The Deloitte and Enders Media & Telecoms 2019 conference took place in London today with a stellar line up of speakers including Carolyn McCall, the CEO of ITV, Alex Mahon, the CEO of Channel 4, Sophie Turner Laing, the former MD of Content at Sky and now the CEO of Endemol Shine Group, Tony Hall, the Director General of the BBC and Jeremy Darroch, the Group Chief Exec at Sky.
450 senior attendees came together to discuss the forces shaping the Media, Entertainment and Telecoms world and some of the key VOD-related takeouts were:
#1. Tony Hall, DG of the BBC
- “Analysts estimate that Netflix spent as much as $13 billion on movies and shows last year. Amazon has a content spend of around $5 billion. They’re reportedly setting aside a reported $1 billion for five series of Lord of the Rings. Disney has a $100 million budget for a single series of Star Wars… Remember: the BBC’s TV content spend taken altogether is around £1.5 billion across a whole year. And all the time, new competitors are flooding in. Disney, Apple, Comcast, WarnerMedia… We’re expecting new streaming services from them all.“
- On making linear and non-linear work together, Hall said, “[We released] the full boxset back catalogues of Peaky Blinders, Our Girl or Luther to be a complement to a new series. With Luther, we saw 18 million ‘plays’ on BBC iPlayer when we brought it back ahead of the launch of season five… Then the new series averaged almost 10 million viewers per episode across linear TV and iPlayer – our third most successful drama of recent times.“
- Hall said that the finale of the BBC’s 2018 hit show, The Bodyguard, had reached 17 million viewers whereas despite being a critical and media darling, The Crown, on Netflix, had only reached 7 million users in 17 months. According to the Guardian, “A BBC spokesperson [later] said that Hall’s source for the viewing figures was a nationally representative survey commissioned by the corporation last year, which asked Britons whether they had watched at least 15 minutes of an episode of The Crown.”
- Coincidentally, I’d asked the BBC last week about what their definition of a play or a request was. Netflix, for example, counts a series viewer as someone who has “substantially completed” at least 70% of one episode. Similarly, a film viewer is someone who has substantially completed at least 70% of the movie (definition taken from page 3 of Netflix’s Q4 2018 letter to shareholders). The BBC spokesperson told me that for iPlayer, “a successful “request” is when “a stream or a download actually starts, rather than “clicks” which can be repeated if the user does not see an immediate reaction on the website.” He later clarified that even if the stream stops playing after, say, 10 seconds, it’s still counted as “successful”. On a related note, IPlayer reported 3.6bn requests in 2018 but this included simulcast viewing which was about 19% per month (with a big spike during the FIFA World Cup last summer).
- Hall reaffirmed plans to make programmes available on iPlayer for 12 months after they’ve first been broadcast, for iPlayer to include more box sets and archive material and for the service to have greater personalisation features based on “a mix of data-driven content and curated programming”.
- On Britbox, the BBC’s new proposed SVOD venture with ITV, and addressing the threat that broadcasters face of their brands effectively becoming invisible when subsumed in aggregator services, Hall said, “BritBox will provide an unrivalled collection of British boxsets as well as new original series that you won’t see anywhere else, on demand, all in one place. And, crucially, UK audiences will always know who to credit for what they’re watching. Both ITV and the BBC will have full branding and attribution at service and programme level.“
- Channel 4’s CEO, Alex Mahon, also confirmed that she expected C4 content to be made available to Britbox in due course.
#2. Jeremy Darroch, Group Chief Exec of Sky
- “It seems to me that our ability to precisely predict the future is pretty limited and so the only true choice you have in business is whether to disrupt yourself and try and do that smartly or let someone else disrupt you.” Darroch said that was why Sky+ (i.e. PVR functionality) had been introduced in the face of people warning that it would kill scheduled viewing and related advertising revenues. That was also why Sky started its first streaming service, Sky Player, in 2005. The OTT technologies developed by the company, later incorporated into NOW TV, would now be used by Comcast to power its new OTT platform in the US.
- Sky first announced that it was planning to make its Sky Q box available without the need for a dish last year. Today, Darroch confirmed that “We are launching Sky Q, our top of the range platform, in continental Europe without using our satellite infrastructure as the latest addition to our product range.“
- On the benefits of Comcast / Sky joining forces, he said that, “… we’ll be bringing Comcast’s own voice interface to Sky Q later this year and our broadband customers in Italy will benefit from Comcast’s xFi product. When NBCU launch an AVOD service in the US next year, it’ll be Sky’s OTT technology platform that has helped to enable that. We are making good use of each other’s content on screen, are working to serve our global advertisers better and all the while becoming a more capable and a more efficient organisation.“