OTT is fizzing in all four Nordic countries.
The Nordic region is now one of the world’s hotbeds for multiscreen OTT services following the entry of Time Warner’s HBO and Netflix, ranged alongside an array of local providers such as Norwegian incumbent Telco Telenor and Voddler.
HBO, the largest U.S. premium network with 29 million subscribers, said it was launching a “multi-platform video distribution venture,” expanding on the existing online catch-up service HBO Go already available in some central and eastern European territories, although not yet the big markets of Western Europe. The HBO Nordic service will be run as a joint venture with Parsifal International, a privately owned company providing media services throughout Europe, which runs the Finnish TV channel URHOtv offering sports and movies.
Meanwhile, Netflix has also unveiled plans to launch across the four Nordic countries of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland by the end of 2012, renewing its international expansion after a six-month hold while the operator returned to profitability. The service, which will be available on PCs, Macs, smart TVs, games consoles, Blu-ray disc players, smartphones and tablets, will comprise a mixture of movie and local material depending on the outcome of ongoing talks with local content partners.
Currently, Netflix operates inCanada, the UK, Ireland, and several Latin American countries besides its US domestic market. Netflix originally planned to launch in Spain before the Nordics, early in 2012, but postponed this partly because of the deepening recession in that country.
HBO and Netflix are entering an already competitive market for OTT in all four of the Nordic countries, with local players including Amazon-owned LoveFilm, Viaplay from the Swedish media company MTG (Modern Times Group), and private Stockholm-based Voddler.
Viaplay, in June 2012, became one of Europe’s first providers to offer a full hybrid service combining digital terrestrial with OTT, by teaming up with French set top box maker Netgem to develop a dedicated set top box. The service delivers a range of free to air terrestrial channels combined with paid premium content delivered OTT. Viaplay claimed this was the first time a pay TV operator in the Nordics had combined adaptive bit rate streaming technology with free-to-air digital terrestrial transmission to provide a single TV service with just one channel list with seamless channel change. Other hybrid services, such as BT Vision in the UK, have used DTT to deliver linear channels and a dedicated IPTV network for on demand content as a single subscription package but as largely separate services.
Viaplay is using the Viaplay box to broaden its existing Swedish offering, and make linear and on-demand pay-TV content, including TV series, films and sports, available directly on a TV using a remote control. Viaplay already offered an online TV service, and the new box combines this with MTG’s Viasat DTT channels, all now available to multiscreen devices such as PCs, tablets and smartphones, as well as connected TVs, via a single log in. The box itself is a customized version of Netgem’s existing multifunction hybrid STB, using its middleware to drive the enhanced Viaplay service combined with the linear DTT channels.