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22 November 2018

3SS rewrites substandard Blockbuster connected TV app

Blockbuster as a name lives on in legendary status but other than the company’s last remaining store in Oregon serving as a tourist hot spot, coverage of the Dish Network owned company is virtually non-existent. It was therefore a nice surprise to see the brand appear in a press release this week, as German multiscreen developer 3 Screen Solutions (3SS) announced a connected TV app project for the Nordic streaming reincarnation of Blockbuster, owned by TDC Group since 2014 (we covered the deal at the time).

The Nordics is where 3SS has most successfully applied its trade and TDC, the Danish operator well known for embracing changing viewing habits, has been on a rampage of late. Earlier this week it launched a new SVoD service for the Danish market called Nordisk Film+, in partnership with the OTT video service Fox+ from Fox Network Group Europe & Africa. The partnership has escalated quickly, with Nordisk Film+ arriving only days after TDC added Nordisk Film content to its own YouSee OTT offering and the two also formed a new pay TV channel called Xee this month.

3SS says building Blockbuster’s connected TV app is the first fruit to emerge from its appointment as something it calls Blockbuster’s “long-term innovation partner”, so either the app took an age to build or 3SS was quietly working behind the scenes before being handed the full contract. Initially, the app will be available on connected TV sets from Samsung, LG Web OS, Tizen, Netcast and Orsay, while phase two will include Panasonic, Philips and possibly others, although no timeframe for phase two was given.

The Stuttgart-based vendor is sliding in as the replacement for a previous Blockbuster connected TV app, which 3SS called legacy, with expressions like “underperformed” and “deemed to have led to subscriber churn,” used to describe it. Judging by these harsh words, clearly a rival company built the old connected TV app and a source confirmed to Faultline Online Reporter that the old version was not a 3SS product, but could not reveal which company it ousted. It could be that the original Blockbuster online service, which was developed in around 2007, to bring the company into rivalry with Netflix, was still in play.

Blockbuster is now using 3Ready, the product 3SS unveiled two years ago, which is a unified viewer engagement system for IPTV and VoD, allowing content owners and service providers to introduce new services to viewers. 3Ready is said to enable Linear on Demand, a personalized multiscreen system which collects and curates video assets from a diverse range of sources and assembles them to create a personalized linear experience.

3SS has equipped Blockbuster’s new UI with features including more intuitive navigation tools, the ability to set bookmarks, wish-lists, and personalized recommendations. In addition, it says 3Ready can capture and interpret viewer behavior data for Blockbuster, allowing for improved subscriber payment management, account tracking, and more impactful marketing campaigns.

Blockbuster, the Danish streaming service that is, expanded into Sweden, Finland and Norway in June 2017. Its biggest claim is to get movies directly from the cinema, a whole year before they arrive on Netflix and HBO. At the time of expansion, it claimed around 300,000 subscribers, but Blockbuster operates a transactional VoD service so counting a single buyer from years ago as a subscriber is not necessarily fair game, presuming this is how Blockbuster does its counting. Top titles cost about $7.60 to rent and $18.70 to buy, while older titles can be rented for as low as $1.35, so a whole lot cheaper than a trip to the cinema for a family.

The expansion of Blockbuster as an OTT video service is another sign of TDC continuing to stay ahead of the curve, after reaping the rewards of putting all of its YouSee content out OTT in August 2016.

TDC’s YouSee Play is the TV Everywhere service free to subscribers, while the now discontinued YouBio (a play on the Danish word for cinema) was priced at $15 a month for a full subscription, available via a Netgem set top. This was much too expensive and after trying to resuscitate YouBio as a TVoD service, TDC eventually replaced it with Blockbuster following the 2014 acquisition from Dish Network (who retains the brand rights outside of Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway). TDC also rolled out a YouSee app for Apple TV devices in September this year, something of a running theme in the Nordic region, and said at the time it would follow soon with an app for LG smart TVs.

3SS has built apps for Unitymedia, Swisscom and Com Hem, and has also implemented the set top UI for Canal Digital’s hybrid DTH OTT service, delivering to mobile devices as well as an Android TV set top from Technicolor.

Of the multiple vendors we have tracked which supply technologies across TDC’s various video operations, only one has been named for the Blockbuster service, which is thePlatform – supplying its MPX video management system to deliver the central CMS. Any one of Ateme, Harmonic, Anevia, Verimatrix, Agama technologies and ThinkAnalytics could also be involved in the Blockbuster connected TV app.