Per Björkman, Head of Distribution, Sveriges Television
Sveriges Television (SVT), a major Swedish public service broadcaster, aims to keep pace with commercial broadcasters in Sweden. Per Björkman, SVT’s head of distribution, talks about the challenges ahead for SVT.
VIA SATELLITE: Does the development of new broadcasting technology and infrastructure impact SVT’s business model?
BJÖRKMAN: I think in terms of broadcast infrastructure, we are quite well advanced. We started HD broadcasting from terrestrial with SVT1 and SVT2, our two main channels. These channels are also available via satellite, IPTV and cable. They are in simulcast and we are delivering them in both SD and HD versions.
We are in a phase where we are rapidly changing equipment in our facilities. We have prioritized to do non-news production first, and then we will enter the news environment. It will be many years before we can say we have 100 percent HD material. I would say a more technical challenge is that we are now delivering more of our content in an on-demand service on the Internet. If the service continues to grow at the rate it has been then it will require more investment. Broadcasting isn’t becoming cheaper just because fewer watch through that platform.
VIA SATELLITE: What major initiatives is SVT working on in terms of the delivery of content in Sweden?
BJÖRKMAN: There are a lot of connected TVs coming into the market, which can have apps installed that can give viewers more access to content. The problem is that there are different standards and different technical specifications meaning we would have to present different apps to different devices. That is a nightmare for a public broadcaster that does not charge for content. Also, if we were to provide a version of our on-demand player ‘SVTPlay’ for some of TV sets that are sold, which is possible, we don’t know when the TV manufacturers might change their ‘Internet engine’ within the TV set with new technology. We would then have to adapt both our content and our application if that happens.
VIA SATELLITE: What do you see as the main growth drivers for your business moving forward?
BJÖRKMAN: Our future is linked to a new government license deciding what our obligations are and what we are allowed to do on the Internet, for example. It will cover on-demand as well as streaming services. We have something similar to the (BBC) iPlayer called ‘SVTPlay,’ which has been very successful in Sweden. It has received opposition from some of the commercial broadcasters that want to develop their own paid on-demand services. For the next two years, we will be focusing on convincing the political authorities that we should have a much clearer focus on activities via the Internet, and not only broadcasting as it is today.
VIA SATELLITE: Will SVT launch any new SD channels?
BJÖRKMAN: No. Anything we do going forward will be based on HD. HD will basically be the standard form of television going forward. SD will disappear.
VIA SATELLITE: What is your take on the MPEG-2 versus MPEG-4 debate?
BJÖRKMAN: We see MPEG-4 as very much connected to our HD strategy. When we launched terrestrial services on DVB-T2, we also launched them in MPEG-4. But we are stuck with MPEG-2 as long as we have SD services. The way to get away from MPEG-2 and move to MPEG-4 is through HD.
VIA SATELLITE: Will the Swedish broadcast landscape see any significant changes over the next 12 months?
BJÖRKMAN: The broadcast environment in European countries shows that many commercial broadcasters are doing quite well. When you have a license fee like us, there is a certain amount of stability. We are not expanding. We have competition that has more and more money, but we are not getting more money. We tackle that with being careful about the areas we focus on. I think you will see us make some changes in terms of sports in the future. I am not sure that we will be able to compete with commercial broadcasters to get these rights. On the other hand, we have good trust from viewers who are the license fee payers. We don’t feel threatened, but we can see that our commercial competitors are growing stronger and stronger.