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20 June 2019

Proximus Android TV launch triggers Belgian broadcaster tantrum

Belgian telco Proximus had its new Android TV launch celebrations abruptly and bizarrely extinguished by a gaggle of angry broadcasters last weekend – uniting to voice discontent at having their channels distributed on a new video platform without their consent. We feel this is a case of checking the small print in distribution rights deals and certainly a precursor to similar operator-broadcaster horn-butting across Europe as the latter huddle ever closer together.

Called Pickx, the Android-based platform has rolled out to pay TV customers with the aim of phasing out the current Proximus TV brand by October. Given Pickx’s clear positioning as a replacement pay TV platform, the reasoning behind the objections by Belgium’s four main broadcasters is interesting. As so often though, the dispute comes down to money, with RTL, VRT, RTBF and DPG Media (VTM) claiming Pickx is ultimately threatening their ad revenues.

What they really mean is that Proximus doubling its distribution mediums should equate to double the ad revenues.

Whether or not the four broadcasters have enough ground to stand on to initiate a lawsuit looks slim at present, although a decree in Flanders – the Dutch-language region of Belgium – states that pay TV operators are not allowed to make changes to a broadcast signal.

Even the Pickx UI isn’t safe from attack. The broadcasters have claimed, a little overdramatically, that Proximus has insulted the integrity of broadcast content by organizing content by consumer preference, making navigation of the EPG easier. The broadcasters’ complaints suggest their channels have been knocked down the pecking order, which has reportedly riled a hoard of disgruntled subscribers, who have taken issues with the channel numbers on the platform. Despite what local outlets have suggested, this is likely a very small number of consumers averse to change, who will soon forget about such trivial modifications.

Now, let’s shift away from the amateur dramatics and get a little technical. We know Proximus has been a customer of Frog by Wyplay middleware for some time having been responsible for integrating Netflix on Proximus TV. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, Proximus launched its new Android TV platform about a week or so after the French vendor unveiled a new aggressive Android TV operator tier strategy, exhausting all avenues of its product portfolio to birth something which sounds rather comprehensive.

Considering Wyplay launched an Android-based 4K IPTV system with Proximus back in 2017, we strongly believe Wyplay was an integral part of this project, although we are waiting for the company to get back to us with confirmation. This week’s Android-based set top is coined the V7, running Android Pie, which comes less than a year since the Belgian operator rolled out the V6 device.

Also playing a hand at Proximus is Ateme’s Titan encoding software powering the video headend, replacing Envivio encoders over two years ago now. We have long suspected Edgeware to have a contract at Proximus for its video delivery network technology, designed to support a traditional CDN with servers outputting both QAM and IP video simultaneously with dynamic shifting between each. Verimatrix has also cropped up supplying its multi-DRM system for digital security, while ThinkAnalytics’ content recommendation software has been confirmed as expanding from Proximus TV to Pickx, so we assume a similar situation for the other vendor suppliers listed here.