Visionik Targets Italy and Spain
Visionik hopes to make a greater impact in southern Europe over the next few months.
The interactive applications developer, which is now part of NDS [Nasdaq: NDS], has been one of the key applications developers for digital television, working with numerous players from satellite TV operators such as BSkyB to major channel brands such as MTV. While its applications are fairly well entrenched in the UK, it hopes other markets in Europe will provide a boost in 2003. In particular, the satellite pay-TV market in Italy could provide a boost.
Jesper Knutsson, CEO of Visionik, told SATELLITE NEWS: “For us, the main focus point will be southern Europe, so I think we are going to see things happening in Spain, Italy etc. I think in Italy we are going to see some big things. That platform potentially is very, very interesting … I also think France could be interesting. It is almost at a stage like the UK, where it is a more mature market. Those are the main ones. The dark horse is Germany, but I don’t envisage that market developing yet.”
Deals With Satellite Operators
In terms of deals with satellite pay-TV operators, 2004 could be a particularly fruitful year. Knutsson commented: “In regards to other opportunities with satellite operators, I think Sky Italia and Canal Satellite in France are both in a good position in their respective markets. Regarding the comparison between cable and satellite, it seems like satellite operators are currently more aggressive in regards to interactive TV, while cable operators have a stronger focus on broadband.”
While the Italian satellite TV market could be the next growth opportunity, Visionik also plans to increase its presence among the cable players in Europe, although Knutsson concedes this might not be particularly easy.
“We are working with some cable operators such as UPC in Holland,” Knutsson said. “We are also going to launch certain things on cable in other areas of the world. The main thing with the cable operators in Europe is that a lot of them are still figuring out how they want to go with interactive and how high up on their priorities it is, or whether their main priorities should be broadband. There are questions like, where does it fit with other services like VOD [video-on-demand]? Even though the cable operators are getting in a stronger position financially, a lot of them are still regrouping and figuring out how to tackle the whole area of digital TV.”
Knutsson is unsure what levels of investments cable operators are likely to make in interactive services. Visionik derives around 30 percent of its revenues from satellite pay- TV operators, and would like to increase its share in the cable market.
Knutsson comments: “You have seen Casema more or less shut down their whole digital TV stuff as far as I am aware. At least, we are seeing a different strategy from them. Whether or not we will see big investments from the cable companies is still up in the air. We are seeing different approaches from cable operators. I think we will see some more creative strategies … A lot of these operators have found the migration to digital made difficult by the huge number of channels traditionally offered in analog. Many of them are trying to become profitable by re-packaging content rather than embracing interactivity.”
While Visionik hopes to increase its deal flow with cable operators, it is still likely that the key deals will come from satellite pay-TV operators in 2004.
Visionik delivers iTV services to around 20 cable and satellite networks around the globe. More than 10 million households enjoy Visionik services. These services include video games, gambling, interactive advertising, etc. Knutsson predicted that the content providers will continue to focus more on the interactive side over the next 12 months.
“I think we are going to work a lot closer with the content owners,” Knutsson said. “It is almost like all major content owners are beginning to focus on interactive, so the channels themselves are a lot more focused on interactive than they have been. I think they are also increasingly focused on connecting the broadcast content to the interactive content. What we are going to see is going to be closely linked to broadcast. What we are witnessing is one huge branding exercise in a congested marketplace. “
Knutsson sees broadcasters becoming more aware of quality content. They are seeing that it is not just a case of launching interactive services, but launching services that fit in with their target group.
Knutsson hopes Visionik can take gaming applications to the next level in 2004.
“We are rolling out new products on the games side,” Knutsson said. “In terms of the infrastructure for games, it is becoming more and more important that we provide the gaming experience through providing infrastructure components; things like multiplayer, community-based services. I think you will see those things by the end of June 2004.”
(Margot Field, NDS, e-mail: Mfield@ndsuk.com )