The film is co-produced by Motion Blur and SF Studios with financial support from the Norwegian Film Institute and Nordisk Film & TV Fond. SF will handle Scandinavian distribution and international sales. The explorer was the first to reach the South Pole, and the first to lead a ship through the Northwest Passage, although the film will focus primarily on lesser-known aspects of his life. Pål Sverre Hagen, star of “Valkyrien,” will play Amundsen.

Spanish broadcasters Atresmedia, Mediaset España and RTVE have teamed on a new digital content platform set to use HbbTV technology. The platform will launch as a means to improve the range and quality of content now offered on free-TV, as well as enhance the end-user experience. In a future phase of the program, the group plans to offer additional OTT services for content distribution, and will have its own unique functions and features. As free-to-air continues to lose ground to high-end programming found on pay-TV, the broadcasters can now pool their resources and offer more competitive content that audiences expect.