[Via Satellite 02-18-2015] Satellite service provider M7 Group has grown to become one of the top five pay-TV operators in Europe. Following Sky, the company is the second largest cross-regional operator on the continent. Last year the acquisition of Eutelsat’s KabelKiosk direct-to-cable pay-TV platform opened up the German market, and by launching the Hungarian Direct-to-Home and Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service (MMDS), M7 Group pushed further into Eastern Europe.
While seeing steady growth in its satellite services, M7 Group is adapting to new trends in the video industry. Bill Wijdeveld, VP of business development at M7 Group, told Via Satellite that customers are looking for more services such as Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) and Over-The-Top (OTT) broadcasts, and that M7 Group is reacting accordingly.
“During last years, we see — like in many other markets — a growing shift in the viewing behavior of our subscribers. They are more and more asking for additional services, ranging from [Video on Demand] VOD to second screen viewing solutions, both linear and time-shifted. In addition, consumers in our core markets increasingly prefer multi-play solutions: TV, broadband and telephony via the same provider. Being active in highly competitive markets like the Benelux, it is, for M7 Group, key to adapt our proposition accordingly,” said Wijdeveld.
In 2014 M7 Group started providing multi-play solutions such as IPTV, VOD and OTT to Dutch customers through the launch of Online.nl. Similarly in Germany the operator introduced the IPTV platform meinFernsehen. Wijdeveld said M7 Group plans to take a similar approach in other markets with established DTH subscribers. The company has more than 3 million subscribers to date, and sees availability through both satellite and IP-based infrastructure as vital to maintaining competitiveness.
M7 Group has worked with SES to reach the Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg (Benelux) region, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and Austrian markets, and began using capacity from Eutelsat for Germany and Hungary. The company covers the Benelux and CEE markets from SES’s Astra 19.2 and 23.5 degrees east orbital positions, and provides KabelKiosk and AustriaSat services through Eutelsat’s Eurobird 9 degrees east. Wijdeveld said M7 Group will soon introduce reception devices that support hybrid satellite and IP-based services. The company views IPTV as “fully complimentary” to its satellite broadcast services.
“Regionally, IPTV and OTT, along with associated ‘cord cutting’ behavior are growing fastest in the Americas and Europe,” Sima Fishman, analyst at Avascent, told Via Satellite. “However, variations exist more by country than by region. Factors driving development of the OTT/IPTV substitute to pay-TV include availability of broadband (via terrestrial fiber), availability of locally targeted, language appropriate OTT content, availability of adequate payment systems, and a hospitable regulatory framework.”
Avascent is seeing in a surge in new business models that allow for traditional infrastructure and content providers to interject themselves into the OTT value chain, according to Fishman. This includes both satellite and terrestrial providers vying to keep pace with the evolution of video.
“These lessons are being watched closely by the international pay-TV community as well, who are trying to stave off threats to their revenue stream by implementing innovative business models before IPTV/OTT can make significant inroads,” she added.
For M7 Group, a lot of this year’s focus will also be on growing subscriber revenues from recently acquired capacity on SES and Eutelsat satellites. HD channels are continuing to increase in number in the Czech and Slovak markets, where the company hosts the DTH platform Skylink. This includes optimizing the use of available capacity through the new business unit M7 Platform Services, which gives broadcasters a full-service solution including both DTH reach through the company’s satellite TV platforms and the possibility of using the same signal as contribution feed for third party operators within its European footprint.
“The proposition also includes all necessary platform services such as encoding, uplinking and encryption, while for DTH reception we provide dedicated [Electronic Program Guide] EPG positions to prevent satellite channels from getting ‘lost in space’ among the wealth of available satellite channels,” said Wijdeveld. “This concept proved to meet market demand, as we signed up various international broadcasters over last year, including Scripps Interactive Networks, Penthouse Media and IMG while we have various strong leads in the pipeline.”
M7 Group is also watching developments with 4K. The operator is broadcasting satellite demo channels and keeping close tabs on trends. Wijdeveld said he is confident 4K will become a regular occurrence within the coming years, and that once M7 Group senses it will become a compelling value-add for subscribers, “will obviously consider enhancing our offering accordingly.”
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