With the video-on-demand market now more competitive than ever, it was no surprise when RTL Netherlands muscled in, with its acquisition last year of Videoland, the second biggest online video platform in the Netherlands. RTL partnered with Zuora, utilising the company’s multi-tenant cloud platform to help manage the billing services of the new service, which offers customers both transactional and subscription VoD. Patrick Klink, RTL’s product manager, spoke with staff writer Holly Ashford about what led to the acquisition and how this will shape RTL’s overall strategy.
RTL Netherlands is part of the RTL Group and operates a number of television channels covering entertainment, sport, children’s programming and business and finance, and is a major player in the Dutch TV market. The company is keen to move beyond its traditional broadcasting roots, as Klink explains, “we have expanded to all kinds of digital activities: catch-up platforms and YouTube, a weather forecast site. We are a broadcasting company but we are also transforming the whole media landscape.” The transformation occurred after noting customers’ demands to watch “any video or movie series any time any place they like.” A move into VoD, then, was inevitable.
The move was prompted by viewers’ behaviour and the need to offer “the relevant service to them.” RTL wanted to grow its direct business to consumers, so looked to Videoland, which already had a core of customers who watched the site’s film content on a pay-per-view basis. The Videoland Unlimited service launched in June this year, following RTL’s acquisition of the company, which allows customers unrestricted access to a range of film and TV content, either for a monthly subscription fee, or by continuing the traditional transactional model. RTL chose Zuora to help it with the launch, with the company helping RTL to manage customer invoice processing over different billing periods, adding new features to RTL’s customer management systems.
Selecting a partner
“There is always the challenge that Netherlands is a very small country. To be the top notch on every level ourselves would be a challenge,” comments Klink. “We looked in the market to for a company to support our ambitions; a company that is flexible in their services and product; can launch quickly; and is capable of scalable services. We have certain ambitions but of course we hope to exceed them, we need partners who can scale with you.” The decision to partner with Zuora helped RTL “reach our goals for the time to market,” with the deal was signed in December and the service ready by March. “We were quite satisfied in that respect.”
Through Zuora’s Z-Business software, RTL can trial additional usage-based pricing and video delivery models, and roll this out to its user base. Going forward, RTL Netherlands aims to use the customer feedback gathered through Zuora’s billing platform to inform its wider VoD business strategy and product development.
The Netflix question
Klink says that the service is going “quite well” and, quizzed on the company’s position in the VoD market, admits “it will take a bit of a time to settle.” However, in the coming years, Klink hopes RTL will consolidate its position as “a significant part of the [VoD] business in the Netherlands.” Already a significant part of the Dutch VoD market, Netflix continued is international expansion by launching in the country last September, adding the Netherlands to the 40-plus countries where the service is available. In 2013, the Netherlands was the only country in which the service was rolled out, indicating the company’s confidence in the market. So, how does Videoland Unlimited differ from Netflix, which has already established its popularity across the world? “Our proposition is quite difference from Netflix,” asserts Klink. “Netflix entered our market with a subscription-based service. We have launched a service supported by tech companies like Zuora; we have a lot of Dutch content; we are both transactional and subscription.”
Expanding and improving
Over the next five years Klink foresees the business growing to become “a combination of TV and VoD services – our VoD services will be expanding, on top of TV viewing.” Klink’s expansion plans seem bold, as he states “we have to improve every month,” by adding new kinds of content. Another new service Videoland Unlimited is offering is a “video loan card” similar to an iTunes gift card, which customers can use themselves or give as a gift.
Klink’s confidence in the service’s growth, especially in the shadow of big players like Netflix, seems to lie in his assurance in the service’s underlying technology and the company behind it. Zuora helped RTL Netherlands “to define and sharpen our proposition and offers to our consumers,” and it is companies like Zuora, adds Klink, that are enabling it to keep up with international competition. The desire among consumers “wanting to see video or movie series any time, any place they like,” shows no sign of waning, and RTL Netherlands is clearly keen to keep pace. Currently “market leader in TV in the Netherlands”, the company’s acquisition is proof that it wants to both stay in line with current trends and to show how it differs from competitors. Through its partnership with Zuora, the model of both transactional and subscription-based VoD will hopefully allow RTL Netherlands to achieve “a significant part in the [VoD] business in the Netherlands.”