The recent deal between Thema and TalkTalk is just the beginning of new activities that the French distributor of TV channels is rolling out in the UK. In the last quarter of 2013, the company plans to open an office in London and employ a local team. Broadband TV News interviews François Thiellet, CEO of Thema.
Setting up shop in London means that Thema will be introducing the products in the UK that it has been running successfully in France for the past few years – bundling thematic ethnic channels into bouquets for operators. In its home market, the company is offering a wide choice of packages including Russian, Arabic, African, Japanese and Portuguese language bouquets, just to name a few.
“The UK clearly is a market for us. We will apply our own proven formula and adjust it to the need of the local market. We were searching for a dynamic partner such as TalkTalk, in which we have found a perfect partner. We are launching first with three packages.”
By signing a deal with the UK telco, Thiellet is taking advantage of new platforms and ways of distributing channels. The agreement brings three bouquets with Japanese, Arabic and Afrikaans content to viewers in the UK – using an innovative over-the-top (OTT) model. “There is no other way for the South African Diasporas to have access to Afrikaans channels. Together with Mutlichoice we are now bringing Afrikaans programming from M-Net’s kykNET.”
Its new suite of premium World TV Channels now includes The JSTV Boost, consisting of JSTV and JSTV2, the only Japanese services available in Europe; The Arabic TV Boost, consisting of 12 channels from major Arabic networks including OSN, ART and Al Jazeera; and The kykNET Boost.
The Afrikaans offer is particularly interesting as it is indeed the only way to receive TV programming in Afrikaans from South Africa. kykNET Boost, consists of two channels, general entertainment on kykNET and music on kykNET Musiek. Thema has been working for some time with MultiChoice, creating a brand new channel with Nigerian movie content from the company’s Africa Magic TV. Thema launched the Nollywood channel with French language versions of movies.
The two kykNET channels are the next step in Thema’s policy of offering bespoke content for expat communities. It is also an example that the company is always looking for the best way to bring programming for niche audiences in new ways. In this case, streaming live channels over TalkTalk’s YouView OTT platform was chosen.
“In each country we look for the best possible solution.” In the case of the UK, bringing ethnic programming as live streams is cost-effective.
With regards to direct delivery over the top or direct to smart TVs, Thema does not want to compete directly with platforms, “but if we don’t find a partner, because the product might be too niche, then we will look into OTT solutions. My policy is to not directly compete with operators. There can be OTT in some markets, but then we will have to develop a B2C offer if we do not reach agreement with an operator.”
When working together with a local partner, Thema takes the financial risk of securing the rights of channels and outing together a bouquet. Thiellet is confident this strategy works, as “all operators are happy with our performance. We will use the example of TalkTalk in other markets.”
Thema also plans to expand its activities in other countries such as the Netherlands. “We know the country very well and we already have a few deals in place for ethnic channels, from Morocco and Spain, on KPN and intend to do more.”