Formed in 2005 by the merger of the international arm of Liberty Media and UGC (UnitedGlobalCom), Liberty Global is one of the largest broadband providers outside of the United States. And in March, Lukas Kernell, Liberty Global’s VP Programming ,will feature on two panel discussions at TV Connect 2014, including the hugely anticipated Keynote Super Panel Discussion (“What is the future of Hybrid OTT Services?”), also featuring representatives from Ericsson, Verizon and more. IP&TV News seized the chance to chat to Lukas about Liberty Global’s thinking on next generation TV services…
IP&TV News: How can viewers be encouraged to engage with Smart TVs?
Lukas Kernell: I don’t think I reveal Liberty Global company secrets when I say that our customers’ enthusiastic engagement with our interactive platforms, like Horizon, is to a large extent driven by the strong content offering we develop together with our partners.
What has been the biggest challenge for Liberty Global over the last twelve months?
I will answer this question within the context of my role within Liberty Global which is Programming. Our biggest challenge last year has been to convince our content partners to join us in providing the Pay-TV service our customers expect. Some of our partners continue to be reluctant or unable to grant the rights needed to allow the time- and place shifting services our customers expect. Video is no longer limited to the large screen in the living room, but our customers want to be able to enjoy the services they buy at a time and place they choose. Many of our partners understand this, but disappointingly not all. Yet.
What effect is the second screen having on Liberty Global’s vision for future VOD services?
There are, at least, two ways to look at the second screen: as a companion screen to the big screen or as an alternative. The second screen as a companion to the “traditional” television set has allowed us to provide our customers with more and easier control over the video services, including VOD, they subscribe to. As an alternative, it gives us the opportunity to continue to provide video services, again including VOD, to our customers even when they are out of the home. The second screen has so far only been a positive.
What other possibilities does the second screen open up for future TV services?
It is still early days and I believe all of us will be surprised with some of the future developments. I believe a lot will happen short term with respect to data. The ability to capture and analyse data, to a large extent but not only driven of the second screen, will provide the industry with much better insights into consumer behaviour. Of course we also acknowledge the second screen as a parallel entertainment device to be used in conjunction with the content on the primary screen. A very interesting development in itself. I expect to see some truly innovative formats coming on air in the near future. However, over time I think the distinction between primary and second screen will disappear. The use of the words “second screen” will seem “sooo 2013″. Screens (and therefore video) will become ubiquitous, always with us and there will come a point – not too far away I believe – when we will only notice screens by their absence.
Pay-TV recently registered its “worst ever year” in the US. What strategies do you think can rejuvenate Pay-TV?
I am not sure I agree with the statement that Pay-Tv registered its worst year ever. Probably depends on the definition of Pay-TV. I would suggest to define Pay-TV as video services paid for by consumers and utilized outside the cinema. Then Pay-TV certainly has not had its worst year ever. The primary driver of Pay-tv remains and will always be content. And the investment in video content for screen consumption has never been higher and the quality of the programming is never been better. It’s a great time for Pay-TV!