The Pay-TV Innovation Forum is a global research programme for senior pay-TV and content executives, developed by NAGRA and MTM, and designed to catalyse growth and innovation across the global TV industry, at a time of tremendous change and disruption.
As part of the programme, we are publishing a series of interviews with leading TV industry executives from around the world to explore their views, perspectives and experiences of innovation. In this interview, Alptug Copuroglu, Managing Director of BluTV International & Global Partnerships at BluTV shares his views on how to scale OTT services for a global market.
What role has over-the-top (OTT) distribution technology played in your international expansion?
Turkish content, which is core to BluTV, was probably made popular in the Middle East, North Africa and America by pay-TV and free-to-air TV providers, but OTT delivery has significantly extended its reach. Linear broadcast services are restricted by the number of hours available in the schedule. For example, they tend to include some Hollywood series and news content which limits the amount of Turkish series they can air. A video on demand service delivered over-the-top, however, doesn’t have these restrictions: we have developed the largest catalogue of Turkish series, and are making it available in these regions, with dubbing in the local language.
With digital giants like Netflix and Amazon growing their investment in content every year, what is their approach to local or locally appealing content?
Netflix have disrupted the way we find content: consumers have started watching content from countries they would never have considered, let alone had access to before. Viewers have access to much higher quality TV and film today – even in countries which are not traditionally strong producers of content. However, Netflix usually only shows mainstream content. The Turkish content Netflix airs is not niche content - they're airing it because it is mainstream content in the Middle East or Latin America.
Amazon have started realising how important local content is – their marketplace strategy is significantly different to Netflix’s. To leverage their reach, we have launched BluTV on Amazon Channels in Germany to make our content accessible to the 4 million Turkish speaking people living in Germany. However, in building a relationship with Amazon, we need to distinguish between different markets and not approach the go-to-market strategy in a dogmatic way, but rather be pragmatic and consider what the position of Amazon is in that country – whether they should be our partners, or our competitors. We have decided to license our content to Netflix in some markets where we know they can monetize it much better than we can.
Are you seeing pay-TV operators offering OTT services as part of their bundles across the markets you operate in?
Yes, we are in discussions to integrate our services into a number of pay-TV bundles across the Middle East region. These types of partnerships are particularly attractive to telcos and pay-TV operators, as content is expensive for them to develop themselves. They have realised that whenever they try to commission their own content, it somehow fails. The content business is very different to the telco business, so instead of trying to develop content themselves, telcos are now increasingly partnering with content providers. We provide the content, and they provide the infrastructure, the set-top box and support with payment and user acquisition.
How significant a challenge is content piracy and illegal streaming?
We are operating in regions where the piracy rate is very high: video viewing in Turkey was dominated by pirated services. Pirated content is not bad quality but when we started launching our own original series, we found that customers who want to watch good content are willing to pay for it. In fact, large groups of customers started helping us to fight piracy, alerting us about websites illegally airing our content. They like that we are doing something different and are being disruptive.
Another key to fighting piracy is ensuring that our content is available on platforms which are easily accessible. One of the key lessons from the last season of Game of Thrones is that barriers to pay-TV like high monthly subscription fees push people towards pirated services. However, if you put content on OTT platforms that are easy to subscribe to, and cancel your subscriptions, it makes content much more accessible legally, and helps fight piracy.
Looking ahead, what do you see as the big challenges and opportunities in the TV industry over the next five years?
I believe there is an opportunity to better leverage data to improve business outcomes. Rather than just having data analytics for the sake of having data analytics, our focus is on working out the business impact that analytics can deliver, whether that be helping to reduce churn – by highlighting when we should be approaching a customer with a new offer – or personalising the content offering.
Secondly, I predict that more pay-TV and telco operators will add OTT services to their bundles over the next five years. As no content platform can have all content of the world, collaboration between platforms will be more important in the future.