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, Wim Ponnet, Chief Strategy and Commercial Officer at Endemol Shine Group, shares his views on the evolution of global content market, the role of new technologies like big data and AI in content production, and growth opportunities for content providers.
How are the changes in the global pay-TV market impacting content creators?
We look at this very positively, with more pipes to fill with great content. Ultimately, great content is going to be the differentiator. Technology-wise, the barriers to entry are definitely decreasing – it is fairly easy to launch an OTT platform and reach a lot of users. To do it at scale and successfully is by no means simple, but ultimately, the content and access are going to make the difference here. There's never been a better time to be an intellectual property owner or a creative engine than now.
Is the TV content market becoming more global in terms of what people are watching?
In the English-speaking world, people were traditionally more averse to watching things with subtitles, but the younger generation is very comfortable with watching foreign language content – think of Narcos, or Dark, the first German series commissioned by Netflix, which we produced . 90% of that content consumption was outside of its home market and it got huge viewership in the US and Brazil. But while content is increasingly becoming global, local content is still incredibly important as a differentiator for both pay-TV and OTT providers. So we are seeing strong offerings in both of these areas.
How can new technologies like big data and artificial intelligence improve the creative process of making content?
We use our engagement dashboard to analyse which clips work better or have a more positive consumer sentiment attached to them. It is all helpful feedback but content production is still a highly creative process that can’t be entirely automated or engineered, and, in my view, it will never be. Technology will help us in developing story lines and will open new ways of story-telling. But I definitely don't see the age yet where the computer is going to take over and do the whole creative process for us.
Where do you see opportunities for growth for content providers?
One of the things you will see a lot more from both OTT streamers and traditional pay-TV providers is the rise of non-scripted content. It is still at the beginning of its journey but we will see a lot of interesting non-scripted formats working well for challenger platforms. It cannot be that Grand Tour, for example, is the only big non-scripted format on streaming services. There is going to be a lot of consumer demand in this space and we see, on a fairly regular basis, the re-imagining of some of our existing formats working well on streaming platforms.
How are traditional pay-TV platforms responding to competition from new players?
Players such as Google are potentially a bigger threat to traditional players in the US than they are in Europe. In Europe, we are seeing more collaboration between traditional players and some of the streaming services. For example, Sky Atlantic and Amazon already have co-production deals on some of our shows, such as Tin Star where Sky Atlantic gets rights in one of their markets and Amazon gets rights in all the other markets outside of Sky’s footprint. Given how well European content is doing and travelling, we expect to see more of these types of deal, but the industry still needs to find a model for collaboration in that space.
How are pay-TV and streaming markets likely to evolve over the next few years?
Given the challenges that the traditional US players face, I think international expansion is a must-do for them because of the domestic challenges, while there is still a lot of room for international growth. There is no international streamer for sports, games, or non-scripted content, so I think we are going to see some very interesting moves in the coming months and years.