Last year, SPI International acquired the Dutch premium movie channels and SVOD assets of Film1 from Sony. Robert Briel talks to SPI International CEO Berk Uziyel about the experiences with the acquisition.
– After Sony announced the closure of the Film1 service – linear channels and on-demand – in The Netherlands it was quite a surprise that SPI stepped in and bought the name. What was the rationale behind getting into the first Western European country?
“SPI International is one of the key film service providers in different parts of the world. Our strategy has been to become the Home of Good movies with our linear and digital movie services. We have been active in numerous countries and the Netherlands is a key market in our plan for expansion within Western Europe. we are committed to providing top-quality content throughout the world. We are working diligently to make sure that under SPI leadership, there’s always a good movie (altijd een goede film) to watch on Film1 channels and digital services.
Our main means of delivering movies were linear channels in the past 10 years. We have advanced into delivering movies in digital services. Therefore, all our services are providing content for the clients both in linear and digital form. All the movies within the service are also available to its subscribers in VOD format as well.
“We created a great product offer with Film1 in NL, combining 4 linear TV channels and SVOD services with great content curation. We are constantly working to grow our subscriber base by acquiring great titles, making the best movie curation in the market and offering the best combination of lean back and lean forward approach.
“SPI International has over 25 years of experience working in 69 countries around the world on six continents with 42 channels and several digital services, as well as SVOD/AVOD propositions. Drawing from our extensive experience in operating a suite of channels dedicated to movies and on-demand services, especially with our flagship pay-movie channel FilmBox which reaches 30 million households worldwide, we firmly believed that a legacy pay-movie services brand such as Film1 would be a great fit to SPI’s core operations and a good introduction for us into the pay-movie market in the Netherlands.”
– After buying Film1, you made a number of adjustments in the marketing and pricing of the channel. Can you explain?
“We believe that it is important to provide viewers with a top-notch curation of good content that is both accessible and affordable. Under SPI leadership, Film1 has become a platform that houses over 1,000 licensed titles that provides its viewers with a wonderful curation of popular movies, favorite evergreens and world cinema titles at all times on all its channels, and digital services. Film1 is now positioned in the Dutch market as a pay-movie service that always provides a good movie.”
– The first consumer campaign involved billboarding of Bohemian Rhapsody – how did this go?
“It was our first comprehensive ATL campaign for Film1 since taking over the brand assets in August 2019 as SPI International. The campaign included outdoor advertising, a Bohemian Rhapsody themed event for our operator partners, digital marketing and print media advertising which yielded wonderful results in terms of raising awareness and putting the Film1 brand back on the map.
“Now a few months after Film1’s first year anniversary with SPI International, we are seeing improvements in terms of the reception of our new brand proposition by the viewers, and positive developments surrounding our partnerships with major content distributors and TV operators.
“I am very happy to announce that we have managed to reverse the course of Film1 service. Now, we are seeing increases in total subscribers of Film1. It seems our value proposition has given its fruits and is being well received by viewers. Now our job will be to improve the level of the increase and obtain a larger subscriber base.
“During the first months of the lockdown caused by the pandemic, we collaborated with our numerous operator partners to make sure that we helped viewers have a rather more enjoyable time spent indoors. We opened all four of our linear channels for all DTV subscribers for four weeks and the results confirmed our unwavering belief in the potential of Film1: During this period, Film1 was ranked among the top 30 most viewed channels every day, reaching top 15 during primetime hours. We continued our operator collaborations after this by rolling out joint promotional offers, with great results in terms of subscriber base growth and engagement. We are taking steady steps towards enlarging our subscriber base both with the operators and via on demand, and working toward further strengthening our relationships with distributors and our operator partners to bring even more quality content to a larger number of households in the country.”
– What kind of movie deals did you make for the service?
“As I previously mentioned, we currently have over 1,000 titles under license ranging from Hollywood blockbusters, popular movies to critically acclaimed titles from all around the world. We have signed content deals with many world-class distributors, including deals with Belga Films, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Paradiso Entertainment, Splendid Film, Cherry Pickers, Just Bridge, Premiere TV Distribution, Three Lines Pictures, Kew Media, New Regency, Dutch Filmworks, A+E Networks, September Film and Entertainment One (eOne).
“We work towards bringing viewers an extensive selection of content with a focus on popular movies, favorite evergreens and movies of all genres that cater to a multitude of tastes. Film1 channels and on-demand services provide a platform for audiences where they can always find a good movie to watch whenever they want, wherever they want: whether they would like to watch the movies they missed on their theatrical release or re-watch their favourite movies or even want to find something different to enjoy, there’s something for everyone on our four Film1 channels and on-demand services!
“Our recent acquisitions from September Film, Belga Films and eOne include a critically acclaimed slate of Oscar-winners, such as 2019 Best Picture winner Green Book and 2020 Best Picture winner Parasite, and recent Hollywood hits like Bombshell, The Gentlemen and Knives Out. At Film1, we are committed to bringing the best movies from all over the world for our audiences to enjoy and it was our pleasure to have brought Parasite to the TV audience in the Netherlands for the first time in September.
“We also organised another major campaign for the fall this year where we promoted our exciting slate of new movies. One exciting activity we have done within the scope of this campaign is that we covered a tram that’s roaming the streets of Amsterdam in Film1’s signature navy blue, and included our major titles for the fall such as Parasite, Knives Out, Bombshell, and Amazing Grace. In addition, we supported this campaign with various outdoor advertising including abris and highway signposts, among other initiatives. We have also cooperated with our operator partners such as Ziggo and M7 on sales campaigns for the fall season, and continue to do so for December to promote our first Film1 Original ever: My Dad’s Christmas Date, SPI co-produced heartfelt Christmas comedy starring Jeremy Piven, Olivia Mai Barrett, Hadar Cats, Megan Brown Martinez, Nathalie Cox, Richard Ashton-Griffiths, and Joely Richardson.
“The movie tells the story of David, a single dad living with his 16-year-old daughter Jules, in York. Around Christmas time, 2 years after the untimely death of her mom, Jules decides to take matters into her own hands and find her father a girlfriend by signing him up to multiple dating platforms without his knowledge. All they each need for Christmas is love but this is easier said than done as Jules discovers when her plans begin to unravel with hilarious consequences. My Dad’s Christmas Date will premiere on Film1 Premiere on December 12th 2020, and will be available for subscribers to watch on-demand on Film1’s digital services from then on.”
– You are also making some modifications in the set-up, e.g. moving the play out to another country.
“The playout of the four linear Film1 channels has moved from TVT in Amsterdam to SPI in Warsaw. SPI operates in 69 countries with 42 channels across the globe with their playouts all located in Warsaw. We have a well-established structure that we have been utilizing for more than twenty years, and it has been working very well for Film1 channels, as well so far.”
– What do you think will be the future of linear movie channels and on-demand service with regards to the competition of Netflix and Disney+?
“The future of TV will be a hybrid one. I strongly believe that linear TV will continue to exist in some shape or form, simultaneously with products and services that provide an on-demand viewing option.
“We believe viewers will subscribe to multiple services and operators will continue to act as aggregators. There will be packages of different services and our movie services with the tagline of “Home of Good Movies” will be a great part of these bundles. We will position ourselves as a neighboring service provider to big streaming giants and continue to work with our partners to create these new packages.”