Vivendi has decided to shut down its German video streaming service Watchever at the end of this year, as originally reported in Les Echos earlier today.
The OTT provider's future has been in doubt for the last year when reports surfaced that Vivendi had retained Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. to find a buyer. Watchever had run up a loss of €66 million (US$72.4 million) in 2013, which had its owners worried. It would appear now that no buyer is forthcoming and Vivendi has simply decided to cut its losses.
Vivendi has reportedly been planning a "European Netflix," acquiring the pay-TV business of Italy's Mediaset S.p.A. in April 2016 on the way to creating a multilingual media group that could offer streaming services across Europe (and Spanish- and French-speaking parts of Latin America and Africa). The company already owns Canal Plus, parent of Canal Play, a French streaming service.
Yet, in spite of the experience, scale and ambitions of the parent company, Watchever was just unable to catch on. This is evidence that there is likely to be a "thinning of the herd" in the OTT video market in the coming years, as an increasing number of players battle for the same subscribers and revenue.
A recent survey by German research firm Goldmedia found Amazon was the clear leader in the German pay VoD market, with 32% market share. Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) came in second with 17%, followed by Sky Deutschland, maxdome and others. Watchever was only able to get 3%, despite being an award-winning service and offering features such as offline viewing and multilingual versions of its videos. It had a sizable library with 12,500 titles, including content from Canal Plus, Disney and CBS.
Goldmedia also found the overall market for VoD services in Germany to be robust, generating €423 million ($464 million) in 2015 and expected to grow to €990 million ($1 billion) in 2021. Some 43% of all Internet users in the country are already paying for a streaming video service, with that figure also expected to grow. However, the company also found that there were 38 different VoD providers, with still more on the way.
This competition was simply too intense for Watchever, as it might well be for others around the world in the coming years. Amazon, Netflix, Sky/HBO etc. will end up dominating most markets and there will be some successful local players like maxdome (owned by German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 Media) in some markets. But most others could struggle, caught between the high price of premium content and the requirements and expectations of subscribers.
However, the failure of one service enables another to acquire rights to its premium content, and could eventually lead to market consolidation. If operators are interested in maintaining their video aggregator role in the long term, they need to be in this mix: adding to their multiscreen libraries, or at least making sure others don't. (See Growth of Netflix Competitors Could be Positive for Pay-TV Providers).
Back in the day, newcomers to New York looking for rental properties were told to keep an eye on the obituaries, so they could identify vacancies before anyone else. Today, this might also be good advice for pay-TV providers looking for high-value multiscreen content.
— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation