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Antenna move intensifies competition in Greek SVOD sector

Tony Gunnarsson, Senior Analyst, TV & OTT

Greek media group Antenna has chosen TV Connect 2017 to confirm the launch of a new SVOD service in Greece that focuses on local programming at a low monthly cost. Offering original Greek scripted programming and priced at a competitive €2.99 ($3.23) a month, ANT1 Next will be very well placed as a complementary service to the big names of SVOD (i.e. Netflix and Amazon's recently launched Prime Video). It is likely to be picked up by Greeks who already subscribe to Netflix and other SVOD services but who may wish to self-bundle with additional streaming services. The service is making a bid for subscribers by highlighting the fact that it will stream TV episodes prior to broadcast on the ANT1 TV linear channel and will also be made available via SVOD before catch-up availability.

Greece is however a relatively underdeveloped market for TV and SVOD. Greece's pay-TV penetration is a lot lower than most of its European neighbors – at just 25% in March 2017 – while SVOD penetration in Greece continues to fall way below the European average. Ovum believes that in 2017 there will be fewer than 300,000 SVOD subscribers in Greece and the majority of them will be Netflix subscribers.

According to Ovum's latest Availability Analyzer: Global OTT Video, the number of OTT video services continues to increase at pace. In 2016 the number of OTT video services available globally increased by 22% compared to 2015, and 96% of all new OTT video platforms offer some level of subscription access to streamed content. Therefore, SVOD now officially rules OTT.

Related research:

Availability Analyzer: Global OTT Video, March 2017, ME0003-000808 (March 2017)

OTT Video Forecast: 2016–22, ME0003-000789 (January 2017)

SVOD Service Provider Market Share Forecast: Europe, 2016–22, ME0003-000721 (October 2016)

Much, much more to come from HbbTV additional services

Adam Steel, Research Analyst, TV

While initial deployments of HbbTV set-top boxes in Europe focused on relatively simple applications such as videotext and catch-up TV, future deployments are gearing up to include more sophisticated services: Think integrating broadcast channels with social media networks, or video chats alongside broadcast content.

The UK is leading the way in adopting the latest release of HbbTV – HbbTV 2 – through Freeview Play. As part owner of Freeview, the BBC, in partnership with Opera TV, has demonstrated at TV Connect 2017 that the potential for sophisticated services that HbbTV brings is close to being fully realized.

The features include an innovative Companion Screen option, which sets up a link between content on a TV set and content on a handset or tablet, so that viewers can receive additional or extended content on the companion device while they view content in real time on the TV. A Media Synchronization option, meanwhile, enables consumers to transfer content from their home screen to their mobile device, allowing them to continue enjoying live content and OTT applications "anytime, anywhere." This solution also enables viewers to listen to alternative audio tracks in a number of languages through headphones on a media device, while watching on their home screen.

HbbTV has wide backing and plays a key role in delivering broadcaster-led interactive services across Europe. As is being demonstrated at TV Connect, these services are becoming increasingly sophisticated, creating a richer, more immersive experience for viewers.

Related research:

TV Technology Announcements Tracker: 3Q16, TE0004-001128 (November 2016)

In a changing broadcast world, sports content remains key

Adam Thomas, Lead Analyst, TV

One of the themes running through today's agenda at TV Connect was the ongoing importance of sports content. During a panel discussion on the topic of broadcast innovation in sport, representatives from BT Sport, Discovery Communications, and Nagra were vociferous in their agreement that the TV industry still perceives sports as the key content type for generating premium revenues. They also see technological innovation as an important way to ensure viewers become as immersed in the content as possible.

However, some of the conversations Ovum has had at TV Connect 2017 so far have centered on whether cracks are starting to appear in the bulletproof veneer that surrounds premium sports rights acquisition. In the US, for example, there has been concern about the ratings performance of blue riband sports such as the NFL, while similar fears have been articulated about viewing data for EPL soccer in the UK.

Ovum's view has long been that sports content has a fairly unique position in the broadcasting market, which gives it a resilience that is not enjoyed by other content forms. In the US, the NFL has explained that extraordinary interest in the new US president is disrupting regular viewing patterns, which certainly seems to have been a factor. But there was also the simple fact that the early NFL season was hit by a series of one-sided, uninspiring games. It is also taking some time to replace the Tom Brady–Peyton Manning rivalry with new narratives to generate similar interest. So, while Super Bowl 2017 may have attracted marginally fewer viewers than a year earlier (111.3 million vs. 111.9 million), an all-time-record comeback win for the New England Patriots in the 2017 game bodes well for reinvigorated interest when the NFL resumes in September.

And the story is similar for the EPL. Early season ratings in 2H16 were hit by a lack of matches involving the most popular teams. A fact underlined when, later in the season, two "heavyweight" teams (Liverpool and Manchester United) met. The ratings hit a three-year high for Sky, once again suggesting that demand for sports – when the product is right – remains very healthy indeed.

Related research:

Building Digital Audiences: Targeting the Millennial Sports Fan, ME0002-000674(June 2016)

Convergence is great for the TV industry, but spare a thought for everyone trying to drive it

Ismail Patel, Research Analyst, TV

An honest discussion about the concept of convergence took place at today's TV Connect. Whereas the general consensus was that the industry is heading toward "complete convergence long term," there are real challenges in perfecting the amalgamation of platforms and pushing content to different screens.

TV convergence has accelerated since video became the centerpiece of telcos' revenue-driving propositions (instead of just a value-added service). Video is now pushed out in multi-platform incarnations and users in mature markets expect no less. As a result, the new generation of user is becoming more platform-agnostic, demanding more from their smartphone, tablet, and PC – and even smartwatch – as well as from their traditional TV sets. Therefore, the first challenge convergence brings is ensuring users have the same experience across devices.

The second challenge is cost. Many believe that convergence automatically brings down costs, but this is not necessarily the case when network infrastructure has to provide for multiple standards – something that is riddled with technical challenges. This is a headache for broadcasters that have committed to a multi-platform strategy. With the number of TV architecture standards increasing internationally, there is an inevitable financial burden. And while it may be touted as a potential barrier breaker for fixed and mobile, 5G might not be a cost-effective solution.

Related research:

2017 Trends to Watch: Pay TV and premium OTT video, ME0003-000777 (February 2017)

Quad Play: Best Practices, TE0009-001410 (April 2015)

TV Connect raises many questions about the future of pay TV … and even offers some answers

Jonathan Doran, Principal Analyst, TV

A TV Connect panel discussion entitled "Market Growth Opportunities - Aligning Premium & Low-Cost Services" examined the challenges facing pay-TV operators as they try to accommodate evolving customer expectations and address appropriate segments. The following fundamental questions were discussed: How do you maximize reach with low-cost services? Should multiplay operators use TV as a loss leader to support their broadband business? How do you maximize revenues with premium pricing? Does the traditional proposition of a big basic package with premium on top still make sense when consumers have so many more options?

Of course, what steps a service provider should take to try to answer such questions depends on its own positioning within a given pay-TV market. The MENA-based DTH operator OSN has historically been a premium service provider, but it acknowledges that once this finite base is saturated, tapping lower-income (and younger) audiences will be necessary to maintain customer and revenue growth. Premium players must keep deriving value from their core customer base while at the same time nurturing upcoming segments with lower-value services and new modes of consumption – hence OSN's foray into proprietary OTT services. Meanwhile, those whose business is built on a value play – such as the UK's TalkTalk – will remain focused on offering cheaper services that appeal to a core base, while simultaneously enabling opportunities to upgrade to premium content if desired. In 2016 TalkTalk revamped its TV packages to provide a modular offering that starts with basic FTA access and can be upgraded to include a functional STB (with PVR) and a small bundle of pay channels.

While content is key, many recognize that exclusivity is not necessarily a sustainable strategy and not an option that's open to all players. Both OSN and LGI highlight the importance of user experience as an essential component of the value proposition, citing content discovery, recommendations, and the user interface as quality factors and points of differentiation. LGI points to its partnership with Netflix for STB integration as a sensible and important addition to the existing content offering, while TalkTalk emphasizes the simplicity and ease-of-use of its revamped UI as crucial benefits for its core audience.

Related research:

Competing with Netflix: Pay TV goes OTT, ME0003-000751 (November 2016)

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