Polish broadcaster TVN is pushing further into online with an investment in five original series. The first series, a Polish version of US comedy Web Therapy, will launch on TVN’s Player.pl service on 21 October. Speaking at the Mipcom TV market in Cannes this morning, TVN executives said the 10 episode series will cost 1 million zlotys ($266 million), a similar budget to one of its traditional linear TV series. Between Q4 this year and Q1 2016, TVN will also debut two reality series, Lip Sync Battle and Start U Up, documentary series My Love Story and drama co-production Cape Town.
A key aim for TVN is to bolster its position in the online space before the expected launch of Netflix in the market. Initially, the main model for the Player will continue to be advertiser funding, but TVN is striking deals with other partners in order to develop payment models, including subscription video-on-demand (SVoD). This morning TVN also announced a partnership with Samsung to integrate the Player into mobile telephones and Smart TVs.
Player.pl, launched in August 2011, currently has 1.3 million registered users and according to the company engagement, averages eight hours and 25 minutes per user per month, surpassing other VoD in Poland. TVN’s key audience is younger adults, with a particular bias to urban areas. Overall, TVN is the third ranked TV network behind TVP and Polsat, but in cities and in the 16-49 age groups it is market leader.
The online commissions are part of a three-pronged strategy by the network to build usage of the Player. TVN also airs previews of new TV series seven days before their TV broadcast, and is also developing online spin-offs of its series, including Kitchen Nightmares. TVN is now 100% owned by Scripps Networks Interactive, which took full control of the group and delisted its shares from the Warsaw stock market at the end of September.
TVN’s commitment to original online production is unusual among commercial broadcasters in Europe, and stems from the view that it needs to respond to increased broadband penetration by changing the way it reaches its audience. Management today said that 25% of users of its players watch its TV series online only. Markus Tellenbach, president and CEO, commented that the development of online viewing is ‘irreversible’ and that groups like TVP could not afford to just wait and see how the market develops. ‘Non-linear viewers do not become linear viewers.’
While the expected launch of SVoD giant Netflix in Poland is a consideration, Tellenbach said the dominant revenue stream for the Player would be advertising for the next two to three years. However, the launch of the original series expected to give an added push to SVoD revenues. T-mobile bundles the Player in with its mobile services and Samsung will do the same with mobiles and smart TVs.