Launched last December, Zattoo is the latest TV portal to launch in the UK market. Julian Clover spoke to UK country manager Alexandra Illes.
Broadband TV has finally arrived as a serious proposition with broadcasters falling over themselves to launch services. Kangaroo, the joint venture of the UK’s terrestrial broadcasters will bound onto PCs within a few months, joining the existing iPlayer and 4oD sites. In December the Swiss platform Zattoo entered the fray joining the likes of Hulu, Jalipo and other Scrabble-induced brands.
“People will not want to maintain a different player for every channel. It’s almost like having a different TV set in the living room for every channel you want to watch,” UK country manager Alexandra Illes told me. “So here comes Zattoo and we want to be an aggregator so people can watch as many channels as they want on one player.”
Zattoo has versions for Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems. It is so far available in eight different countries: Switzerland, where the service began’ Germany, Spain, France, Belgium, Denmark, Norway and the UK. The next territory is the Netherlands during the summer. There are so far close to 1.9 million registrants and two third of these return on a regular basis. 80% of users are aged between 18 and 44, but as the service matures, older users are brought in.
In each country it has been necessary to negotiate with local broadcasters, the collecting societies, and other rights holders. The UK version includes BBC Three, BBC Four, Channel 4, Five, France 24 and perhaps significantly TV Polonia. Despite the growth in Polish nationals living in the UK over the past few years the international channel of the Polish public broadcaster is not available on Sky or on Virgin Media; Poles are instead putting up dishes to receive their channels direct from Eutelsat, but in a transient community this is not always possible. “Foreign language programmes are something that we plan to add more and more,” says Illes. “We saw a lot of usage with the Spanish ex-pats with the recent Spanish elections, but we are also looking at other community channels.” Advertising for TV Polonia has been made on Polish language websites.
ITV is not yet available on the platform, which Illes puts down to the regional structure of the broadcaster. She says that while geo blocking is a straightforward process to prevent out of country viewing, creating 24 regional versions of ITV is a little more complicated.
Transmissions are captured from satellite and DTT. In the UK there are two hubs one just outside of London and a second in Manchester. Zattoo has developed its own software including both the player and DRM. It means the only way to play the Zattoo content is through the Zattoo player itself. “This is important for the broadcasters because they know their content is properly protected by the system and we also have a closed user group.”
Revenues are drawn from the insertion of advertisements in the time needed to buffer the channel. This has yet to commence in the UK, but has been introduced in some of Zattoo’s other markets such as Switzerland, Germany and Spain. Illes is not concerned that some broadcasters including the BBC are not permitted to screen commercials and says the restriction does not apply to third parties. “We can target which channels the advertisements can be played on and of course we will take into consideration the broadcasters requirements. “
Illes believes there to be a market for the different forms of broadband TV distribution, both downloads as demonstrated by the iPlayer, and the streaming model shown by Zattoo. “ There are many other players and other propositions, user generated content and more niche channels. I think there will be room for different sorts of players in the market.”