The 22nd international exhibition/forum CSTB. Telecom & Media 2020 opened on 28 January 2020 with a plenary round-table session “Global ecosystem of video consumption”. Round table participants and event moderator Kseniya Boletskaya, Editor, Media Section, 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. The event was sponsored by the Media Communication Union.

At the beginning of the discussion, Vadim Subbotin, Deputy Head of the Federal Telecom Supervision Authority (Roscomnadzor), 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. Vadim Subbotin commented on some positive market trends, specifically, changing habits of online audiences, which now prefer legal paid content, as well as the most challenging problem, i.e. fierce competition with international giants.

On a separate note, Vadim Subbotin presented the outcomes of anti-piracy campaigns and emphasized the efficiency of Federal Law # 149 “On Information, Information Technology and Data Protection”. Currently, over 15 thousand web sites and more that 9 thousand mirrors have been blocked, and over 12 thousand links have been removed from search results. Duration of the Memorandum on the removal of pirate links from search results signed by media companies and IT businesses has been extended until 31 January 2021. Hence, online piracy market was reduced by one third.

Alexei Krasnov, Deputy CEO, 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. He believes that a spectrum of reachable custom audiences presents a business imperative and a key driver of the TV industry. Winning business strategies entail content monetization across the board, which will enable to transfer data in a variety of formats and reach a variety of audiences.

Alexei Yanchishin, Deputy CEO, 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. Besides, he supported the statement of the previous speaker who pointed out that every single content unit should be put through all content monetization windows. With respect to the traditional TV advertising market, it looks like it will change and will most likely follow the interactivity path. The first steps in this direction were already made this year.

Generally, panelists agreed that media measurements is the most acute issue currently facing all industry players. Since the sector needs accurate data on the content unit weight, there is a need to develop a uniform measurement matrix. In 2020, solving this issue will become a top priority for the industry.

Kseniya Achkasova, Executive Director, 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. There are some positive developments in this area: recently an advertising measurement project was launched in Yandex. Besides, Kseniya Achkasova pointed out that an appropriate regulatory law could have systemized and accelerated this process, and shared plans to create a new product that is expected to combine all data sources.

Diana Samoshkina, Vice-President of Mass Segment Unit, 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. This will enable to develop subscriber profiles depending on the type of content consumption. Diana Samoshkina suggested that the problem with opposition between OTT services and linear TV could be resolved in a rather interesting way: maintaining regular TV consumption, we could take it from the conventional wide TV screen to the small screen, i.e. smartphones and iPads. Hence, it would be wrong to assume that the audience will be divided into two segments. Users are still making choices on the basis of preferences in favor of content exclusivity, not the delivery method.

Nikolai Orlov, Deputy CEO, Tricolor, focused on the operator community dynamcis. Pay TV operators can increase competitiveness only by developing their own OTT platforms and getting multiple access to the digital ecosystem. Hence, Nikolai Orlov assumed that 2020 will see a stronger competition of media businesses in online sector, and the emergence of major players.

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, Deputy Minister of digital development, communication and mass media of the Russian Federation, 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. Liberalization of TV content will help maintain TV viewing levels, and major TV holding companies will retain their role of strategic industry players. This is indicated, among other factors, by the level of trust of younger audiences in TV channels’ frontmen.

Alexei Zemsky, CEO 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. The panelist argued that the TV monopoly over content delivery ceased to exist. Now is the time to implement advanced delivery systems, which are closely related to the upcoming arrival of 5G.

Igor Mishin, Vice-President 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, CEO of IVI.ru, who represents one of the major Russian OTT services, 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 to deliver high-quality content that resonates with viewer emotions is essential for his service.

Wang Huaxin, Head of Integrated Solutions and Video Business, Huawei, explored the development and utilization of new technologies, including 5G, and the specific context of applying a variety of devices in TV viewing. Overall, W. Huaxin shared his observation that though in this respect Russia is different from other countries, it still follows the same trends.

Leonid Savkov, Business Development Director of Yandex, spoke about upcoming development of super niche content that emerges in response to audience needs. Vast fragmentation of user interests will keep increasing, therfore the volume of such content will continue to grow.

CSTB. Telecom & Media 2020 will continue on 29 and 30 January 2020 with the Content Summit Russia, as well as the Technology & Services Forum that will both host key speakers representing the industry.

CSTB. Telecom & Media 2020 Exhibition/Forum is 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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29 January