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RTL plans €350M SVOD investment; Rakuten TV may expand to Europe


* RTL Group plans to invest about €350 million in subscription video-on-demand services in the next three years. Speaking during an earnings conference call, RTL CEO Bert Habets said the company would focus on "building local streaming champions and strengthening our content creation." RTL's VOD service Videoland recorded paying subscriber growth of 134.9% in 2018, according to the company's earnings release. Videoland's total subscriber viewing time increased by 229.9% in the same period, mainly driven by local original content shows.

* Rakuten Inc. is planning to expand its movie streaming service, Rakuten TV, to 42 countries in Europe, Reuters reports, quoting Rakuten TV CEO Jacinto Roca. The Japanese internet and e-commerce giant seeks to take advantage of its partnerships with smart TV makers such as Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., LG Electronics Inc., Philips and Hisense Electric Co. Ltd., for the initiative.


* Perform Group Ltd.'s DAZN said it has put up a new entity called DAZN Media, responsible for global media partnerships for the streaming service, which operates in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Spain, U.S., Canada ad Japan. DAZN's sports streaming service ePlayer has also been renamed to DAZN Player.

* French technology provider Netgem SA is teaming up with Chinese telecom equipment giant ZTE Corp. to provide connected-home solutions for fiber operators in Europe, according to a news release. The strategic deal will see ZTE combining its device portfolios with software and content from Netgem.


* U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond during his spring statement said that he has called for the Competition and Markets Authority to conduct a review of the country's digital advertising market as part of the government's "first step towards implementing reforms." Hammond also requested for Jason Furman, former U.S. President Barack Obama's former chief economist, to look into the competition in the digital marketplace.

* British Telecom's EE Ltd. said it introduced an offering that includes six-month subscriptions Inc.'s Prime Video, as well as MTV Play. The content subscription is available to new and existing pay monthly customers.

* Japan Broadcasting Corp., or NHK, commissioned U.K.-based Icon Films and Botswana's Natural History Film Unit to produce "Okavango," an 8K documentary feature that will explore Africa's Okavango Delta oasis, World Screen reports.

* Livingbridge announced that it has made an investment in London-headquartered data-led marketing company Brainlabs. The investment, made through its Enterprise fund, will support Brainlabs' acquisition-led growth strategy, accumulating a pipeline of companies focused on search engine optimization, content, production, data and email.


* Germany's foreign intelligence service said Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. is not a trustworthy partner in building 5G networks in the country due to past security-related events, including its supposed connection with China's national secret service, Bloomberg News reports. A government spokeswoman also said there is further discussion on the use of Huawei equipment following a warning from the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Reuters reports. Meanwhile, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer warned that a ban on Huawei could hurt Germany's economy, according to a separate Reuters report.

* Gridscale, the German provider of innovative infrastructure-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service solutions has closed an estimated €7 million funding round led by Endeit Capital and EnBW New Ventures GmbH. The company will use the funds to expand its technological development and add new talent.

* Germany's Brabbler AG, which provides a secure communications platform called ginlo, has acquired messenger SIMSme from postal service Deutsche Post AG.

* German mini TV channel tm3 will cease operation, following a ruling by the court in Augsburg. Head of the channel Timo Storost just about managed to avoid a jail sentencing, reports DWDL.


* Orange SA announced it will soon serve as ab internet service provider on all public initiative networks deployed in France, irrespective of the infrastructure operator which deployed the network. Orange France SA CEO Fabienne Dulac said the plan will allow about two million people living in these areas to access Orange offers by the end of 2019.

* Lagardère SCA released full year 2018 results with revenue of about €7.26 billion, up 3.3% versus year-ago results. The company also reported profits of about €216 million, up from €204 million in 2017.

* Rural areas are putting pressure on operators to speed up the deployment of 4G and fiber, Les Echos reports. Deputies conveyed this message to Orange, Altice Europe's SFR, Bouygues Telecom SA and Iliad's Free during a hearing by the economic affairs committee of the lower house of parliament.


* KPN NV plans to roll out fiber-to-the-home in all large cities in the Netherlands, TotaalTV reports, citing CEO Maximo Ibarra. The Dutch telecom provider reportedly wants to increase the number of connected homes by 1 million over the next three years, and sets out to reach 40% fiber coverage in 2021.

* Ziggo NV will remove the Stingray radio channels from its digital radio offer, and replace them by XITE Music channels, Media Magazine reports. The changes will reportedly be made April 1.

* Radiocommunciations Agency Netherlands has issued the first new medium wave licenses with a minimum duration of five years, Media Magazine reports. The license application procedure reportedly started Feb. 18, and new licenses will take effect May 11.


* Spotify Technology SA filed an anti-competition complaint against Apple Inc. with the European Commission. Daniel Ek, the audio-streaming company's chairman and CEO, accused Apple of introducing "unfair" rules to the App Store that limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of user experience, according to an official blog post.

* The Swedish government wants to impose tougher network security requirements for operators and telecom equipment suppliers, in response to issues regarding the use of Huawei equipment, Reuters reports, quoting Energy and Digital Development Minister Anders Ygeman.

* Telia Co. AB said it has formed a partnership deal with digital vehicle insurance provider Paydrive AB. Under the deal, Paydrive will upgrade about 8,500 Telia customers with the mobile app of Telia Sense, the company's connected vehicle solution.

* Nordic Entertainment Group AB has created a medium-term note program, Modern Times Group said. The program facility will enable NENT to issue notes up to 4 billion Swedish kronor on Sweden's capital markets.

* Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. unit Lions Gate Television Inc. will re-make NENT's "Veni Vidi Vici" drama series for the U.S. market, according to a news release. The series, which was created for NENT's Viaplay platform, has also been picked up by NENT's international media partners Hulu LLC and Australia's SBS.

* Nokia Corp. announced that it has deployed 100G optical network in Pakistan Telecommunication Co. Ltd.'s network in Pakistan. The upgrade raises capacity and speed in PTC's optical network for local and international traffic. The upgrade gives over 200 million PTC customers access to superfast broadband services.


* Telefónica SA has won the contract for the digital distribution of, the streaming service of Spanish public broadcaster RTVE, Advanced Television reports. The deal also covers technical services for RTVE's video-on-demand service, as well as the hybrid broadcast broadband technology used in the LOVESTV platform that is co-managed by RTVE, Mediaset SpA unit Mediaset España Comunicación SA and Atresmedia.

* Vodafone Italia SpA is launching its gigabit internet service in 12 more cities in Italy via the wholesale network of Enel SpA unit Enel Open Fiber SPA, Telecompaper reports, citing a company website update. The Vodafone Group PLC unit's fiber service is already accessible in 58 Italian cities.

* Orange Espagne SAU is testing fiber broadband speeds of up to 400 Gbps in Madrid using wave division multiplexing technology, Telecompaper reports, citing El Economista.

* Proxy adviser Glass Lewis called on Telecom Italia SpA shareholders to reject a proposal from Vivendi SA to replace five Elliott Advisors (UK) Ltd.-appointed board members at the upcoming March 29 shareholder meeting, Reuters reports. The recommendation follows a similar move by proxy adviser ISS.


* Russia national operator Rostelecom PJSC has agreed to acquire the remaining stake it did not already own in Tele2 Russia, which would continue operating separately post deal completion, Telecompaper reports, citing Prime. VTB Bank PJSC, which owns 55% of Tele2 Russia, was reportedly considering selling the stake to Rostelecom.

* O2 Czech Republic as as rolled out a mobile internet service with speeds of up to 1 Gbps in the Czech Republic town of Kolín, Telecompaper reports.

* Mobile TeleSystems PJSC unveiled WASD.TV, an interactive media platform that enables users to participate and stream broadcasts of esports tournaments, Broadband TV News reports. The Russian operator eyes investing $10 million in esports by year-end, according to the report, citing RNS.

* Polish soccer league Ekstraklasa opened a competitive tender for audiovisual bookmakers' rights to games for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, Broadband TV News reports. The tender is being done in partnership with Vivendi-owned direct-to-home platform nc+, which is the league's main TV broadcaster.


Analysis: Nvidia's sales will get a boost with Mellanox acquisition: Analysts said the acquisition of Mellanox — if approved by regulators — will add a richer mix of products to the portfolio of Nvidia, which is chasing higher-margin markets like data centers.


Technology: Cable STB shipments decrease in 2018, facing more headwinds in 2019: Cable set-top box shipments continued to decline in 2018, as demand by cable TV operators has slowed across almost all geographic regions.

Anne Freier, Sylvia Edwards Davis, Koen Pijnappels and Gerard O'Dwyer contributed to this report.

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