Moscow-based International Exhibition Center Crocus Expo hosted CSTB. Telecom & Media 2020, Russia’s flagship exhibition focusing on current telecom, pay TV and media industry issues, from 28 January through 30 January 2020. This year participants could attend events which were unparalleled both in terms of their content and relevance for the larger professional community. Restructured business program included three key events: plenary/roundtable session “Global ecosystem of video consumption”, Content Summit Russia and Technology & Services Forum, which were attended by industry stakeholders. Spacious CSTB Telecom & Media venue became a stage exclusively for leading edge companies and renowned speakers; it showcased exclusively high priority topics and challenges. The Media Communication Union acted as a key sponsor of the 22nd international exhibition/forum event.

CSTB. Telecom & Media 2020 opened with a plenary round table discussion entitled “Global ecosystem of video consumption”. Round table participants and event moderator Kseniya Boletskaya of Vedomosti examined current consumer behavior and preferences, content demand dynamics, and the potential for OTT services to occupy a leading position in media consumption. Another issue addressed by the session was how media holding companies, telecom operators and providers should respond to the ongoing transformation in order to continue operating in the marketplace.

At the beginning of the discussion, Vadim Subbotin of the Federal Telecom Supervision Authority outlined a number of areas which appear crucial for the development of the legal video market in Russia. Most trends are related to consumer behavior and emergence of anti-piracy initiatives, launching of brand new OTT platforms, and utilization of artificial intelligence aimed at enhancing consumer experience. Alexei Krasnov of the Gazprom Media Holding supported traditional broadcast TV and emphasized that some TV channels are still capable of winning audiences. However, it is quite evident that media distributors compete for consumers, and the balance of power depends on the channel ability to deliver attractive content. Alexei Yanchishin of the National Media Group is convinced that it would be premature to regard traditional TV as marginalized and pigeonholed media: the leading channels continue to improve their ratings and boost audience share.

Generally, panelists agreed that media measurements is the most acute issue currently facing all industry players. Kseniya Achkasova of MediaScope emphasized that panel research findings alone are insufficient for capturing accurate data. For this purpose, a winning strategy would be to collaborate with digital giants. Diana Samoshkina of Rostelecom agreed that digital giants could indeed make a significant contribution to creating a uniform measurement matrix since they have access to digitalized findings and consumer behavior patterns.

Nikolai Orlov of Tricolor focused on the operator community dynamics. Pay TV operators can increase competitiveness only by developing their own OTT platforms and getting multiple access to the digital ecosystem.

The second half of the round table discussion addressed in detail the outlook and drivers of domestic pay TV/video market; development and regulation of Russia’s OTT/VoD markers; production of original content etc. Alexei Volin of the Russian Ministry of digital development, communication and mass media actively contributed to the discussion; he gave a detailed overview of the market from the perspective of the regulator. Besides, he emphasized that the Ministry pursues regulatory action only in cases when industry players are unable to reach an agreement. Alexei Zemsky of NTV provided insights into ways used by the government and market players to interact with each other; he shared NTV digital platform content viewing statistics, in particular data on YouTube. Igor Mishin of MTS focused primarily on the relationship between the market and the government. In his opinion, government is not aiming to provide financial well-being of a holding company; rather, it is keen to secure a TV audience. In this context, it is important to make sure that the regulatory action of the government is beneficial to the industry.

Oleg Tumanov, IVI.ru, emphasized that OTT players do not face the issue of filling gaps in TV schedules, which sometimes results in sub-quality content delivered by TV channels. Having the ability of delivering high-quality content that resonates with viewer emotions is essential for this kind of service. Wang Huaxin of Huawei explored the development and utilization of new technologies, including 5G, and the specific context of applying a variety of devices in TV viewing. Leonid Savkov of Yandex spoke about upcoming development of super niche content that emerges in response to audience needs.

The first day of the Content Summit Russia Forum started with a full-scale analysis. TV and Video Content session moderated by Kseniya Boletzkaya of Vedomosti showcased research findings on TV and video content consumption in 2019. Kseniya Achkasova of MediaScope presented an overview of TV viewing in Russia. It appears that 66 % of people spend 3 hours and 40 minutes daily watching TV. They prefer entertainment, music, and children’s’ programs, as well as movies and TV series. Specifically, this session emphasized the value of capturing data on villages and municipalities with small populations.

Panel discussion “Traditional television in a competitive environment” brought together representatives of major operators, media holding companies and TV channels, including Grigory Lavrov of Media Alliance, Dmitry Borisov of Channel One Russia Worldwide, Alexander Kosarim of Rostelecom, Arsen Khomutov of Tricolor, Irina Savchenko of Channel One, Kseniya Gordienko of STS, and Andrei Gromkovsky of UFC Russia. Experts pointed out that talking about the death of linear TV is premature, since compared to the online segment linear broadcasting offers opportunities to monetize content much more effectively and efficiently. Besides, current market trends include the emergence of niche supply and the growing role of animation production and sports programs. Panelists believe that market consolidation – which is occurring at a sluggish pace – is inevitable.

Moderators Yana Belskaya of Kabelshchik and Regina Yurikina of Mediabrand opened the session “Marketing case studies: content promotion”. It was emphasized that marketing is the basis of everything. Product creation should be always supported by demand generation efforts, otherwise TV channels are doomed to failure. Gulnara Umryaeva of Fox Networks shared tools that can be used to promote TV series. Specifically, she used the examples of “War of the Worlds” and “The Walking Dead”, where promotion campaign combined both traditional and brand new ways of reaching out to the audience. Alexei Parfun of Deltaplan elaborated on the topic and demonstrated how viral marketing captured attention of the Narcos drama audience. Vera Treschchalova of Tricolor focused on ways to reach out to audiences using event marketing tools; in particular, she referred to the “Journey to the TV Land”, an outing organized jointly with the Red [Ryuzhy] Channel. This initiative enabled to extend the geographical reach of TV viewing. Maria Tcherkasskaya of the First TVCH reported success in implementing the Fishing and Driving project on the Fishing and Hunting channel. The program created festive moments for the whole family; it increased loyalty of existing viewers and attracted new audiences. Alexander Sarkisyan of Ufanet informed the session about the Flame-Colored Assault campaign which enabled the telecom company to reach out to new subscribers and defeat key competitors. Maria Filippova of Dorama spoke about TV channel participation in the Korean cultural festival. Alyona Aksenovskikh of Intersvyaz elaborated on the mobile application that is now driving corporate sales. Anna Komen of Megogo presented a branding case study which involved public transportation segment as a way to expand service subscriber base. Maria Kazarez of Media Alliance familiarized participants with a socially significant campaign that was organized by the TLC channel in support of the breast cancer awareness month. Oleg Kudryashov of Oreol concluded the session with a presentation about the “Clean Games” campaign, an environmental initiative which brought people together to clean the park.

Insights and analysis was an essential component of the Russian OTT/video services market session held as part of the Content Summit Russia Forum. Alexander Kardash of PricewaterhouseCoopers emphasized that we are living in the age of global “OTT-zation”. A vast variety of new services emerge on global markets and find their way to the Russian market. Subsequently these services are translated into new formats: vertical and interactive videos, and interactive series. Many companies are switching to sport content making it their flagship business. Current trends include growing content production costs and a much slower pace of earnings increase. The inflow of new consumers slows down, but subscriber audiences now tend to be more loyal. According to the US market statistics, 44 % of the OTT households have at least two subscriptions, 18 % at least three subscriptions, and 7 % at least four subscriptions.

Robert Gold of CuriosityStream shared his vision of the present and future of the global streaming media market. Today, audiences tend to become increasingly demanding. People are looking for high quality video accessible whenever they want to watch it, absence of advertising and affordable subscription fees. In order to reach out to new audiences we should choose a smart monetization strategy and be prepared to provide free subscriptions for a limited period of time.

Russian OTT/video services market session continued with a panel discussion which focused on efficient video service monetization approaches. The event was moderated by Kseniya Boletskaya of Vedomosti and Alexander Kardash of PwC who asked panelists to elaborate on the emergence of new domestic OTT services and content formats, and growing content production costs. Insights were provided by Alexei Ivanov of MTS, Ekaterina Pereverzeva of the Media Broadcasting Group, Makar Kozhukhov of the OKKO Entertainment/Rambler Group, Denis Gorshkov of more.tv, Andrei Gromkovsky of UFC Russia, Lidiya Baskakova, Head of YouTube Media Partnerships Russia & CIS, Konstantin Smirnov of NTV-Plus and Kiryll Abramov of Tricolor. The session emphasized the importance of maximizing subscriber engagement using a variety of content consumption options and informed participants about ongoing niche content development efforts, in particular, documentaries and educational programs. Panelists argued that developing content for young audiences who are prepared to pay for their subscriptions is a worthwhile initiative. Besides, we should always bear in mind that the most important property of the product is its exclusivity. The panel analyzed a variety of subscription drivers, including absence of advertising, explored factors that contribute to subscriber loyalty and made projections about how long it might take viewers to finally switch to legal content consumption.

Two subsequent sessions moderated by Susanna Alperina, Editor, Humanities Section, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, were sponsored by the Cinema and TV Producer Association. The first one entitled “Russian content: production and distribution” focused on the technological context of developing multi-genre projects and provided a detailed summary of motion pictures and TV series that were recently released or are still in the pipeline. Panelists included Sergei Selyanov of the Cinema and TV Producer Association, and STV; Alexander Akopov of Cosmos Studio; Fyodor Bondarchuk, producer, film director, and actor, Art Pictures Studio and Lenfilm Studio; Vlad Ryashin of Star Media, Rafael Minasbekyan of GPM KIT, Makar Kozhukhov of the OKKO Entertainment/Rambler Group and Alexander Kott, film director, script writer and producer.

The second session entitled “Acquisition and adaptation of foreign language content” brought together Alexander Akopov, Cosmos Studio; Vlad Ryashin, Star Media; Yulia Sumachova, White Media; Vladimir Utin, Lean-M; Ivan Samokhvalov, Environment; and Yulia Ivanova, Mars Media Entertainment. Moderator Sussana Alperina followed on issues which bear critical relevance to this industry segment, i.e. what content needs to be acquired and in what format, how content should be adapted to ensure cultural appropriateness in the Russian market, what challenges are facing the industry etc. Panelists shared experience of implementing transcreation projects in which they participated, provided examples of projects that start gaining their own momentum abroad and elaborated on adaptation projects that will be launched in the near future.

Content Summit Russia Forum concluded with a panel discussion “Copyright and counter-piracy” moderated by Pavel Katkov, Katkov & Partners. Ekaterina Mironova, Gazprom Media Entertainment Television Ltd., Uma-Tech Ltd, Media Communication Union; Irina Savchenko, Channel One; Andrei Gromkovsky, UFC Russia; Leonid Savkov, Yandex; Alexei Katkov, KIP; and Eugene Safronov, InterMedia, emphasized that piracy appears to be a business in its own right. Panelists stressed the need to reduce the timeline spent on blocking pirated broadcasts, as well as the necessity to concurrently address each of the five links in the chain: copyright holders, pirate web sites, advertisers, telecom operators, and end content users. Finally, participants were familiarized with KIP MONITOR technology which provides efficient and effective ways of identifying most copyright violations, and learned about the history of global and domestic piracy.

Participants of the concurrently held Technology and Services Forum – operators, broadcasters, and representatives of technology companies discussed their experience of using existing technologies and the potential that could be unlocked as a result of implementing state-of-the-art solutions. Specifically, panel discussion “Ultra high definition formats. Marketing and business development” that opened the Forum set the stage for heated debates between operators and TV channel representatives. Moderator Nikolai Orlov, Tricolor; Alexander Surkov, GS Group; Vladimir Shirokov, Start; and Maxim Zemlyanko, Russian Extreme, argued that UHD and 4К will continue developing at a rapid pace and will offer undeniable potential. Andrei Semerikov, AR Telecom Holding JSC; Vitaly Silov, PJSC Rostelecom; and Maxim Polukhin, First TVCH, were more pessimistic. They articulated their concerns over limited potential for both UHD and 4К in the Russian market due to the unaffordability of such content and poor quality requirements. However, panelists agreed on the following: despite pessimistic operator sentiments progress will follow its path, hence UHD formats will continue to be developed and will capture the market.

Panelists of the tech talk “New life of broadcast technologies” shared their experience of implementing state-of-the art solutions. Jim Phillipoff, EMEA, Irdeto, opened the session with a presentation which outlined global industry trends: popularization of OTT services, continued growth of the pay TV market in Russia, and a sharp increase in OTT subscriber numbers. Experts analyzed specific case studies and shared some practical observations. For instance, Alexander Tchernyaev, Huawei, spoke about 5G projects his company had implemented. Stanislav Savinov, Research and Production Association Perspektiva, shared his perspective on the vertical video trend that seems to be making its way both to social media and more professional platforms, such as OKKO.Move. Alexei Poroikov, Russian Soccer Union; Grigory Uriev, PJSC Rostelecom; Dmitry Grebenyuk, Sport360.club; and Eugene Meites, Match TV, elaborated on solutions that significantly increase business effectiveness. Tech Talk moderator Oleg Kolesnikov, Independent Non-Commercial Authority Universiade 2023, motivated the audience and the panelists to share insights and contribute more actively to the dialogue.

Technology and Services Forum featured another event entitled “Telecom satellite operators in the industry 4.0 era” that took the form of a panel discussion. Moderator Sergei Plotnikov of the RSCC opened the session with a question about challenges and opportunities that industry 4.0 presents to telecom satellite operators. Most participants articulated a common opinion. Andrei Tchernikov, RTRS; Kiryll Makhnovsky, Orion Group, and Yuri Rezvyakov, Tricolor, pointed out that since rapid adaptation of satellites to the fast-paced technological progress seems to be impossible, companies need to pursue a shrewd approach to making plans for the next 15 to 20 years. Grigory Kuzin, Medialogistics; Denis Filipshen, Satellite TV; Sergei Stepanyuk, NTV Plus; and Nikolai Orlov, Eutelsat, spoke about the need to focus primarily on consumer needs and adapt processes so that they match customer requirements. According to Yulia Shakhmanova of STV, from the perspective of the wider business community nothing has changed: business mould remains the same, which necessitates awareness of customer needs.

The next session entitled “Enhancing business effectiveness of TV channels through additional services” brought together the entire spectrum of the interactive TV market players who discussed the outlook for HbbTV technology. Session moderator Dmitry Kolesov, J’son & Partners Consulting, argued that to take hold the innovation should be user-friendly and make a tangible difference to the customers. Haymi Behar, SPI International; Artyom Mamyshev, Teletarget Ltd.; Roman Antonenko, JSC NTV Television Company; Sergei Storozhev, National Media Group; and Irina Savchenko, Channel One, elaborated on the benefits of the HbbTV technology: it enables to implement interactive games with viewers, which significantly increases audience engagement and loyalty, opens up new advertising opportunities and allows to capture accurate statistics. Roman Yasinsky, Orion Group; Andrei Trufanov, Orion Group; and Larisa Makarovskaya, NAGRA - Kudelski Group, focused on the technical context of launching interactive technology.

This time, traditional broad-scale regional operator session was divided into four segments. Each segment was dedicated to the most relevant issues facing operators. Segment I “Regional telecom operator market: current developments, challenges, and the way ahead” focused on ways government initiatives affect the telecom market and explored ongoing developments in the regional operator market. Moderator Oleg Grishchenko, Rosteleset Association, briefly outlined current changes in the sector specific legislation and resulting risks for the operators. Specifically, it relates to the critical information infrastructure requirement (CII), which now applies to all operators having a base of 3.000+ unique subscribers. Alexander Vasiliev, Lanta, Tambov, pointed out that CII is still a recommendation, but operators will get to the point where they would need to address this issue. Vladimir Mochyonov, Infrastructure Project Department, Russian Ministry of digital development, communication and mass media, briefly outlined government initiatives aimed to eliminate digital inequality. According to him, a draft law that denies universal service operators the right to refuse other operators connection to the access point has already passed through the first reading. Mikhail Silin, Russian Cable TV Association, spoke about risks and commitments facing regional operators. Dmitry Galushko, OderCom, elaborated on the legal responsibility of regional operators and provided valuable insights into ways of protecting your business from legal problems. Alexei Leontiev, Telecom Operator Association, supported his statement and informed the session about Association’s extensive experience of seeking judicial remedies to protect its rights. Iskandar Bakhtiyarov, Ufanet, and Alexander Trofimov, Intersvyaz, suggested that all industry players should promote innovations and develop niche sectors, for instance, interphone systems. Another business success story was presented by Alexander Lebedev of the Capital Cable Networks Group; he pointed out to the need to take urgent action in case capitalization growth pace is slower than the inflation pace.

Discussion segment II “Legal and administrative risks facing operators” was moderated by Yana Belskaya, Kabelshchik. Dmitry Galushko, OderCom, elaborated on the context in which new federal laws applicable to telecom operators will be implemented and made a presentation that dealt specifically with the growing costs of the infrastructure hosting telecom networks. Anton Bogatov, Telia Company, focused on how laws operate in the telecom industry. Artyom Kozlyuk of Roscomsvoboda elaborated on ways corporate entities may affect regulatory norms; he suggested that operators should not fear to get hold of the right of legislative initiative.

As part of Segment III “Solutions and products” moderated by Ekaterina Petukhova, Kabelshchik, participants presented their projects. Nikolai Mikhailov, IPTVPORTAL, provided insights into how a broadband operator can avoid user outflow without resorting to damping strategies but instead by pursuing shrewd strategies to promote demand. Ivan Sapunov, VAS Experts, briefed the session about Value Added Services for IPTV subscribers and elaborated on ways of achieving higher quality of services and boosting audience loyalty. Sergei Nikulin, RDP.RU, focused on EcoQoE – a tool for assessing subscriber perception of the video streaming service quality; it captures statistical data that can be used to make a judgement on the quality of perception.

Regional Operator Session concluded with a panel entitled “Business diversification and new sources of revenue”, which was moderated by Yana Belskaya, Kabelshchik. Mikhail Mayorov, Internet Co-op Pg19, explained the reasons for choosing such a unique form of an enterprise. Alexander Lebedev, Capital Cable Networks Group, shared his perspective on business development expectations for mono service operators. In his presentation Alexander outlined key drivers for growth developed by his company: flexibility, customer care, price, targeting broader audiences, and diversification. Natalia Gentz of Lanta spoke about efficient strategies of expanding subscriber base through the introduction of new services, in particular delivery. Iskandar Bakhtiyarov, Ufanet, shared his perspective on the future of regional operators.

Once again, CSTB. Telecom & Media reaffirmed its status as a flagship telecom and media industry event which provides an opportunity to hear from both market players and the government, increase awareness of ways to transform businesses unlocking their development potential, and seek advice from the key industry experts.

CSTB. Telecom & Media 2020 Exhibition/Forum was co-sponsored by the Ministry of digital development, communications and mass media of the Russian Federation, Federal Telecom Supervision Authority, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation, and Moscow Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Key sponsor: Media Communication Union

Title Partner: Rostelecom

Strategic Partner: Tricolor

Business Program Partners: Yandex, Cinema and TV Producer Association, Russian Association of Communication Agencies, and Mediascope.

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4 February