Workplace Chat with Jeroen Bergman

#WorkplaceChat is a series of bite-sized interviews with SPI International executives about their jobs, media industry trends, and their professional, SPI-related success stories.

Here's Jeroen Bergman, GM Film1 and FilmBox Netherlands.    

 1) The latest Film1 campaign positioned Film1 as the antidote to the precious time that many Dutch viewers waste by scrolling through the content on streaming services and the stress induced by that overall process. The campaign drew inspiration from research conducted by Telecompaper and was developed by the creative agency Superheroes. What are your key takeaways from this campaign and how do they translate to Film1's growth strategy moving forward?  

Anecdotally, we all know that it can be frustrating to scroll through long menus of movie and series titles trying to figure out what is worth seeing. All the time spent searching and selecting can detract from the simple entertainment experience we look for which gets even worse if we end up watching something that then proves disappointing. It can be tempting to remember a time when we simply flipped through the channels until we saw something we liked.

We thought this would be something Dutch TV viewers would relate to and we have a simple solution to it in our Film1 proposition: we have a big line-up of SVOD movies, but we also have four curated thematic linear movie channels. So if you don't feel like 'wasting your time' scrolling through menus, you can simply zap through our four channels and see if there is anything you like. If you find it, you can easily restart that movie using the platform's replay functionality.

In order to make the Dutch audience aware of the frustration of endless scrolling and the solution of Film1's linear channels, we decided to use a combination of PR and marketing to amplify our marketing budget and to add credibility to the message. We asked a well-known media research agency to investigate how much time Dutch TV viewers spend searching for something to watch and how they experience this. Unsurprisingly, our suspicions were confirmed and we were able to get the research results publicized by many media outlets.

We then followed up with our marketing campaign which used images from the movies in Film1's line-up with campaign messages about various activities which required waiting (such as dressing up for a party, waiting for a bus etc) and saying "choosing a movie should not take as long as that".

Virtually all our sales in the Netherlands come from the TV operators carrying the service, so the key to success of our marketing activities is to energize our TV operator partners to maximize their sales efforts for Film1. We found that campaigning with this creative angle worked much better than earlier campaigns which were focused on specific movie titles as it stressed a USP that other SVOD providers are unable to match. For this reason, we will continue to use this USP going forward and will find new creative ways to communicate it in future campaigns.

2) The Film1 brand umbrella includes four linear channels - Film1 Premiere, Film1 Action, Film1 Drama and Film1 Family - and the Film1 digital service. What are your business goals in terms of Film1's digital strategy for 2022?

To be precise, our service incorporates access to movies on a linear basis - with the four thematic channels you list - and access on an SVOD basis. We provide this access via the electronic programme guides and VOD menus of our platform partners as well as with our own OTT app and, in some cases, with an app on the platform partners' set top boxes. We even include our content on some platform partners' apps.

This is an important year for our digital strategy as we migrated our app platform from the legacy provider to the new TV2Z platform that also hosts the FilmBox+ and Dizi apps. We have had some performance issues with the previous app suite and have made improvements on the new apps. We also expect with the new app to be able to include our app on the set top boxes of one of our key partners: KPN. In the longer term we would very much like to see download functionality added to the apps which would add a key functionality that competitive OTT providers offer.

3) Film1's four linear channels and a selection of on-demand content is available on Amazon Prime Video Channels in the Netherlands. What are some of the challenges and advantages of making linear channels available on digital-only platforms, such as Amazon and are there new digital partnerships for Film1 on the horizon?  

The Amazon platform provides us with valuable insight into user behaviour of our subscribers on their platform and a key lesson learned is that the linear channels are responsible for a large proportion of total usage and a key retention reason for subscribers. This underlines the campaign USP we have focused on and means that we will aim to include the linear channels in any version of Film1 we offer in the market.

Film1 is available on all platforms active in the Dutch market. In the coming 12-18 months we anticipate ROKU will also launch here and we aim to once again be launching partners for this new platform.

4) The first Western European country to launch SPI's basic movie channel FilmBox is the Netherlands. In less than a year from the launch, the channel was already included in the offers of eight Dutch TV platforms, reaching 1 million viewers and counting (December, 2021). To what do you attribute this success and what are some of your future plans for the expansion of FilmBox?

Contrary to most Central European markets, there are no basic movie channels available in the Netherlands. Some were available in the past (such as AMC, MGM Channel, Universal Channel and 13th Street) but they have all given up on the market over time. The Dutch advertising market is quite crowded and the distribution market is quite concentrated so it is hard to secure sufficient advertising and distribution revenue for thematic channels. What makes FilmBox different is the synergies available from SPI existing FilmBox activities and Film1's existing content inventory. And the channel is very popular both with viewers and TV platforms as it is the only channel in the country that provides movies without advertising interruption. We will soon be launching with one of the main platforms in the country, Ziggo, and we hope to secure a distribution deal with KPN soon, as well.

5) An icebreaker question: How do you stay productive and motivated working virtually/remotely?

Virtual working has obvious disadvantages which flow from the lack of unplanned contact with colleagues, so it is important to seek out moments to get together without a fixed agenda to just see what comes up. In my team we use both Zoom sessions without pre-set agendas and we get together for lunch maybe once a month to neutralize these disadvantages.

But then, there are also real advantages. Firstly, I save a lot of time both in commuting but more importantly in the time between calls and meetings. I use that time to do more exercise than I could have afforded to before the pandemic, to be around the house when my son is more often than I could before and - this is the second key advantage - to have time to properly think through more strategic or more complex opportunities without the pressure of daily routines. That combination of a better work/life balance and the opportunity to be more creative and thorough is very motivating for me.