Market Watch

Voddler Available to All in Sweden and Norway



Swedish online video start-up Voddler is now available in Sweden and Norway to anyone wishing to access the site. The service, which is notable for bringing 'free' (ad funded), legal movies to the Nordic market, has registered 650,000 users on an 'invite only' basis since its beta launch in Sweden in the summer of 2009. The closed beta will continue in Demark and Finland.

Currently the site has approximately 2,000 titles, with 1,600 available for free on an add-supported basis. The 400 titles that are available only on a pay-per-view basis cost between SEK 27 and 37, for a rental period of 24 hours. Voddler offers movies from local distributors and the Hollywood majors, with the exception of 20th Century Fox, as well as a limited number of TV series.

Analysis
It is reasonable to assume that the ad-supported content will account for the majority of consumption on the service. However, it seems likely that the free-to-view TV and movie components will fare very differently. Hulu has demonstrated that there is an appetite for ad-supported catalogue movies online but the market for premium free-to-view video is primarily driven by broadcaster catch-up services, with around 90 per cent of consumption of content on those services typically coming in the first seven days after TV shows have been broadcast. Considering that Voddler's offering lacks any catch-up, its TV component is unlikely to compete with online TV offerings from local broadcasters such as SVT.

This dichotomy has been reflected in the coverage that the service has received prior to coming out of closed beta, which predominantly focused on the fact it offered free movies. However, the age of the movie titles and lack of catch-up TV, coupled with the fact that the service is not affiliated with a broadcaster, suggests that Voddler - like MSN in the UK and Hulu in the US - will not attract the sort of CPMs enjoyed by the broadcasters.

In its current iteration, the transactional piece of the Voddler service is unlikely to make a significant impact. Paid online TV and movie content in the Nordics has struggled to gain a foothold due to a lack of device-based services, such as iTunes. Just a few of the online movie and TV services in Sweden and Norway offering content on a transactional basis enable users to easily consume content on another screen: the Zune movie store on the Xbox 360; Viasat on Demand which is available via connectable set-top boxes; and Bonver's Film2Home which Philip offers on its Net TV platform. Otherwise, most services are tethered to the PC and consumers have generally proven reluctant to pay for content under these conditions. As a result, the market for digital rental in these territories remains underdeveloped and practically non-existent in the case of digital retail or 'download-to-own'.

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