Local content creates engaged users

Sara Sjöman is Business Manager at the streaming service C More. She is responsible for packaging and pricing the content and selection that the company offers its customers online via streaming. Many of the challenges she faces at work relate strongly to copyright law and piracy.

How would you describe the trend and user behaviour?

- We’re observing the changes taking place in viewing habits and can now see the contours of tomorrow’s TV landscape. We’re moving from linear TV with programme schedules towards streaming, where users are more active and choose for themselves what they want to watch and when. This is a major benefit for the user. There is an increase in engagement, and also in the total consumption of moving content. It’s therefore become even more important to create a really relevant experience for the user.

What is a relevant experience of streamed content?

- We have deep insights into our customers’ wishes and preferences. We analyse our data and online statistics in a new way and gain decisive insights into how users consume content. From this, we learn lessons and build productions, package and communicate in order to reach the end user in the right way. We’re happy to personalise our communication in order to be able to produce relevant offerings for our customers.

- The relationship with our end customers is valuable for us. It’s absolutely crucial for our streaming business and our future development. Our own data, which we analyse for deeper consumer insights, is an intellectual asset that we handle with great care. Ultimately it creates relevant experiences for our users.

How do you work with issues relating to copyright?

- We deal with issues of copyright all the time, they’re a constant feature of our day-to-day work. The sporting rights we buy, for example, have inbuilt agreements that are often complex and have strict rules about how you can present players. We broadcast leagues, so it’s the teams that we must show in images and not individual players, and so on.

“Issues of copyright are the basis of the whole industry in which we operate.”

- It’s a jungle, but it’s become everyday life here for us. It can be especially challenging in certain sports, for example golf, where it’s more difficult to highlight the sport while at the same time having at least three players on screen. These are just a few small examples from my everyday life at work. Issues of copyright are the basis of the whole industry in which we operate.

What are the biggest challenges?

- We’re seeing that pirated streaming has increased, and is continuing to increase at a serious rate. When we broadcast our sporting events, there’s pirated streaming of every match, on a big scale. They steal our content, use our signals that are linked to TV subscriptions and stream matches live without paying for them.

“We’re seeing that pirated streaming has increased.”

- Pirated streaming of sporting events is causing us major losses of revenues. It’s incredibly expensive to broadcast a sporting event, and we need the revenues to be able to offer our customers a wide selection.

- Another tough challenge is all the illegal streaming sites that are popping up like mushrooms out of the ground, offering catalogues of pirate-streamed films, sometimes several thousand films. Swefilmer was one such example, but there are lots more. Criminals are using new domains all the time, combined with advanced search engine optimisation so that users can find them quickly on Google. You must bear in mind that these illegal streaming sites earn vast sums from advertising revenues, which they receive when users visit the site.

Piracy is a threat to the whole streaming business for which I’m responsible. Ultimately it hits our customers, and of course we want to prevent that. Customers choose us because of our rich and varied offering, the monthly cost is often secondary when choosing a streaming service. I’m not personally involved in the legal proceedings we pursue through the Swedish Rights Alliance, which is often engaged to represent the industry.

- The charges and judgements that emerge from the legal proceedings send out signals to society. Criminals receive their sentences and punishments, while users see that we’re taking action to defend our consumer offering. Our productions and rights have a high value, and we’re defending that value. Copyright law is a precondition for being able to produce new, high-quality content, as independent production requires plenty of planning and involves taking a risk.

“Illegal streaming sites earn vast sums from advertising revenues.”

- Illegal operators are usually masters of keyword optimisation. We’d like Google to accept more responsibility here, as that’s currently the main search engine in the Nordic market. Every month we scan the search engines and report over 60,000 illegal streaming sites and URLs to Google, but we see no tangible action on their part to shut down these sites. Not much happens.

- Working actively with search engine optimisation and competing with the illegal websites is a major challenge for us. We’re good at it, really good, but it’s still difficult to out-compete the illegal sites that use this as their biggest trump card. After all, they don’t need to produce their own content – because they steal from others. Independently produced, high-quality content is the most important thing for us, that’s where we want to focus our efforts, not on competing with thieves.

Tell us about the market for streaming.

- Local content is our strategy and our strongest card. We produce and offer local content for our market here in Sweden. We see that the productions created here in Sweden have quality, which is demanded by our audience. The local market also includes Denmark, Norway and Finland.

- At C More we’ve produced many major audience hits that have run for several seasons, such as ‘Gåsmamman’, ‘Modus’ and ‘Greyzone’. There’s strong demand for drama produced in Sweden. This includes script, cast, production and packaging. Our strategy of focusing on local content and producing our own material has been proven to work. For example, we can see long-tail searches for productions such as ‘Sune’ or ‘Adam and Eve’. These are high-quality productions that are constantly being looked for in search engines. With our own production, in the long run we’re supporting Swedish culture – we believe in our values of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

- The competition is incredibly tough, we’re now seeing international operators moving into our market, for example Amazon, Netflix and Disney. But we have the knowledge and the infrastructure to produce local content. That gives us major benefits.

Who are your streaming customers?

- We have customers of all ages, as we have a varied offering. We own the rights to Astrid Lindgren’s entire library and SF’s children’s content. And as we’re part of Bonnier Broadcasting together with TV4, we can collaborate on productions, agreements and synergies. Our customers like the local content, the Swedish tone as in ‘Så mycket bättre’, for example, and being able to watch films and series with no ad breaks at all. We also have the slightly older target groups who are less technically proficient, many are so-called late adopters.

What intellectual assets does C More possess?

- In addition to all the copyrights, agreements and productions, I’d emphasise in particular the relationship with end consumers, the insights we gain from analysing user data and viewing figures, as well as our knowledge and experience of the local infrastructure for film production. These combinations give us strength to withstand the increasingly tough international competition that we’re now experiencing. We want to offer the best, most relevant content for users in Sweden and the Nordic region.

What does the future hold?

- Everything’s moving so quickly at the moment. You can’t predict where we’ll be in five years. Technological developments are moving forwards and consumer behaviour is changing. We must be observant. We have long-term strategies, but we must be fast and flexible, modify and streamline our business models. We’re constantly thinking about how we can be twice as good.

- There’s one trend that’s interesting to follow, a totally new kind of viewing on YouTube. Many young people access a narrow range of authentic content there. For example bloggers who conduct personal discussions or how to produce slime. This isn’t consumption that we’re competing with, but we must relate to this new way of viewing and learn lessons from it. It’s a totally new business model and may say something about the future.