Unitymedia, the German arm of international pay TV provider Liberty Global, has added Netflix to its Horizon set-top-box platform. The move is a part of the ongoing rollout of Netflix on Liberty’s TV platforms in Europe and Latin America.
This partnership has already seen the subscription video service added to the Horizon platforms of the Netherland’s Ziggo and UPC Switzerland late last year. UPC Austria is due to follow suit in the coming months.
Netflix joins a reasonable offering of applications available on Horizon which include YouTube, Dailymotion, Google Maps and Euronews. More than half a million households in Germany were equipped with a Unitymedia Horizon box by the end of 2016 according to Liberty Global’s Preliminary Fiscal 2016 results. The operator does not specify, however, how many of these have the Horizon HD Recorder model required to access the applications interface – though this is offered with all but the lowest tier Unitymedia TV package.
Netflix continues to put itself in front of as large a global audience as possible, and tapping into premium pay TV customer bases is a tried-and-tested strategy for accessing customers that have a high propensity to pay for TV and video. Meanwhile, from a Unitymedia perspective, customers with a Netflix subscription gain the convenience of seamless integration of their two services in a single TV-connected device, adding content and thereby value to the Horizon system.
Liberty Global’s decision to partner with Netflix is also a clear endorsement of the service as a channel-like service that adds value to a pay TV subscription by providing customers with access to a growing catalogue of original and increasingly localised content.
Unitymedia does not offer a standalone online subscription video service of its own; instead, its library of on-demand services is incorporated into its TV packages. Much of this content is available at no extra cost, while there is also an extensive catalogue available on a transactional basis, all accessible via the Horizon Go multiscreen service. Netflix serves as a complementary addition to these services.
In some of Liberty Global’s other markets, however, Netflix will compete directly with part of the pay TV operator’s offering. MyPrime, a premium multiscreen subscription add-on available in markets including Switzerland, Poland and Czech Republic, has served as a direct competitor to Netflix since it debuted in the Netherlands in 2014.
Netflix is not the first third-party subscription video app to be made available via the Horizon platform. Already present is local online video service Maxdome, which is one of Netflix’s biggest direct rivals in the German subscription video market. It offers more local content and more than 50,000 movies and series episodes as well as the option to rent or buy to keep. It also carries the same price tag as Netlfix’s basic-tier service, at €7.99 a month. Maxdome has been available as an integrated add-on package to a Unitymedia TV subscription since 2015, with access extending to Horizon Go, making it a more complete integration than Netflix’s. In spite of all this, Netflix is ahead of Maxdome in Germany in terms of market share according to IHS Markit and some more local original content could extend its lead. Maxdome is unlikely to appreciate sharing space on the Horizon user-interface with the global giant.
The addition of Netflix precedes an upgrade to the Horizon set top box throughout Liberty Global’s TV network. Currently the Horizon HD Recorder model can only support HD content but the new ‘Eos’ box will support UHD. To view content of this digital quality, the recommended Netflix download speeds for HD and UHD content are 5 and 25 Mbps respectively per stream. Given that all of Unitymedia’s current Internet-TV bundles have download speeds starting at 60 Mbps, Netflix users with such bundles are likely to have full UHD capabilities when the new system launches. The current HD capabilities of the Horizon box partnered with an ease of access app may be a factor for pushing customers’ subscription tier up from a basic SD package to an HD standard-tier and perhaps further to the UHD premium-tier when partnered with an Eos box.