interview


CEO, German video streaming service Watchever: “Traditional broadcast TV will face huge challenges”

Cedric Ponsot, CEO of German video streaming service Whatchever

Cedric Ponsot, CEO of German video streaming service Watchever is speaking in the Multiscreen & TV Evolution stream on Day Two of the Broadband World Forum, taking place on the 22nd – 24th October 2013 at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre, Amsterdam.

Tell me more about Watchever. What is it, and how has it disrupted the market?

Watchever is a subscription video on demand service that was launched in Germany in early 2013. For €8.99, consumers in Germany can now stream movies and TV Series seamlessly on a wide variety of devices, ranging from the Apple TV to smart TVs, games consoles, tablets, computers and smartphones. Germany has been not been considered a subscription friendly market and the VOD market as such was far behind UK and French figures, despite the larger market size.

Watchever’s arrival heavily disrupted the German market, essentially through its product and user experience. In the first five months, Watchever acquired more subscribers than existing services did in the past five years.

Watchever is a proposition offering a fair price, easy usability and a fantastic selection of around 10,000 programmes. This selection is handpicked by our teams and really appeals to the German audience – ranging from blockbusters to art house movies, it also offers full seasons of renowned US and European series. Customer satisfaction is clearly visible in the large social media fan base that we’ve generated in the last six months. We have more fans than the competition and our fans are more active.

How do you see TV further evolving over the next five years?

Traditional broadcast TV will face a huge number of challenges.  Its success was based on a unique and exclusive technology bringing “moving pictures” into the home, supported by strong local regulation to organise the market and competition. This uniqueness enabled TV stations to broadcast what they thought would be interesting for the public, while pushing advertising into their homes with an easy and lucrative model. VHS brought an element of competition, but it was expensive since you had to buy titles individually.  Later, computers enabled movies and series downloads, but they required patience, while the initial lack of legal portals (mainly piracy) led to an inferior, advertising-heavy user experience.

 

The Broadband World Forum is taking place on the 22nd – 24th October 2013 at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre, Amsterdam. Click here to download a brochure for the event.

Today, technology and ease of use are vastly improved, and with online subscription video services like Watchever, watching movies and series will become more and more convenient. Users can enjoy watching on large screens, without advertising, with an easy and intuitive user experience (close to the existing TV) – all for a fair monthly price.

I strongly believe that both traditional TV and new services like Watchever will remain “Push Models” where consumers will continue to be very “lazy” in front of their screen. This contrasts with PC-based services like YouTube, considered as “Pull model”, which requires active engagement from its users.

It’s for this reason that our user experience has been tailored to make it very easy for our consumers – for example, our instant-watch promise means that users are never more than one click away from watching a movie or series; meanwhile the homepage is overflowing with editorial and different recommendation algorithms to bring the best content to the user, and reduce the need for browsing and searching. This is probably they key difference between us and traditional VOD services where it can take ages before you can start watching something: on Watchever, it’s “switch on and watch!” Traditional TV will of course continue to play a large role for live events, football, F1, and exclusive TV shows on free and Pay TV.

Is the tablet now the most important TV in, or out, of the house?

The TV remains the key screen at home and will no doubt be so for a long time to come, since frankly, there is no better screen to watch movies and series at home. However, it’s true that outside the home and while travelling, tablets are now the most important screen. That’s why we have developed our Travel Option, a “world first” feature which enables consumers to download their movies and series to their device so they may watch it when they are offline.

What technology is your video streaming based on, (e.g. Flash/Silverlight) and what’s your view on proprietary encoding technologies?

We mainly use Silverlight at the moment. We are fine with proprietary technology especially on DRM as it helps to standardise the market (to date, all professional associations and/or forums have always failed on this standardisation). But at the same time, it’s important that we don’t have too many proprietary technologies along the value chain, otherwise the complexity it creates for the end user would crash the market.

Do you have any close relationships with ISPs and are these partnerships important to your success?

We have very close relationships and are discussing with all of them, but our model is really to be OTT. We are happy to work with ISPs, but most of our business is, and will always be, directly with the end user. In fact, they are all willing to distribute Watchever, but we’re taking it step by step to ensure we have the best user experience everywhere.

You’re getting in ahead of Netflix in Germany and working with Apple. What do companies need to do to take these brands on, survive and make money?

If you bring the right product or service to the end user, and strive to offer the same simplicity in the user experience as Apple has always brought to the market, you should succeed. We are proving that it works when you have a great product. Just do it, make it simple and trust yourself.

What are you most looking forward to at the Broadband World Forum?

I am looking forward to meeting other players and exchanging views on best practices and maybe discovering future partners for other countries.

 


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