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Interviews with Industry Leaders: Amir Peled, Swisscom
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Amir Peled, Head of OTT Services for Swisscom, shares his views on the key trends in the OTT market and the role of telcos in next generation OTT aggregation.

The Pay-TV Innovation Forum is a global research programme for senior pay-TV and content executives, developed by NAGRA and MTM, 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, Amir Peled, Head of OTT Services for Swisscom, shares his views on the key trends in the OTT market and the role of telcos in next generation OTT aggregation.

What are the key trends shaping the OTT video market today?

Firstly, the fragmentation of content is a major trend, with major players like Disney moving off Netflix to develop their own OTT offerings. As services proliferate, consumers are finding the service landscape increasingly confusing and many are paying too much for too many subscriptions. As a result, the value chain is eroding – but telcos can help by becoming the ‘super aggregators’ that bring all the content back together.

Secondly, we’re seeing that some of the big OTT players are slowly but surely moving off Apple and Google app stores, because they’re dissatisfied with the significant commissions taken by these providers. OTT services are starting to look for direct integration with TV service providers and distribution platforms instead. Even though telcos like Swisscom may charge substantial fees for some of our payment services compared to traditional payment methods like credit cards, we’re still significantly cheaper than the major app stores.

Finally, OTT services are starting to recognise that they can strategically leverage telcos’ core assets, including customers, billing relationships and networks, and benefit in terms of customer acquisition, monetisation, and network optimisation.

How can content aggregation add value to telcos?

Bundling allows telcos to offer consumers different kinds of content, all as part of a single monthly bill. I can foresee a world where the more subscription services consumers take, the bigger discount they will get. It would be a no-brainer for consumers to buy OTT services via telcos, because taking each service directly could be 10-15% more expensive. Telcos like Swisscom could leverage their various retail channels, such as shops, newsletters and customer outreach programmes, to push these new OTT service bundles any time they touch a residential customer.

However, it will be a significant challenge to persuade OTT service providers to offer their video content on an individual basis. For example, a consumer might only want one or two series from Amazon Prime out of the whole catalogue, and I believe it will be important to have the flexibility to give consumers the content they want. Maybe in a few years’ time a Swisscom customer will be able to buy one TV series from Amazon, one show from Netflix and a sports package from ESPN. Historically it has been very difficult to convince major OTT players to make their content available in this way, but telcos are becoming increasingly aligned and collaborative when it comes to OTT services. Once we have an agreement with OTT service providers, any technical challenges can be overcome.

What are the technical priorities for OTT offerings today to improve service quality?  

OTT service providers need to understand that integrating with pay-TV operators’ networks is very important, to ensure high-quality service and to incentivise pay-TV providers to promote the OTT services that they carry. OTT services typically use a wide range of content delivery networks and caches, but we don’t like putting our brand behind services, for which we do not control the network and cannot guarantee the best possible quality that our customers demand. For example, Netflix are deeply integrated with us, allowing them to offer video quality that is superior even to linear TV. Meanwhile, some content providers (like Sky and DAZN for example) are only now beginning their technical and network integrations with us, which will improve the quality of service we can jointly offer our consumers. We encourage all major OTT services to work together with their service provider partners and to not forget the network, as it is a key factor for success. A sub-optimal streaming experience is in no one's interest. However, network access, to provide best-in-class customer experience, costs money. OTT services need to, and are starting to, understand this. In our experience, this is money well spent and keeps customers happy, preventing churn. These integrations are important for developing win-win partnerships between OTT services and service providers.

What are the major challenges facing the industry and how are you addressing them?

One of the big challenges in our industry is fraud – ranging from ‘friendly fraud’, such as sharing Netflix login details with your family, to organised professional fraud, such as content piracy. In addition to various security features on our platforms like PIN codes on mobiles and set-top boxes, we can help OTT service providers tackle this challenge because we have the capability to do things like match IP addresses to mobiles.

What would you say are going to be the most important trends shaping the pay-TV industry over the next five years? 

Gaming and sports will be the major growth stories over the next five years. We envisage a world where you could blend someone’s Instagram story from a football stadium with a live stream in a way that combines the professional match footage with specific points of view from the live audience. Taking the in-stadium experience to the viewer at home – that's where we see the future of sports.