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SPI/FilmBox Profile on C21Media

SCHEDULE WATCH PROFILE: While the latest talk has focused on the consolidation and roll-out of global OTT giants, players like SPI International are proving there’s still plenty of growth for independents. Gün Akyuz reports.

Berk Uziyel
Berk Uziyel

Overview
Since launching in 1991, US-registered SPI International has amassed a worldwide footprint of 36 thematic channels, led by flagship movie brand FilmBox. The company is now approaching 60 million subscribers on the back of its latest addition, Timeless Drama Channel (TDC), and is aiming to hit 100 million over the next three years.

With offices and subsidiaries in 20-plus countries, SPI spreads its activities end-to-end, from a portfolio of pay and free-to-air (FTA) channels and digital services to related content acquisitions and third-party content distribution. It has also moved into content production for the first time via a new partnership with French movie producer and director Philippe Martinez, covering movies and TV series.

Key to SPI’s business is its library of more than 6,000 movies and series, while it also claims to be one of the world’s biggest aggregators of native ultra-HD content.

Movie brand Filmbox, which itself spans a range of sub-brands (Premium, Plus, Extra, Family, Action, Russia, Africa, Arthouse), is available on demand as FilmBox Live and is also carried on global streamer Amazon Prime and local OTT services.

SPI’s link-up with Philippe Martinez has led to shows such as Salvage Marines
SPI’s link-up with Philippe Martinez has led
to shows such as Salvage Marines

Alongside FilmBox and movies, SPI covers a growing range of entertainment categories, from drama series, comedy, documentaries and lifestyle to live sports and music, across channel brands FunBox UHD, GameToon, Docubox, FightBox, FashionBox, Fast&FunBox and now TDC.

SPI’s strongest market is Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), which accounts for around half of all its subscribers. However, the company has identified significant further growth potential in the Adriatic/Balkan region, as well as Western and Northern Europe, and has experienced rapid growth in Turkey and the Middle East and North Africa. SPI channels are also present in North and South America, Asia and Africa via a network of partnerships with more than 1,400 operators.

State-of-the-art technology is embedded into SPI’s strategy. “Our company is an early adopter of digital transformation,” says CEO Berk Uziyel. “We provide a VoD service that offers a huge library of HD content, featuring more than 1,000 movies and series.

“We also provide a multi-screen on-demand service for all devices and platforms so that our viewers can access premium content on their preferred devices,” he says, noting the “undeniable and essential” added value VoD and OTT brings to the business.

While the majority of SPI’s channels’ business is still linear, digital now represents approximately 20% of its activity, with apps for linear and VoD growing fast through its partner operators, according to the company.

“The last 12 months have been very exciting for us in our efforts to expand our digital business,” says Uziyel, highlighting new partnerships and expanded existing agreements with Iflix in Asia, SMG in China, The Times of India and Sony in the same country, Ipla in Poland, Ooredoo in Oman, UPC in CEE, Magyar Telekom in Hungary and Skylink in the Czech Republic.

Crime action-adventure trilogy Mr Mayfair
Crime action-adventure trilogy Mr Mayfair

Uziyel says further vertical and horizontal growth is on the cards at SPI, with a couple of as-yet-undisclosed acquisitions and integrations in new territories expected very soon.

“We are always looking for opportunities to expand our footprint across the globe through the distribution of our channels in new territories. Although one of our biggest challenges is the increasing number of competitors, we strive to produce and acquire fresh, cutting-edge programming, which continuously keeps us one step ahead,” the exec explains.

The company sees its move into production via the Martinez link-up, which was unveiled at MipTV in April, as a natural next step in its growth plans. The partnership includes four TV series, the first of which, Salvage Marines, is currently in production. Adapted from the book by Sean-Michael Argo, the action sci-fi show is being produced with Jamie Thompson and Jake Seal from Village Studios.

The deal also includes movies such as crime action-adventure trilogy Mr Mayfair, about a former New York gangster now living the good life in London’s wealthy Mayfair area. The films are being directed by Martinez and produced in partnership with British producer Alan Latham and Kirsty Bell’s Goldfinch Studios.

SPI International president Loni Farhi says the partnership is currently reaching out to other potential collaborators around the world with experience in international coproduction and talent already in place. “This is a new challenge for us, but our well-seasoned partner Philippe Martinez is leading the way for us,” says Farhi. “Mr Mayfair is already an international coproduction, while we are looking for partners in France, Poland, Romania, Hungary or Bulgaria for Miss Willoughby & Bentley, a project we would like to talk about once further information is set.”


TDC offers new content including Kurt Seyit & Shura

Current programming, acquisitions, drama, factual
This spring’s arrival of TDC marked a significant addition to SPI’s portfolio. Billed as the first global channel for Turkish drama and launched in partnership with leading Turkish prodco Ay Yapim, it offers around 500 hours of fresh content. Titles on offer include Karadayi, Black Money Love and Kurt Seyit & Shura.

TDC has so far rolled out in more than 10 countries, including those in the Adriatic and Balkan region, attracting in excess of one million subscribers. A launch in Western Europe is being prepared, although details were under wraps at the time of writing.

Farhi describes the channel as the “ultimate platform for connecting drama genre lovers,” adding that it will offer an “expanding catalogue of award-winning Turkish TV dramas with stories of passion, love and ambition.”

He continues: “In the last couple of years, Turkish drama series have taken the world by storm. Every year, we see dozens of new Turkish drama series being produced and exported to over 140 countries. These programmes are being watched by more than 400 million people around the world, and this incredible demand from viewers has made Turkey the second largest TV series exporter in the world after the US.”

Beyond Turkish drama and movies, SPI’s channels require thousands of hours of content annually.

FunBox UHD offers event programmes such as a 4K production of La Bohème
FunBox UHD offers event programmes such as a 4K production of La Bohème

Thematic factual channel DocuBox alone offers more than 1,100 hours of programming, with 250-plus hours of new content each year across wildlife, people and culture, travel and current affairs shows. Key suppliers include Zed, France Télévisions, ORF, Canamedia and Storyteller. Its line-up includes library titles such as feature docs Alaska: Spirit of the Wild and Africa: The Serengeti, both of which previously played in IMAX cinemas; plus Zed’s 52-minute doc Urgan: Child of the Himalaya.

General entertainment channel FunBox UHD, meanwhile, spans genres from travel and nature to lifestyle, arts and culture, as well as featuring TV series and movies. Titles range from lifestyle programme The Boat Show to Flamenco Passion, showcasing flamenco culture, festivals and events. It also hosts event programming like cinematic opera La Bohème, a 4K production from DBW Communication in coproduction with Rai Com. The show was directed by Ettore Scola for the 60th edition of the Puccini Festival in Italy.

“As you can imagine, the diverse nature of our branches of operation and our extensive footprint across CEMEA markets require a distinct approach to content development and targeted acquisition tactics,” says Farhi.

“We operate 80 different feeds across the globe, localised in 19 languages. In the case of pay channels and branded FilmBox channels with feeds across CEE and CIS, our strategy is centred on acquiring current blockbusters that have hit the theatres in recent months. Our library of content also thrives on ‘evergreens’ – movies that are timeless and can accommodate multiple viewings from audiences of all ages.”

Zed’s documentary Urgan: Child of the Himalaya
Zed’s documentary Urgan: Child of the Himalaya

Recent driver content includes premium box-office hits like La La Land and The Upside, as well as newly released movies like General Commander, starring Steven Seagal; Russian Chinese fantasy adventure Journey to China, featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger; and action-thriller Killerman, starring Liam Hemsworth.

Farhi also highlights SPI’s broader content strategy across scripted and factual genres with its two FTA channels in Poland. The country is key market for SPI, which is the fifth largest media company in Poland through its majority ownership of Kino Polska TV, which runs two FTA digital terrestrial channels: film net Stopklatka TV and Zoom TV, which offer a mix of documentaries, movies and series. Its pay TV channels in Poland are Kino Polska, Kino Polska Muzyka and FilmBox.

Elsewhere on the scripted front, recent acquisitions for SPI’s thematic channels in CEE countries range from series like History Channel’s Knights Templar drama Knightfall, filmed in the Czech Republic and Croatia, to The Young Pope and Picnic at Hanging Rock. On the factual front, SPI closed a deal with Franco-German cultural channel Arte just ahead of MipTV for a collection of docs under Arte’s 360 Geo brand.

History Channel’s Knights Templar drama Knightfall
History Channel’s Knights Templar drama Knightfall

“One of the many ways we cater to individual countries is by making our programmes available in a particular country’s native tongue,” says Farhi, listing 19 languages, including English, Spanish, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Brazilian, Arabic and Russian.

SPI is currently further localising channels in its various markets with the addition of more local content and hosts, along the lines of GameToon in Poland, says Uziyel.

The company is on the lookout for new content partnerships across its portfolio at markets such as Natpe Budapest and beyond. “Natpe Budapest is one of the most important markets in the world to buy and sell our content and channels, while the Mip markets are vital to our global growth strategy,” says Farhi.

Advising on SPI’s acquisition needs, he says the firm partners with global content companies and local independent producers alike. “We strive to provide our viewers with the premium content they demand. Therefore, we are constantly on the lookout for fresh, cutting-edge programming to add to our vast library of content.”

Gün Akyuz
Research editor, C21Media

gun@c21media.net
www.c21media.net
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SPI/FilmBox’s Gametoon HD Channel Launches in Portugal In A New Partnership With MEO

SPI/FilmBox launches its gaming channel made by Gamers for Gamers, Gametoon HD, with a brand new partnership with MEO of Portugal

Gametoon HD is a worldwide entertainment TV channel for millennials revolving around gaming and eSports. The Gametoon HD channel features highlights of popular video games, entertainment content from gaming youtubers, video game tournaments (eSports) with million dollar prize pools and much more. Gametoon HD offers a unique experience to its audience along with wholly owned exclusive contents and timeslots such as Stream Nation and eSports tournaments. In respect to its exclusivity, Gametoon HD is recognized as a well-known source of entertainment within the world of gaming. SPI and MEO wanted to harness the DNA of the channel as an authentic place for gamers, that cultivates a gaming community and culture outside of the one-to-one PC environment, through embracing gaming as a real sporting and social experience.  

“Gametoon HD has offered us a unique opportunity to partner with MEO and to create a channel that will really resonate with the gaming community. In addition to this channel, Gametoon App has also launched on the platform housing our wholly owned content. We had a shared vision and intent for Gametoon HD and this is just the first step to meeting this goal. Together, we are bringing Gametoon HD to Portugal, in a big way” said Georgina Twiss, MD Western Europe & Africa at SPI International.

About MEO
MEO is the TV operator of Altice Portugal, a Portuguese communications company that integrates Altice Europe (ATC & ATCB), listed on Euronext Amsterdam, a convergent leader in telecoms, content, media, entertainment and advertising. Altice delivers innovative, customer-centric products and solutions that connect and unlock the limitless potential of its over 30 million customers over fiber networks and mobile broadband. Altice is also a provider of enterprise digital solutions to millions of business customers. Altice innovates with technology, research and development and enables people to live out their passions by providing original content, high-quality and compelling TV shows, and international, national and local news channels. Altice delivers live broadcast premium sports events and enables its customers to enjoy the most well-known media and entertainment. 

About SPI International

SPI International is a global media company operating 36 television channels on six continents. SPI is one of the biggest aggregators of native Ultra HD content in the world, FilmBox being its flagship channel. Working with over 1,400 operators worldwide, SPI uses
  
state of the art technology providing its 55 million subscribers with access to SPI’s linear and   on demand content including live streaming of UHD programming and FilmBox channels on   any Internet-connected device via major global streaming media players as well as local OTT providers.

For over 25 years, SPI International has been a leading distributor of theatrical films and television programming in the international market. SPI’s solid alliances with major license suppliers provide compelling content, with strong recognition and high demand.
www.spiintl.com

For more information contact:

SPI  International/FilmBox
Marc Weismann (Glo Creative)
marc@glocreative.com

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SPI/FilmBox Presents Its New Drama Channel at NEM 2019

SPI/FilmBox Chief Marketing Officer Haymi Behar was among the speakers at the world renowned New Europe Market (NEM) 2019, which took place on June 10th - 13th in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Behar’s presentation entitled “Smashing Telenovelas Coming to Pay TV Channels: The Case for Timeless Drama Channel by SPI/FilmBox”, highlighted the international acclaim of Turkish dramas and the main reasons behind the launch of Timeless Drama Channel (TDC), the first global Turkish Drama Channel. 

Turkey is the second highest exporter of TV series abroad after the United States as Turkish dramas are now being watched by more than 400 million people in more than 140 countries. Behar attributes this to the fact that, Turkish dramas are able to cross cultural boundaries with their unique stories that are tightly woven around universal themes and family values. 

Behar talked about Timeless Drama Channel (TDC), the newest addition to SPI/FilmBox portfolio, which aims to connect all drama genre lovers through globally shared feelings. The channel brings 500 hours of the best and award-winning Turkish series from major producers to viewers all around the globe. TDC has been rapidly soaring to success in many countries and the channel is currently available in regions such as, MENA, Macedonia, Romania, Croatia, Kosovo, Albania. In the near future the channel will be broadcasted through multiple operators in APAC, Baltics and CIS, stay tuned.

About SPI International

SPI International is a global media company operating 36 television channels on six continents. SPI is one of the biggest aggregators of native Ultra HD content in the world, FilmBox being its flagship channel. Working with over 1,400 operators worldwide, SPI uses state of the art technology providing its 55 million subscribers with access to SPI’s linear and on demand content including live streaming of UHD programming and FilmBox channels on any Internet-connected device via major global streaming media players as well as local OTT providers.

For over 25 years, SPI International has been a leading distributor of theatrical films and television programming in the international market. SPI’s solid alliances with major license suppliers provide compelling content, with strong recognition and high demand. www.spiintl.com

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SPI/FilmBox Continues To Expand Its Reach In Western Europe Via Salt Mobile

SPI/FilmBox signed a new distribution agreement with Salt Mobile, a Swiss telecommunications provider, to broadcast four thematic channels from SPI’s portfolio

SPI/FilmBox furthers its reach in Switzerland with the launch of four channels on Salt TV.  Increasing the distribution of FunBox UHD and Fast&FunBox HD, and launching Gametoon HD, the interactive, e-Sports channel created by millennials for millennials and FightBox HD, which broadcasts live events every week such as KOK World Series and RXF MMA Championship, and MFC Makowski Fighting Championship, for the first time in Switzerland. FightBox HD, Gametoon HD and Fast&FunBox HD will be available in English, while FunBox UHD will be available in English and German.

“SPI continues to invest and expand its reach in Western Europe. Today, I am proud to announce our new agreement with Salt. As of June, four thematic channels will be available in Switzerland for Salt’s subscribers, with its young and dynamic target audience I am sure that they will all hit the mark”, said Georgina Twiss, MD Western Europe & Africa at SPI International.

Salt Mobile SA owns and operates an extensive, high-quality mobile telecommunications network. Thanks to its ultrafast broadband solution called Salt Fiber, Salt provides a unique triple play service, which for the first time in Switzerland takes full advantage of the optical fiber technology by means of symmetrical date transmission rates of up to 10 Gbit/s. Salt Fiber can be combined in an gainful way with Salt’s powerful flat rate subscriptions - a revolutionary and straight forward portfolio.provides mobile talk and data services and is the third largest mobile operator in Switzerland, with 16.3% of the market. The company offers prepaid and roaming packs, unlimited call plans, international calling packs, internet packs, TV on the move, and broadband calling services for phone calls and text messages. 

About SPI International

SPI International is a global media company operating 36 television channels on six continents. SPI is one of the biggest aggregators of native Ultra HD content in the world, FilmBox being its flagship channel. Working with over 1,400 operators worldwide, SPI uses state of the art technology providing its 55 million subscribers with access to SPI’s linear and on demand content including live streaming of UHD programming and FilmBox channels on any Internet-connected device via major global streaming media players as well as local OTT providers.

For over 25 years, SPI International has been a leading distributor of theatrical films and television programming in the international market. SPI’s solid alliances with major license suppliers provide compelling content, with strong recognition and high demand. www.spiintl.com

For more information contact:
SPI International/FilmBox 
Marc Weismann (Glo Creative)
marc@glocreative.com

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