Smart TV booms in Germany

Germany came late to pay TV but is now in the vanguard of the connected and hybrid-TV market, with 26.5 million smart TV devices having sold by the end of 2012.

According to German Consumer Electronics industry organization Gfu, this included 15 million smartphones, 1.4 million tablets, 7 million laptop PCs and 3.1 million smart TVs. The survey found that 30 percent of the smart-TV owners use their devices to watch free, short video clips, while 18 percent watch moves and 15 percent use the on-demand libraries offered by TV broadcasters. Some 15 percent use Smart TVs to look for news and information, while a further 15 percent listen to music from internet radio stations and online services.

This corresponded with rapid OTT growth as almost 1500 internet TV services are now available in Germany via brands associated with traditional media companies, according to a different report commissioned by Bavarian media regulator BLM from Berlin-based strategy consultants Goldmedia. According to that survey, these services produce in total about 194 million daily views, and the number of people accessing them has grown by 17 percent over the year. Average viewing duration increased from nine minutes in 2011 to 11 minutes in 2012 for online video-on-demand, and from 25 minutes to 28 minutes for linear online TV.

The survey respondents expected accelerating growth in online TV consumption, with the number of daily views set to rise from 194 million in 2012 to 451 million by 2016, with VOD gaining faster linear TV.

Against this background, leading German broadcasters have been lobbying for action to regulate new players in pay TV, especially big smart-TV makers such as Samsung, to create a level playing field in the emerging multiscreen connected-TV era.

German mass media company ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG, which operates commercial TV services, is leading the charge, with Senior Vice President Annette Kümmel arguing that these new players are bringing services that compete with existing ones but at present are subject to different and much lighter regulations. Kümmel is also the newly elected chairman of the Department of Television and Multimedia, and has been speaking in that capacity about the need for tighter regulation at a time when smart-TV activity is ramping up in Germany.

This could lead to discussions between the broadcasters and the German Smart TV Working group, which is part of the German TV Platform, whose members include Philips, Panasonic, Loewe, Samsung, ARD, ZDF, RTL, and Pro7Sat1. The group is led by Jürgen Sewczyk, one of the pionners of digital TV in Germany while at the Bertelsmann Group.