VoD startup Pantaflix must adapt fast after early Disney gift

Disney’s partnership with the relatively unknown German transactional VoD (TVoD) service Pantaflix is perhaps most significant as it follows up a major announcement between Netflix and Deutsche Telekom just last week – signaling that the two new enemies are taking very different routes to market in Europe.

While a deal with Deutsche Telekom opens up some 7.3 million pay TV subscribers as potential Netflix customers, plus scope to expand the deal to 160 million mobile subscribers worldwide, Disney is instead hedging its bets on a streaming service that only launched in July 2016 – in what is the fledgling company’s first major studio deal.

As of the first quarter next year, Pantaflix users in Germany and Austria will have access to popular Disney titles including the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and Marvel Universe movies, plus the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi to coincide with the blockbuster’s DVD release.

Pantaflix currently houses mainly old movies, but as the company was founded by ex-Amazon Germany producer Matthias Schweighöfer, this suggests that Pantaflix will soon have original content ambitions once it gets the ball rolling. Winning rights to show the latest Star Wars movie will most definitely achieve that, while its generous content pricing structure should attract some top talent – giving producers a 75% revenue share and keeping the rest.

This happy-go-lucky attitude towards embarking on a streaming video venture is all well and good if you have the technology backbone. Details are minimal, but the Pantaflix website boasts about not using a recommendation engine, stating: “Instead of relying solely on algorithms to recommend films, we’re building a team of living, breathing, film-loving experts who will help you find something perfect to watch.”

Pantaflix openly says it is plotting a global expansion effort, a feat which a recommendation engine will help it reach, so the reason for distancing itself from this technology is unclear, other than as a money saving exercise because of its presumably small user base. As it grows, paying people to do all the personalization work manually will outweigh the costs of installing a recommendation engine – so there is a potential opportunity here for our recommendation software vendor readers if Pantaflix achieves its goal of global success.

The Pantaflix difference is going against the common SVoD trend, adopting a rental method, describing this as a twist on the pay as you go model called “pay and stay in and don’t go anywhere” – a strap line which needs some work. Each title purchased is available for 30 days and then for 48 hours after the first time it is played.

As far as we can see, two of the major OTT services in Germany and Austria, Maxdome and Zattoo, have no licensing deals in place with Disney, meaning a big boost for Pantaflix as it chases down rivals in the German market.

Pantaflix, which changed its name from Pantaleon Entertainment this summer, also plans to add TV series to its portfolio “ASAP” and the app is available on Android, iOS and Amazon Fire TV. The TVoD service is available in multiple languages including Mandarin and is working its way into the Asia Pacific market, having signed a deal with Chinese media mogul and CEO of Sun Seven Stars Media Group Network Bruno Wu earlier this year – which has a large presence in Shanghai and Beijing.

Pantaflix COO Stefan Langefeld, an ex-Apple executive, said, “Our aim is to become the world’s leading VoD service for the film industry. The agreement with Disney underscores this endeavor and is a crucial milestone on this journey. Not only has our business model been validated by a world-class partner but the cooperation is also an impressive testament to the unique Pantaflix technology and our innovative distribution and exploitation model. Further major partnerships will follow.”