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European broadcasters team up to tackle growing digital threat

Broadcasters across Europe are faced with a rapidly changing video industry.

While disruptors such as Netflix Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and local streaming players flood the market with exclusive and original content, broadcasters are trying to keep pace with the digital competition.

Speaking at Digital TV Central and Eastern Europe in Budapest, Christian Anting, founder and co-chairman of the European Media Alliance who also leads broadcast relationships at Polish operator TVN SA, told the audience "the time has come" for broadcasters to operate together. Anting noted that the European Media Alliance, an interest group set up in 2014, has welcomed a number of high-profile players recently.

SNL ImageChristian Anting at Digital TV CEE
Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence

For example, only last month Central European Media Enterprises Ltd. joined the alliance. Other members include U.K.'s Channel 4, ProSiebenSat.1 Media SE and France's TF1 Group. Together, the group reaches around 200 million people across Europe. Its main aim is to "defragment" consumers in the digital age.

"The competition landscape is more complex than ever; new models of cooperation are needed," Anting said.

Across Europe, online video providers such as Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. are making life increasingly difficult for more traditional video companies, particularly when it comes to advertising.

Yet together, Anting argued, broadcasters can develop pan-European investment plans and jointly scout for deals and commercial opportunities. Other opportunities include international partnerships, strategic and commercial business ventures and deals for content rights.

Members invest in consumer-focused digital startups, such as classifieds, social media, e-commerce and marketing firms that are looking to expand their geographical footprint, he said. One example is the European Broadcaster Exchange, an independent joint venture for the programmatic sale of pan-European premium video inventory.

However, cooperation has its limits, as Anting acknowledged the broadcasters themselves are also often fierce competitors. To avoid too much rivalry within the alliance itself, only one broadcaster per geography or market can join.

In general, building long-lasting alliances and partnerships will take time and may happen in various forms, he said.

"It is challenging but [cooperation is] needed," said Anting. "[Broadcasters] must transform and react" to their new digital competitors.