German pay-TV is increasingly adding value to its packages, but even some operators think the price is still too high, writes Julian Clover.
One of the arguments as to why pay-TV has never been the success in Germany that it is in other markets has been the availability of choice. The average cable network gives a whole variety of channels, including the popular entertainment channels RTL, Sat.1 and ProSieben at a cost sometimes less that €8.
The argument goes that with all this why would you ever want to go elsewhere. Certainly the representative from the housing association during the ANGA Cable ‘Elephants round’ session seemed to think that even €8 was a bit steep. With thoughts such as that floating around the higher tiers of German cable, it is surprising that the majority of channels aren’t still broadcasting in black and white.
There seems to be something built into the German psyche that wants to prevent the purchase of pay television that is the norm in other markers. When I spoke to Brian Sullivan, the former BSkyB marketing chief now handed pay-TV’s equivalent of minister for Northern Ireland, the Sky Deutschland CEO explained that the pricing plan that was attracting complaints was actually the one introduced by his predecessor some 18 months previous. There was said Sullivan no going back, and why should he? With some slight variations Sky Deutschland households have a price plan akin to that of BSkyB and the old model helped take the old Premiere into bankruptcy.
Sullivan says that choice is really no longer the issue, either outside the Sky package or within it, where he says the programme offer that gives subscribers access to every Bundesliga game is often superior to that enjoyed for the equivalent Premier League package in the UK. Football is now playing the same role that it held in the UK before Sky began to broaden its offer or at least the communication of what else could be found in the package.
So Sky Deutschland subscribers will increasingly see more value put onto their subscriptions, Sky+ HD, complete with a receiver that is also ready for 3D and a Push VOD package; Multiroom; and the iPad application developed internally by Sky Deutschland in five weeks flat – BSkyB is also believed to have an iPad app up its sleeve.
The only question is, unsurprisingly, cost. Will Germany be able to take the small increments needed for, say, Multiroom, where the €12 second box fee doubles when a Bundesliga sub is also included. Sky Deutschland subs have been static for a while and the novelty is only just being launched.
But Sullivan’s ANGA call for the industry to work together was timely. A walk around the showfloor revealed that cable is also wising up to the innovation needed to persuade consumers that if they pay a little more they can have a far better experience. Kabel Deutschland this week launched CI Plus, the first German cableco to do so, and Unitymedia now has an HD PVR and a package of high definition channels to watch on it.
Interest in German DTT appears to be tailing off, suggesting customers do want more, it’s just whether they are prepared to pay for it.