Two new commercial digital terrestrial (DTT) TV channels launched in Spain on 1 July. Mega, operated by Grupo Atresmedia, and BeIn Sports, owned by the Qatari BeIn Media Group, were added to the 22 free national channels offered on the DTT platform. Both channels are in standard definition (SD), but transmissions in high definition (HD) in the future have not been ruled out once the additional multiplex capacity required for carrying HD channels is available.
Mega is the fifth DTT channel operated by Grupo Atresmedia, alongside Antena 3, La Sexta, Neox and Nova. Mega’s programming caters for a predominantly male audience with mainly international TV series focusing on action, science-fiction, factual, mystery and investigation. Mega will also broadcast documentaries (primarily history and natural history), action movies and some sports programming (handball and youth team football).
The arrival of BeIn Sports in Spain follows an agreement between the production and distribution company Mediapro and the parent company of BeIn Media Group. Mediapro decided to close Gol TV, a DTT pay channel launched in August 2009 and to replace it, using the capacity that Mediapro rents from a commercial DTT multiplex operator, with BeIn Sports. BeIN Sports will be offered, later in the year, from pay TV platforms as well.
Mega will target a valuable demographic segment (men between the ages 25 to 54) sought after by advertisers. Atresmedia lost, at least part of this demographic, after the closure on 5 May 2014 of three of its own channels - Nitro, Xplora and La Sexta 3. The closure followed a Supreme Court decision to overrule the allocation of DTT channels to national commercial operators, made by the Spanish government in 2010. Nitro and Xplora offered similar content to Mega. Atresmedia is hoping to capitalise on the recovery of the Spanish TV ad market: between 2012 and 2015 TV adspend is expected to increase 43%, according to IHS Advertising Media Intelligence. IHS expects that by 2019 the TV advertising revenues will grow a further 7.2%.
For BeIn Media Group the strategic goal is to expand the global sports media franchise that it controls while at the same time, gaining a strong foothold in a major European TV market. The BeIn Sports channel is present in 31 countries worldwide, while a launch in Turkey could be imminent after the acquisition of the pay TV operator Digiturk by BeIn Media Group.
The DTT market in Spain has been in a state of turmoil for the last two years. In 2013, the Spanish government had decided to reduce the number of DTT multiplexes available nationwide from 10 to eight because, after the allocation of the Digital Dividend spectrum to mobile operators, there were not enough frequencies to support 10 DTT multiplexes. As a result, the national commercial broadcasters had to keep five multiplexes (instead of the six allocated to them in 2010) and the national and regional public broadcasters had to keep three multiplexes (instead of four). A further blow to the DTT platform was delivered by the Supreme Court on May 2014 ruling the closure of nine commercial FTA channels. The Court decided that the awarding of the DTT licences was unlawful as no public tender was held. As a result of the decision, Mediaset Espana, Veo TV and Net TV shut down two channels each, while Atresmedia closed three. A further disastrous decision for DTT was avoided the last minute in June 2015 when an agreement was reached between the national commercial broadcasters and the company Infraestructuras y Gestion 2002. Infraestructuras y Gestion 2002 had made an appeal to the Supreme Court demanding the annulment of the DTT licence allocation process which was held in 2010. If the plaintiff had won the case, then another eight DTT channels would have had to close down.
On another positive note for DTT, the Spanish government has decided to hold, probably in October 2015, a public tender for the award of six new DTT licences. Three of the six licences are for HD channels while the rest for SD ones. Six TV operators submitted bids by the deadline of 30 May: Atresmedia, Mediaset Espana, Prisa, 13 TV (all four having applied for two DTT licences), Secuoya and Net TV (the last two having applied for one DTT licence).
The DTT platform is the dominant method of watching TV in Spain: 69.19% of TV households used DTT as their primary TV reception means at the end of 2014 according to IHS Television Media Intelligence. However, that figure, again according to IHS Television Media Intelligence, was 75.89% in 2013. The DTT platform, while being dominant, is also faced with competition from satellite, cable and IPTV, primarily because the other platforms have a very rich and varied content offer that the DTT platform cannot match. The DTT platform in Spain provides a rather limited content offer in comparison with the DTT offer in other major Western European TV markets like the UK, France and Italy. At the end of 2014, the national free DTT offer in the UK was 73 channels (12 of them in HD), in Italy, 58 channels (eight in HD) and in France, 24 channels (11 of them in HD). Spain had the smallest channel offer (22 in total) and the smallest HD offer (six channels).