SPI – a Polish baby-HBO – sets out to tackle the US, Latam markets

Polish premium TV channel specialist SPI, which owns movie channel Filmbox, has made a move to bring its portfolio of content to the US – securing satellite distribution channels with Eutelsat.

From March 2017 SPI International will use two Eutelsat satellites 113 West A and 65 West A, to push these channels to pay TV operators in the US and Latin America in both English, and Spanish, with some Portuguese distribution for Brazil. In two weeks SPI is also planning a new distribution deal in Germany, with its first ever channels in German, through a deal with Tele Columbus, the third largest cable company in Germany.

The company thinks of itself as the Polish equivalent of HBO, and eventually wants both types of distribution – conventional broadcast from cable, DTH and IPTV – as well as OTT. It mostly operates business to business, but says it will contemplate a business to consumer move, like those HBO took when it introduced HBO Go and HBO Now.

A spokesman told us, “We introduced the first UHD channel in Europe in June 2015 – Funbox, and that is now set to be delivered in 8 markets (Poland, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Luxembourg, Romania, Turkey and the Netherlands).  SPI always buys global content rights, and our default language is English, but then we allow for some language localization.” Its’ Filmbox service is also available in these markets, but also in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

While the company was not pre-announcing any deals landed in these new territories, it talked specifically about serving regionalized operators in Brazil. Play-out and uplink services, along with the technical management of the platform, will be provided by United Teleports in Miami.

SPI has put together reference channels which include DocuBox HD, 360TuneBox HD, FashionBox HD, Fast&FunBox HD, FightBox HD, Filmbox Art House, Gametoon and NatureVision TV and of course FunBox UHD, which it says will be one of the first UHD channels to arrive in Latin America.

Back in July 2015 SPI’s  4K Funbox channel was shown free-to-air on Eutelsat’s Hot Bird satellite showing nature scenes such as wildlife and landscapes and the channel was launched officially at the Anga conference that year and then encrypted in the autumn for European cablecos and telcos.

The company also has online distribution using apps for iOS, Android as well as smart TVs from Samsung, Sony, LG, Philips and Vestel, plus the Roku box and gaming consoles from Sony and Microsoft. The spokesman told us that it has recently added Amazon Fire too.

Back in November Liberty Global’s UPC DTH extended a deal with SPI International to reach UPC Direct customers in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary with Filmbox Live – allowing users to stream live and on-demand content on multiple devices.

The shift to the US as well as the forthcoming deal in Germany shows that SPI International is increasing its deal velocity and starting to build momentum.