Canal Digital is facing up to a mature market with new technologies, writes Julian Clover.
Over the past few years Telenor’s Canal Digital has established itself as leading pay-TV provider in the Nordic region. 1,060,00 DTH households add to 729,000 on cable, 1,085,000 on SMATV and a smattering of DTT and IPTV.
The arrival of DTT and IPTV has changed the game a little, particularly in Sweden where Telia’s great set-top giveaway has given it a foothold in the market and analogue switch-off force people into making a decision. Surveys conducted on behalf of the Swedish research organisation MMS showed that although people entered the store intending to buy a the free service, they left with a subscription to the pay platform Boxer, which now has the challenge of holding onto them.
Perhaps helped by the recession, TV viewing in the region is now at an all time high, which has led Canal Digital to believe there is no reason to think why this won’t have increased further, the family TV set remaining at the centre of events, though with individual viewing taking place on other screens.
Having been first to market with HD, its carriage of the C More HD channel (now Canal+) being the first premium HD channel in Europe, Canal Digital has been beaten to the chase in terms of web-based access and VOD by rival Viasat. A new mobile TV service has just been launched by Viasat as a special for owners of the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10.
Canal Digital is putting right its commitment to VOD, bringing to its more advanced satellite boxes a hybrid delivered service, that goes towards its access all areas vision.
Just as it led the way with HD, Telenor has become the first operator to publically acknowledge that standard definition services will close, at least those that are available in both SD and HD. On the terrestrial network NRK has announced that it will do the same once additional capacity is brought on line later this year, even if large parts of its schedule will for the time being be upconverted.
There is no additional fee for HD, which is instead simply carried as part of the regular bouquets. (It is also a Virgin Media strategy to increase subscriptions by small amounts to everyone, rather than asking a select few to pay a more hefty increase.
Short-term challenges remain, with the entire region now enjoying digital pictures, the patches of green field are looking bare. Subscriber numbers have plateaued, though Canal Digital has been able to successfully push up ARPU. This autumn Canal+ Nordic will find itself without English Premier League football, so attention will need to fall on other market initiatives, as the new joint owner Canal Digital will have a vested interest in ensuring its premium outlet continues to succeed.