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European Union promises more help for content and connected TV

Cable and broadband operators were offered a bargain by the European Union’s digital agenda commissioner and vice president Neelie Kroes at last week’s Cable Congress in Brussels.

They must embrace competition and cease calling for protectionist measures. In return, the European Union would increase its support for broadband investment as well as connected TV deployment. Kroes revealed that the European Commission — the EU’s governing body — will be publishing a policy paper on connected TV later this year, setting out ideas on stimulating the field.

Speaking in the closing keynote on Day Two of Cable Congress, Kries also referred to a pressing need to support cloud computing as the delivery model for emerging hybrid and connected TV services. She promised a strategy on that as well by mid 2012.

Delegates were perhaps more surprised to hear Kroes refer to a lack of high-quality content as a factor that could hold back connected TV in Europe. This was probably in response to continuing consumer surveys in some countries of continental Europe, such as Germany, criticizing existing TV services on the grounds that there is nothing interesting to watch. Even so, some operators question whether it is the business of the European Union to meddle in editorial strategies over content in its member states.

Most delegates were more interested in Kroes’ comments relating to the need for EU investment to reduce the cost and risk of broadband deployments by large operators and local governments. But, Kroes made a clear distinction between such infrastructure development and measures to stimulate competition, which she considered essential to stimulate Europe’s broadband and broadcast economy. She made it clear operators would not be allowed to monopolize infrastructure paid for partly out of public investment, and that markets should be opened to competition at every link of the broadcast or broadband chain in order to deliver the maximum possible consumer choice. This should involve real unbundling of services from infrastructure, not just synthetic rebranding exercises, she added.