Content was the hot topic at this year’s ANGACOM cable show in Germany, which wrapped yesterday. Content exclusivity, original production investment and localisation were all high on the agenda as the country’s telco and cable CEOs discussed strategies to compete. Deutsche Telekom revealed it was about to embark on an original-production investment strategy, citing House of Cards as a benchmark and saying it recognized the value of exclusive content in competing in the increasingly cut-throat German market. Subscription Video-on-Demand (SVoD) services are driving the Germany market back to a content focus, as is Sky's originals strategy and its pending big budget 13th October premiere of Berlin Babylon. Sky—already well down the road of original production—revealed that it was the smallest partner in Berlin Babylon, the period drama made with ARD and Beta Film with a €40m production budget. The series is a classic example of 'localised globalisation', the phrase Ampere coined earlier this year to describe local-language drama with global appeal and production standards. Echoing the power of local, Tele Columbus, noted that in a global market local content became even more important and that local would be a key strategic playing card for the German cable market, and one that cable was well positioned to serve. But debate ensued on the place of exclusivity in Germany, with Tele Columbus arguing it was generally bad for the end consumer and the sign of a market yet to mature.
European cable and telecoms companies have had an on-off relationship with content over the years, and the German industry in particular—other than a short-lived and disastrous foray into Bundesliga soccer—has mainly been ‘off’. Deutsche Telekom’s announcement is therefore particularly significant as it signals that direct control of original and exclusive content is now seen as essential, even in an industry driven by communications bundles. Notable in the discussion was the positioning of the content as part of a platform strategy, rather than a channel strategy. There was no talk of channel launches to support the new strategy. The cable industry in Germany has always relied on Sky (and its predecessors) to provide both the premium channel elements of its offer and the higher-value basic channels. It was interesting that Sky took the opportunity to stress that it saw itself very much as a 'broadcasting company' rather than a platform.
The topic of channel brands' future was also widely discussed during the personalized TV panel with the positioning of the channel brand versus the programme brand seen as increasingly indistinct. Navigation becomes key as content dis-aggregated. On-demand service provider Maxdome noted that it had recently switched from an algorithm-based content recommendation engine to a partially curated one in order to improve content discovery.
Elsewhere, cable’s current obsession with ‘the gigabit society’ was widely discussed, even though Germany was singled out as a European market where under-investment had led to poor broadband speeds. As ever, the industry called for light regulation and freedom for the industry to resolve broadband speed issues, rather than regulators.