Q&A with Berk Uziyel, SPI International

Broadband TV News speaks with Berk Uziyel, CEO at SPI International, about the company’s plans for further growth and expansion in all its territories.

What impact has the merger with Canal+ had on SPI? Has it led to further growth in terms of viewership and digital products?
The overall business evolution has been very positive for our company. The merger with CANAL+ triggered further growth on different fronts for SPI in all the territories where we operate. The viewership of our channels and digital products are increasing significantly along with our advertising revenues and the number of subscribers that now have access to our services.

For example, our flagship movie channel FilmBox has been the leader in the pay-TV movie market in Czechia for the past two years, and is still going strong. Following the great success of FilmBox in the territory, we decided to initiate viewership measurement for our premium movie channel FilmBox Stars which now offers more targeted offerings to elevate the viewing experience of our audiences. In addition, we also launched FilmBox for the first time in Western Europe in the Netherlands. In just a little over a year, the channel is now offered in the basic packages of ten operators, reaching over three million Dutch households. The advertising revenues for both channels have been steadily growing.

Our digital expansion has also been significant in the past two years. We have been working on developing and refining our digital products and expanding their global footprint along with our on-demand delivery operations. This year, we entered the U.S. market with our Dizi app which is available through Comcast’s entertainment platforms including Xfinity X1, Xfinity Flex and XClass TV devices. Our digital streaming platform FilmBox+, which combines the linear and digital TV experiences, has integrated with multiple operators across Europe such as DIGI and Vodafone TV in Hungary, and continues to enter more households with operator partnerships. In addition, the Film1 digital service has recently switched to a new, dynamic OTT infrastructure that provides both the end-user and our operator partners with an appealing curation of content. The revamped app has already integrated with sixteen operators in the Netherlands. We are also delivering thousands of hours of on-demand content monthly to over 50 operators worldwide.

Has SPI also expanded into more territories? If so, which ones and with what services?
We delved into the FAST business in the recent years, where we launched various FAST channels, most prominently our Filmstream channel, which features timeless classics and independent movies in its programming slate. We launched our channels across the globe with key partners such as Samsung TV Plus, Freevee, Rakuten TV and Plex, and continue to work towards expanding our FAST portfolio as well as our partnerships.

In addition, we recently launched two new FilmBox channels in the Middle East – FilmBox Action and FilmBox Family. We have also taken our premium Turkish drama hub Dizi, which is highly sought-after in Eastern Europe, MENA and Adria regions, to multiple Western European countries including the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and Malta.

SPI now has an important role to play with Canal+ International and Canal+ Luxembourg. How does this look in practice?
We are taking on an important responsibility for CANAL+ INTERNATIONAL and CANAL+ LUXEMBOURG in all of the M7 territories as the content curator, aggregator and B2B distributor of the entire CANAL+ package. The collaboration started recently with the newly launched CANAL+ Sport channel in Czechia and Slovakia where SPI is responsible for the B2B sales of the CANAL+ package. We will expand the footprint of CANAL+ products by leveraging our strong market presence and brand reputation worldwide, which is especially prominent in the CEE. SPI will also be responsible for the B2B marketing and distribution of the CANAL+ Action channel, scheduled to launch in Q1 2023 in the CEE region.

SPI also has a partnership with Thema. How is this developing and can you give some examples of recent initiatives?
We are partnering with THEMA for joint distribution of our content portfolio in different territories. We will make the best use of the synergies between SPI and other CANAL+ companies like THEMA and M7, to expand the reach of our channels and digital services globally. We have recently inked a deal with THEMA for the distribution of a suite of SPI channels and digital services such as FilmBox+ to Asia-Pacific countries. This deal will extend to include more territories in the months to come. Similarly, nine channels from the SPI portfolio have been added to the M7 Germany line-up earlier this year with M7 now distributing, for example, Fast&FunBox across 160 network operators within the territory.

There is clearly an evolution at SPI now taking place following the merger with Canal+. How does this appear to you in practice?
We are evolving from becoming a channel and content distributor into a comprehensive entertainment services provider. Our proposition includes channels, streaming services, SVOD & AVOD products along with content distribution operations which allows us to cater to all kinds of client and market demands. Through mutually beneficial partnerships with other companies within the CANAL+ umbrella, we aim to provide more targeted entertainment options by enriching our content portfolio and introducing our products to new territories.

Going forward, what would you say are SPI’s main priorities?
SPI’s main priorities going forward is to become the ultimate content and services aggregator for operators and all kinds of digital platforms worldwide. We target further growth and expansion in all of our territories with our customizable portfolio of content solutions that aims to make quality content accessible on all available screens at all times through stand-alone products, key alliances with major platforms and content aggregators.

How would you like to see the company develop over the next few years?
We are working to expand our existing areas of operation while taking on new responsibilities and projects by leveraging our strong market presence and global brand reputation. SPI’s Home of Great Entertainment will complement the service offerings and entertainment bundles of key aggregators by providing additional windows of premium content curation to enrich user experience and optimize the discovery of quality programming.

Interview also available on Broadband TV News