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Vodafone Picks Kaltura Platform for TV Launch in Italy

Vodafone has continued its pan European pay TV expansion by launching in Italy with the help of Kaltura, which supplied the OTT TV platform. This echoes the expansion of Vodafone TV in Spain almost two years ago in September 2015, when New York-based Kaltura was chosen to support VoD and catch up services via OTT over existing TiVo-made set top boxes, without having to deploy new hardware.

Vodafone has since forged ahead in Spain, becoming the first operator in the country to offer significant 4K content live and on-demand in February 2017, based on a new Ultra HD ready set top box. The new Vodafone TV service includes 120 TV channels and the Videoclub VoD service, along with programming from HBO Spain and Netflix. In total, more than 20,000 titles are accessible quickly and intuitively through a new engine supporting personalized recommendations, according to the company. Apart from Netflix, some sports events are available in UHD, including one Spanish La Liga game per week.

The Italian launch highlights how Vodafone is proceeding at different rates in each country and having to cater for varying infrastructures. The overall approach is much the same, with access to a catalogue of content from a range of different television and OTT sources, available through live, VOD, catch-up, start over, cloud DVR and a range of apps. The content libraries of services including Netflix and Sky Italia Now TV. But there is more reliance on the company’s 4G mobile network for multi-screen availability and cloud DVR, with the Vodafone Pass providing effectively subsidized data without affecting users’ allowance for other non-TV services.

The Video Pass allows users to view TV on the move at €10 for four weeks, including access to the internet TV service as well as mobile video. In addition, Vodafone is launching a social and chat pass, enabling unlimited access to social networks for €5 for four weeks, and a music pass, for €3. Kaltura’s platform enables content discovery, favorites, cross device interaction and watch lists.

In Germany Vodafone took a different route into TV by acquiring Kabel Deutschland, then the company’s biggest cable operator with 8.5 million customers, for €7.7bn in June 2013. This was Vodafone’s first significant move into consumer fixed-line broadband and TV, immediately making the operator a leading pay TV player there. Since then Vodafone Germany has built on this base, culminating in February 2017 with the launch of a more advanced TV platform, GigaTV, integrating linear TV, on-demand video and apps from streaming services, as well as multiscreen access to content via smartphones and tablets.

GigaTV with a set-top box is available exclusively over the former Kabel Deutschland cable network for €14.99 a month, but with an app-only variant providing TV streams to multiscreen devices for €9.99.

Ironically Vodafone has been much less successful with its TV plans in its home UK market, where it has been thwarted so far by lack of fixed broadband capacity. Indeed, Vodafone has been rumored to be negotiating exit deals on pay TV channel contracts it had struck in anticipation of a major launch, suggesting that is has failed to appreciate the challenges involved in denting the broadband quadropoly between BT, Sky, Virgin Media and TalkTalk.

Vodafone has indicated that its UK TV plans are merely on hold, but in that case, it would want to keep deals with major broadcasters such as ITV, Channel 4, Sky, UKTV and Viacom alive so as to avoid protracted renegotiations when it finally does decide to launch.

An obvious move would have been to emulate the German strategy by acquiring the country’s dominant cable TV operator Virgin Media, but the much larger Liberty Global got there first. As a result, there has been speculation that Vodafone will pursue a joint-venture with Virgin Media covering just the UK, or even a full-blown merger with Liberty Global to create a global communications and entertainment conglomerate.

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