Today IP&TV News is delighted to share with our readers another exclusive interview, this time with Oliver Lewis, Senior VP Customer Propositions and Product Management, Sky Deutschland. In December Oliver will be appearing at the Digital TV World Summit in London, part of an imposing line-up that includes the BBC, BT Sport, Discovery, Orange and more. It’s an event set to explore and define the digital broadcasting agenda for some time, and by way of preparation IP&TV managed to touch upon a large number of the major hot topics with Oliver, including OTT, pay-TV, UltraHD, social and more.
IP&TV: How do you view the relationship between OTT and pay-TV providers developing in 2014?
Oliver Lewis: We believe that in the coming years, both pay-TV and OTT will experience strong growth, complement one another and profit from each other. For us, it’s not about pay-TV vs. OTT, but instead about hand-in-hand expansion of pay-TV and OTT. Customers don’t generally concern themselves with the terms “linear television”, “non-linear television” or “OTT”. That’s why we combine and connect them with each other. We allow our customers to make the decision about how they want to enjoy our unique programming: whether it’s at the designated time of 8:15 PM on a linear channel, or flexibly viewed on-demand over Sky Anytime or when they’re away from home on Sky Go. This puts the customer in charge of scheduling – this is the television of the future. And as the innovation leader in the fields of TV and entertainment in Germany and Austria, Sky is shaping that future.
And what about 4K? When do think this will be ready, and are you expecting a strong consumer demand for Ultra HD?
Of course, we are preparing for future Ultra HD service. However, we can’t name a specific time that Sky Deutschland will begin to broadcast Ultra HD. There is simply a lack of standards and interfaces, and this is something that we have no direct control over. Our plan is to gradually integrate 4K into existing HD productions until the changeover to a complete 4K production can be carried out.
Nevertheless, we are convinced that Ultra HD will be a success as long as the prices for Ultra HD displays continue to fall. When that happens, then there will be rapid growth in the number of Ultra HD TVs in households, which will drive the demand for Ultra HD content. Although Ultra HD is still in an early stage, technical and commercial development is picking up pace.
Germany has traditionally lagged well behind other European economies in terms of pay-TV. Is this something we’re finally seeing beginning to change and why?
Pay-TV has been declared dead in Germany many times over the past 20 years, and for a long time it didn’t look particularly good for pay-television in this country. But this has changed in the past few years. The willingness of viewers to pay for quality has grown. Clear evidence of this shift can be seen at Sky Deutschland, where there has been positive operational profit in three of the past four quarters as well as growth in the subscriber numbers and product offerings. We are pleased to have made good progress, but we believe pay-TV is still at an early stage in a market with very significant potential.
How significant is social TV to Sky Deutschland’s vision for future broadcasting?
It is no longer possible to imagine all Sky Sport original formats, live sporting broadcasts (Bundesliga, UEFA Champions League, Formula One, boxing, tennis) and Sky Sport News HD without the connection between social media and TV. We have seen how our viewers want to be a part of the programming by sharing their opinions, ideas and comments alongside those of experts, commentators and players. We offer them this space through the integration of social media via Facebook and Twitter. In September, we launched a new interactive broadcasting format with “08000 – du bist drauf” (“08000 – you’re on the ball”). We are also experimenting with social media integration in Sky Go, where customers can chat on Facebook or Twitter while they watch their favourite content.
In a market like Germany, how difficult is it to maintain growth, and what is the secret to doing so?
With over 3.5 million customers, Sky Deutschland is the leading subscription-TV company in Germany and Austria. The Sky brand stands for the best in entertainment, differentiating itself in the market when compared with other offerings through top quality and exclusivity, with more live football and sports than all other providers in Germany and Austria. Add to this a unique selection of movies with over 20 TV premieres every month, including the option to view in the original language, without commercial breaks, as well as the most extensive offering of German and American series – many of them as television premieres in our market, airing just a few hours after first airing in America. Our range of high quality programming is underscored by over 70 channels for the entire family and up to 71 HD channels. Our exclusive high quality content is the fundamental driver of continued growth, in combination with a strong focus on innovation and customer service to deliver the best overall customer experience.
The 9th Annual Digital TV World Summit returns to London on the 3rd and 4th December 2013. The event provides a unique platform for the entire ecosystem to unite in order to discuss and debate the huge opportunities and key challenges facing today’s dynamic digital TV market. For booking and more info go here.