What impact has Thor 7 had on Telenor Satellite’s business since its launch in 2015?
At arrival, Thor 7 was long awaited. The 1 West broadcasting community demanded more capacity, and we were also eager to launch Ka capacity products for the European maritime market.
The design of Thor 7 provides for very good flexibility and risk diversification between the satellites at 1 West, which brings additional comfort to our broadcasting and DTH customers.
The Ka capacity has a wide European and Middle East coverage meeting the broadband demand from smaller fishing vessels up to ferries. We see and experience the true development of this market across Europe.
Has the development of linear vs OTT affected Telenor Satellite as a provider of services in any way?
Absolutely. And in several ways. First of all, the demand for satellite capacity is strong both in the Nordic and CEE region. 1 West provides in total some 80 transponders of broadcasting content to these markets. The challenge for Telenor Satellite and other satellite/teleport operators is to provide cost efficient solutions for our customers to ensure they are competitive in their marketplaces. This includes high availability of the services, efficient B2B customer services 24/7, premium encoding quality including statistical multiplexing, DVB-S2 modulation and so on. We have invested quite heavily over the past years – in competence and infrastructure, in order to develop our line-up of OTT services.
What is it actively doing in response to changing times in the industry?
Our success is based on our customer’s success. We need to provide the services they require, in the most valuable way. I don’t say that this is easy and straight forward in changing times, it is absolutely not. Operating in an industry and a market which largely has been unchallenged for decades, it is demanding to play along with the changes and at the same time offer cutting edge services.
We do not believe that the changing times result in a change that flips around the business models totally. Although the ARPU is challenged, the demography of the pay-TV end customers is changing rather quickly; the consumption of content is increasing. Linear TV and in particular live TV hold a position as generating social value in families and between friends. And satellite is still the most efficient way of distributing content from one-to-many.
We are absolutely not blind to the changing times, and follow the development closely, steering our organisation and our products and services as smoothly and successfully we can in the rough waters.
Is Telenor Satellite still maintaining a strong presence in Central and Eastern Europe and is it focused on any markets in particular?
CEE is very much in our focus. This spring we prolonged our agreement long term with Liberty/UPC Direct for the provision of satellite capacity. UPC’s markets – Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovak and Romania – are among the strongest DTH markets in the region. With UPC Direct, Slovak Telekom and DIGI all on 1 West, and a combined DTH and CATV reach of some 9 million households we are absolutely present in the region.
Of course, the competition between the pay-TV distributors – regardless of distribution technology is increasingly stronger, and the chase for more RGUs and higher ARPU is extremely important in order to survive.
We have designed the footprints of Thor 5, Thor 6 and Thor 7 for premium CEE coverage and have no intention to run transponders idle.
How does Telenor Satellite now see its position in the Nordic region?
More or less the same industrial challenges and environment as in CEE. Netflix, HBO and the others are of course challenging the legacy consumer market, and our customers work hard to maintain their position. So far, even though the household reach on DTH is in decline, it is not a waterfall. 1 West and Canal Digital keep a strong position in the region, and a continued strong focus from Canal Digital to provide both OTT products and linear high quality services to the public is imperative. I think they do a brilliant effort.
One small example is the success of Canal Digital launching flat panel antennas to their customers. This is possible due to the strong power of our satellites, and we believe an important factor for Canal Digital retaining and growing their customer base.
Looking to the future, how would you like to see Telenor Satellite develop in the next few years?
In essence, we shall continue to do what we do today: develop and provide efficient services for our customers – and especially towards more automated and streamlined operation of Ka data communication products and both linear DTH and OTT products.
Of course, we hope to see a stronger and more powerful sharing of services between our DTH customers strengthening their competitive position, and that the introduction of high rated UHD content will replace the niche services moving away from satellite and over to OTT.
These are exciting times, and the future even more so. I am confident that the challenges all parts of the industry are experiencing – including broadcasters, content owners, advertisers, pay-TV operators, OTT companies and others – will somehow be “normalised” in a few years. We will better understand where the end-user wants to consume what type of content on which device – and at which price level. Then we’ve hopefully been able to manoeuvre in this direction.
And I see our Ka products as a success for the maritime market, bringing high bitrate broadband services to the offshore market. In a few years, the end-user will not consider where he is located when he consumes content; he will expect the broadband connection to be seamless and powerful regardless of where he is.