How quickly is the VoD market developing across Europe – and how do services across the region compare? Screen correspondents report
Media laws have slowed the development of the French SVoD market
SVoD has been slow to take off in France due to strict media chronology laws that impose a 36-month delay between a film’s theatrical release and its availability on an SVoD service.
Skyfall, for example, will not hit French SVoD platforms before 2015. Not surprisingly, just 6% of the 13 million people who used VoD services in 2012 had an SVoD subscription, according to a report by media monitor Médiamétrie released in December. (VoD services are delayed four months from theatrical release.)
Nonetheless, there are three major SVoD platforms in France: CanalPlus’s CanalPlay Infinity; Videofutur, which also offers a VoD and DVD-by-post service, and the Wild Bunch-backed FilmoTV, which also offers films to rent on demand for between $2.57 (€1.99) to $6.44 (€4.99) per title.
TF1 chief Nonce Paolini recently revealed the broadcaster was considering extending its VoD service to SVoD but that it was not a priority.
The existing SVoD players, meanwhile, appear determined to get a foothold in the market before new international players like Netflix arrive on the scene, although Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said at the end of 2011 that France was not a ‘priority’ territory because it was “too regulated” — and the legislation does not look set to change any time soon.
To date, CanalPlay Infinity is the most successful SVoD service, with 200,000 subscribers, although the platform recently dropped its monthly subscription rate to $9.03 (€6.99) from an initial $12.90 (€9.99) in a bid to attract more subscribers.
The rise of smart TVs is boosting Germany’s VoD market
“VoD, including SVoD, should receive a major push this year from the run on smart TVs,” says Oliver Trettin of FAM, a trade association for the promotion of audiovisual media. “In 2012, 50% of the TVs sold were smart, and we expect by the end of this year that practically every TV sold will be smart, with direct access to the internet.”
While SVoD has made great strides in other markets, the model is still in its relative infancy in Germany, where such players as LoveFilm (which offers DVD rental by post and online SVoD subscription packages) and ProSiebenSat.1’s Maxdome have dominated. The latter has 50,000 titles on its service, while last year 70% of new smart TVs had Maxdome preinstalled. The launch of Vivendi’s Watchever — with a flat rate of $11.60 (€8.99) per month — at the beginning of 2013 could lead to further foreign services.
SVoD is also offered by platforms such as realeyz.tv with a monthly subscription of $3.74 (€2.90) for access to 700 arthouse titles, or anime on demand with three, six or 12-month subscriptions to view more than 500 anime series and feature films, while icestorm.tv’s three-day, one-week or one-month subscriptions offer films, series and documentaries from the DEFA back catalogue.
However, as Universal Pictures Germany’s CEO Dirk Lisowsky notes, “With all the enthusiasm for the VoD growth, the industry and trade should continue to be aware of the fact that still around 93% of the total sector’s turnover last year was generated with the physical product of DVD and Blu-ray.”
Italy’s growing SVoD market has recently seen several new entrants
Rumours have been rife for months that Netflix is on the verge of launching in Italy on the back of a job advert on the company website in October calling for Italian-speaking workers. By March there was still no sign of the SVoD platform, although TV bloggers chattered excitedly about the prospect of being able to watch the Kevin Spacey-starrer House Of Cards (legally) in the not-distant future.
In the meantime, key Italian SVoD players include Mediaset’s Premium Play and Telecom Italia’s recently launched Cubovision. Mediaset’s SVoD service is offered as an add-on to its existing pay-TV and VoD platform, which currently has some two million subscribers.
Italy’s top pay-TV provider Sky Italia launched the Sky on Demand service last July, making its entire offering — comprising some 1,200 programmes ranging from films to documentaries — available to subscribers on demand.
Mobile company 3 Italia also recently launched OnDemand with UK-based On Demand Group, with content including HBO hits such as The Sopranos, Sex And The City and Entourage.
Cubovision offers unlimited access at a monthly rate but the content is provided by individual countries, which set up their own dedicated channels under the platform’s umbrella — there are presently some 30 different offerings. The platform kicked off in 2011 with a non-exclusive deal with CBS Studios International offering series such as NCIS and Nurse Jackie. The platform has been building its offering steadily since signing deals with Rai, arthouse distributor Istituto Luce and cinema body Anica. In a bid to draw in viewers for the films on offer, it has been enlisting film-makers to curate the cinema content each month — past curators have included Paolo Virzi.
Piracy has delayed its development, but the Spanish VoD market is now showing some signs of life
In a home-entertainment market decimated by chronic piracy, Spain’s VoD market has been slow to develop.
The government’s much touted anti-piracy act, launched in early 2012, has had no effect and in 12 months only 30 illegal websites have been shut down, with many more still in operation.
According to the latest figures from anti-piracy lobby the Creators Coalition, illegal downloading of films increased last year by 41%, while there were 536 million illegal media downloads overall. There is no doubt that piracy has hit the development of VoD in Spain hard.
Nevertheless, the legal offer has been expanding with platforms such as wuaki.tv, which is owned by Japanese company Rakuten, Nubeox, owned by media empire Planeta and yomvi, run by CanalPlus. (However, in October 2011, Netflix announced that it was delaying setting up in the territory indefinitely.)
Meanwhile, filmin, a partnership between independent Spanish distributors such as Alta Films, Golem and Wanda, says its users have been increasing (but declines to give figures), while wuaki.tv says it has half a million registered users. All services have subscription and per-title offers, while new releases tend to be available as standalone titles rather than as part of a subscription offer. Another major player in the market is iTunes.
The VoD market is growing across the region, and competition is stepping up
When Netflix entered the Scandinavian market last year — in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland — it was clear why.
“There is a high broadband penetration, and the people are familiar with streaming, love television and have disposable income,” explains Netflix director of corporate communications Joris Evers. While Netflix would not disclose membership numbers before the launch analysts expected the service would aim to sign two million subscribers within the first year.
Netflix’s competition in the region includes Filmnet/C More, Film2Home, LoveFilm, Voddler, TriArt, Viaplay, MUBI and HBO Nordic. All have a range of subscription and per-title streaming offers. Another three services preparing to launch are Atflick, Magine and View/Comoyo.
The VoD market is growing swiftly in the region, with Sweden the largest market. A report from the SOM Institute of Sweden’s University of Gothenburg found that VoD accounted for 4% of the Swedes’ film viewing in 2012 — double 2007’s figures.
Meanwhile, an initiative launched last July by Oslo-based Nordisk Film & TV Fond with French VoD service MUBI has seen 97 Nordic classics and recent films programmed on the service. So far 73,596 paying downloads have been registered from the platform’s six million customers in 152 countries.
The strength of Nordic film and TV production is also a boon for VoD operators. Evers points out that the Netflix service streams “many movies and shows produced in Scandinavia — the Norwegian series Lilyhammer, starring E Street Band guitarist and actor Stevie Van Zandt, was licensed as a Netflix exclusive for the Americas, and we co-produce the second season”.
Jorn Rossing Jensen