In the current highly competitive and complex media landscape, media service providers can help broadcasters find their audience by providing them with technical, marketing and communication tools. Samir Zehani sheds light on the role of service providers
To say that we are working in a fractured marketplace has already become a cliché. But audiences continue to fragment across more platforms (pay-TV/ VOD /OTT/IPTV, etc) and ever more devices. This change is of course happening at markedly different speeds around the world, but it is happening. The bottom line is that it means more complexity for broadcasters and content owners.
The market is also fractured, thanks to the movement of people around the world and growing diasporas in different countries. These diasporas, while creating a new social mix, also want the familiarities of home, and nowhere is that more apparent than in their desire for the type of content that resonates with their own cultural tastes. People want news of where they come from, programmes they know, a shared experience. And they are willing to pay for it.
What does this mean for broadcasters and content owners? First of all, it presents a real challenge, but on the opposing side of this coin is a real opportunity. The challenge is to find those audiences, wherever they may be and via whatever mechanism they choose to watch their content, then of course to monetise that opportunity. This is both a technical and marketing challenge.
In the past, a broadcaster could deliver a few linear feeds and reach a country, or even continent, and be happy. But in the current highly competitive media landscape, you have to question whether that’s effective for channels that need to find their audience to maximise ROI. No, is the short answer. So what’s the role of a media service provider in helping broadcasters reach their audiences?
While the new world of content consumption is exciting – more of which shortly – and garners headlines, it’s far too easy to dismiss the huge linear television marketplace. But as mentioned, there are both technical and marketing challenges. In some ways those challenges are the same, whichever way you distribute.
It may surprise some that linear channel distribution and the packaging of those channels to reach diasporas spread across distant continents is a huge part of a media service provider’s business and one that’s grown in recent years. Nowhere is this more the case than for Middle Eastern and North African channels wanting to reach Arabic-speaking audiences overseas.
This trend emerged as far back as 2008. There was an increasing number of requests from broadcasters who wanted more than distribution, particularly for their news channels. They didn’t just want capacity, they wanted new audiences and to monetise that reach. This was seen as a business opportunity, both for the channels as well as for service providers.
What we recognised was that bundling channels – mainly premium – into marketable packages for disparate audiences is a far more powerful proposition than presenting a single channel on its own. The subscription-based Bouquet Arabia is one such example of a bundled offering. Other examples include Muslim TV channels and a Bollywood package.
In general terms, there are three clear aspects to this. There’s identifying relevant channels – this is based on existing audience reach, content, marketing resources and the overall business aims – combined with data and market knowledge to see what the realistic distribution options are. Once identified, the channel can be added to the relevant bouquet. Following this, the service provider needs to develop a dedicated communication strategy for each channel or package to reach end users. Lastly, there’s the provision of end-to-end technical services.
Just getting a channel to audiences is not enough on its own. It’s crucial that any service provider combines technical and sales knowledge into a coherent approach. What must be kept in mind is that these are often quite small channel operations that don’t have the human resources or technical know-how to push them into new markets.
Let’s look in more detail at how bundled offerings or channel packages work. Bouquet Arabia is an eight-twelve-channel package. The bouquet is adapted to each country where the Arab diaspora may be different, such as more Egyptian channels than Emirati or fewer Algerian than Moroccan, so the total number of channels varies. In other words, the bouquet is tailored to the requirement of each country. The majority of popular channels, such as MBC or the North African channel Nessma TV, are included in all packages.
This bouquet is most popular in France, for obvious reasons. In France, pay-TV is dominated by IPTV services (Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom, Freebox and so on), which is not the European norm. But there’s no overall technical standard for these platforms. This is a common global theme: ensuring content is in the right format for its onward distribution. In terms of the Arabic and North African channels, these feeds are taken from different satellites. Services are downlinked and then sent via fibre to Paris, where there’s a global headend. Some IPTV platforms require the channels in MPEG-2, while others may call for MPEG-4. Precise HD requirements may vary too. Then there are the additional OTT delivery options with their varying format requirements and additional transcoding required.
Additionally, there are new services being launched all the time across Europe, with OTT growing rapidly. Mobile operators are also pushing into the video delivery space, resulting in more market fracturing.
This is what a modern media service provider should allow broadcasters and content owners to achieve: to reach audiences where that content can be monetised. Offering linear feeds is only one way that a service provider can work with a customer and its content; another might be VOD content prep and delivery via VOD logistics capabilities. We continue to move into a world where solutions are often a complex blend of many different factors with a variety of output required in order to reach across this fractured market. In the current environment, it’s much harder to predict demand and the longevity of opportunities and then scale technology and operational teams accordingly. Channels need partners that can work with them to create new opportunities while helping to minimise CAPEX.
Samir Zehani is Content Distribution Manager at Globecast.