OTT Regulation


Soîchi Nakajima
Senior Consultant, IDATE

Internet is becoming  not-so-free


Internet Giants are increasingly finding themselves under scrutiny for unfair competition and tax issues – what was once regarded as a free OTT ecosystem is now facing regulatory challenges. Internationally operating players working in various domains and geographical locations are complicating this regulatory challenge, with different cultures and market conditions requiring different approaches.

While this past decade has seen a completely new economy evolve based on the Internet and OTT players (remember, Google’s IPO was only just over 10 years ago), new challenges have also been created by this phenomenon, one of which is regulation. Until recently, new Internet services and business models were being actively encouraged, with the aim of helping to galvanize the economy; however, there is now simply too much revenue involved and more regulatory intervention is becoming inevitable.

Major OTTs diversifying into various service domains


Source : IDATE, The Future Internet in 2025, July 2015

The domains in which regulation on OTTs is currently gathering the most urgent attention are the fields of taxation and fair competition, the regulatory needs being brought about by the sharp rise of leading sharing economy players such as Airbnb (accommodation rental platform) and Uber (car sharing application), where users can offer a spare room (Airbnb) or a car ride (Uber) between end users as opposed to using standard (more expensive) channels such as hotels and taxis. Such players are not required to work under the same rules as those of their traditional counterparts; licenses are not needed, insurances are not taken care of and rigorous safety concerns are not necessarily required. Further, tax issues are often overlooked, with many sharing economy participants not even aware that there is tax involved; they simply do not have the mindset that they are participating in a revenue-generating business, but are simply “earning a few bucks” in a relatively hassle-free manner. This then leads to an unfair playing field, giving the OTTs an unfair advantage over their traditional counterparts.

The regulatory response to these players currently varies from one country to another, or even from state to state in the larger countries.

Citing the unfair competition landscape, Uber has been banned outright in Spain, whereas in Italy the application is allowed and the noise coming from the Italian government appears to be supportive of Uber, considering modifications to their regulation to make it easier for them. These are exceptions to the rule, however, with most governments placing an intermediate ruling whereby Uber is allowed but only for licensed drivers.
Tax collection remains a hot topic, especially for Airbnb where local transient occupancy taxes (“hotel taxes”) are compulsory for all listings yet collection remains difficult. While initially Airbnb stressed that they were not responsible for the collection of the taxes, their stance has softened recently and since the latter part of 2014 they have started to automatically collect and remit the hotel tax in some areas, such as San Francisco and Amsterdam. It is understood that they are continuing negotiations with various other cities also.

It should be noted that while it is these startups that are causing the OTT regulation debate of tomorrow, the large Internet giants and in particular Google are also under scrutiny for unfair competition and tax issues. However these issues have been under investigation for a number of years and are evolving, albeit slowly, with occasional developments from time to time. The same can be said for regulatory debates on the likes of net neutrality, data protection and intellectual property (copyright) issues.

Europe is still debating over which approach to adopt
Such developments in the debates often come from the same countries, with the likes of the US, France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands often ahead of the rest when proposing and/or enforcing OTT regulation. In addition to what has been mentioned above, net neutrality has continued to make headlines. While Europe is still debating over which approach to adopt, the United States has recently made a bold move by reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service, thereby paving the way for strict net neutrality regulation. In Europe there are moves by the European Union as a whole, such as the proposed reform of the data protection directive, but some countries stand out more than others. The Netherlands, for example, were the pioneers of net neutrality deployment and the first country to introduce an “Airbnb law”, legalizing the business in exchange for tax payments. Germany has been strict on Uber, at one point banning the service as in Spain, although this motion has been overturned (for now), while both Germany and Spain have ruled that Google are required to pay for information published on Google News. France has strong legal frameworks on many OTT related domains, and is also at the forefront of debates concerning sharing economy players.

 Find out more on Net Neutrality and key stakes for tax optimization, privacy, copyrights and other topical issues surrounding OTT regulation in our dedicated market report


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OTT communication services


Soïchi Nakajima
Senior Consultant, IDATE DigiWorld

They have minimal impact on traditional telecom markets


In 2014, the OTT communication services market (the total of OTT revenues generated from VoIP, IP messaging and a share of social networking) will have surpassed 10 billion EUR. Growth is expected to continue and the global market value will reach 23.7 billion EUR by 2018, representing a CAGR of 21.6% from 2014 to 2018. Still, OTT counts for only a very small proportion of market value compared to that of the telcos.

What are the impacts of OTT communication providers on the telcos from a market value perspective? The figure below provides IDATE figures for both telco communication revenues and OTT communication revenues for the period 2012 to 2018. Telco communication revenues are composed of fixed telephony revenues, mobile voice revenues and mobile messaging revenues. OTT communication revenues are composed of VoIP, IP messaging and a part of social networking revenues (as already explained in detail in section 3).

Total telco communication vs OTT communication revenues, 2012-2018 (Billion EUR)


Source: IDATE in OTT Communication Services, December 2014

The reality here is that compared to telco communication revenues, OTT communication revenues remain very marginal. As has already been seen, the OTT communication market value is set for growth with CAGR of 21.6% from 2014 to 2018. Still, looking at the big picture, even in 2018 OTT communication will only account for 3% of the total market.

 Further, IDATE forecasts that the telco communication market will not decline over this period of time, although it will not particularly grow either, with a CAGR of 0.2%. As a result, the total communication services market (telco and OTT combined) is expected to see a CAGR of 0.6% from 2014 to 2018.

 Judging from these figures, IDATE believes that the communication market is not a simple case of “OTTs taking away revenues from telcos”, which is the often-painted picture of the market. Rather, it is a case of the telcos maintaining their current market values, while OTTs are growing their market value by themselves.

 Find out more about VoIP, IP Messaging, Social Networks and the main market players’ strategies in our dedicated market report

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Connected TV


Jacques Bajon
Head of Media & Digital Content Business Unit, IDATE DigiWorld

Who will come out on top?



The development of smart TV is inextricably bound up with the widespread availability of high-speed Internet access, a shift to more and more individual viewing and the proliferation of smart devices in the home. Together, these three elements are steadily revolutionising how viewers access their TV programmes, and providing them with an array of new functions and features.

Televisions can be connected to the Internet in several ways. Using:

a smart or connected TV (direct connection, via Ethernet or Wi-Fi)

a connected set-top box/DVR,

a connected set-top box/DVR

a streaming box or stick

or a connected game console. or a connected game console.

Today, close to half of the televisions being shipped are smart TVs, even if their owners may not systematically take advantage of the Internet connection. At the same time, the market for streaming devices – whose main purpose is to play online videos – is progressing rapidly.

Within this market that is still populated by a great many solutions and services, several trends are taking shape:

smart TV has shifted from "Internet-centric" to "video centric";

managing connectivity with users’ personal devices has become a key issue, with app systems playing an increasingly central role;

OTT services are moving to the TV and making real strides;

viral platforms, which are “systematically” included on smart devices, are steadily consolidating their position in the video distribution chain.

Technological progress is also helping to vitalise the market, whether by increasing users’ connection speeds, through progress in compression thanks to the use of HEVC, or functionalities that improve the user experience, such as casting – i.e. the ability to send content from a personal device to the TV set.

The main stakeholders in the connected TV ecosystem can be broken down into three categories, based on their original sector of activity: consumer electronics (CE) companies, TV market players and the Internet’s leaders.

CE industry players are working to improve their software interfaces, either through dedicated developments such as Samsung has done with Tizen, or by acquiring another company, as LG has done with WebOS. The aim is to capture the added-value in the marketplace, whether in the arena of services and/or by selling high-end devices.

Players from the TV universe are developing their OTT products, and working to bolster their position on the software side of the equation with more open and hybrid platforms. The smart TV could enable them to renew ties with consumers, and better monetise their plans. Veteran TV market players nevertheless remains threatened by the shift to more individual viewing, the risk of being cut out of the equation and a dramatic loss of revenue. Smart TVs can actually accelerate the growth of on-demand services, which naturally threatens the business of TV channels, and especially specialty channels, as well as the business of those who assemble pay-TV packages.

Lastly, companies such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft that dominate the Internet, are very knowledgeable about software, and changing consumer habits. So they are in the best position to deliver a top-notch user experience, whether in terms of smooth and intuitive interfaces, or providing recommendations based on user data. Their increasingly vertical positioning – covering everything from the content to the device – is also bolstering their potential to capture a growing portion of the video entertainment market.

Impact of the three scenarios on the smart TV market in 2025: size of the OTT market and smart devices used (billion EUR, %)


Source : IDATE, Connected TV, June 2015

The purpose of the three scenarios for “smart TV in 2025" is to determine which industries are likely to increase their control over the smart TV environment:

TV market players: "Smart TV ";

CE market players: "Consumer Electronics+";

or Internet specialists: "Internet video".

The size of the OTT video market will vary considerably under the three scenarios, depending on how the environment evolves and so which industries prevail. We estimate that the market could climb to:

41 billion EUR under the most conservative scenario, “Smart TV”;

57 billion EUR if consumer electronic gain the upper hand, with earnings based on revenue sharing;

105 billion EUR if Internet companies prove the most successful, with an ecosystem tailor made for OTT video services.

The popularity of the different devices will also evolve along the same lines:

the television will be used less to access services as the more disruptive scenarios come into being;

eventually, the PC will be marginalised, replaced to a large extent by personal devices.

 Regardless of the scenario, smartphones and tablets will be used more and more to watch videos, especially as viewing becomes an increasingly individual pastime.

Find out more on Connected TV in our dedicated market report


WiFi-First: the new market disrupter


Carole Manero
Senior Consultant

“Wifi is a cost-effective solution. Additionally, WiFi-first services benefit from a wide-scale coverage indoors where cellular coverage is not always satisfactory.
For many MNOs, Wifi was perceived as disruptive. Logically, pure players embraced the Wifi market, launching hotspots and Internet access.

A considerable number of Wifi hotspots have been deployed around the world by pure Wifi players. This is set to soar dramatically, both in commercial venues and in homes. According to a 2014 iPass study, France is leading the pack with more than 13 million hotspots deployed, whilst the USA registered almost 10 million hotspots and the UK stands at almost six million hotspots. Growth is expected to be driven by more hotspots in homes, also known as ‘homespots’.”

WiFi Players’ Strategies

Wifi is a cost-effective solution, because it enables the reduction of the amount of mobile data consumed and consequently lower service costs.

Today, several distinct types of Wifi players can be identified:

Pure Wifi players appeared a few years ago. While Wifi could not provide true mobility, it was quite cheap and at the time where 3G technologies were not mature enough, throughputs offered were relatively better. Wifi is often used to offload in-excess data traffic by MNOs. Not surprisingly, several initiatives have emerged toward facilitating smarter and more efficient offload. They continue to develop their access point bases and implement agreements with MNOs. They specialise in facilitating domestic and international roaming between hotspot operators.

Wifi roaming has been a major focus since 2013. There is a huge demand from travellers for Wifi, to save money. But data roaming is still in its infancy. Cablecos, fixed and integrated players have all deployed Wifi hotspots and homespots. The rationale is to be able to monetise their Wifi network to non-subscribers and roamers.

The first WiFi-first players appeared in 2011 in the USA. Their rationale is to disrupt telecom markets with low-cost offers based on reduced up-front investments (no spectrum fees; unlicensed spectrum).

Cellular players or mobile network operators (MNOs) and integrated players have invested for years in Wifi, especially in Wifi data offloading to cope with mobile data surge. For many MNOs, Wifi was perceived as disruptive, as it provided some mobility or nomadism to the user without having to rely on their data plan.
OTTs are also considering Wifi.

Cable operators seem to gain the most from the WiFi-first concept. Mobile is increasingly a part of their proposition.
Wifi First
Source: IDATE in WiFi-first, June 2015


Find out more about changes in WiFi technologies, its resulting challenges, the WiFi market as a whole and players involved in our dedicated market report


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Audiovisual Industry Going Global: what options for European service publishers


Alexandre Jolin
TV expert at IDATE

The audiovisual market has always been a traditionally multinational industry. Within the industry, content production, publishing and distribution activities have highly varying levels of internationalisation. There has been a marked escalation of transnational mergers over the recent period, indicating a new phase in globalisation of the industry.

There is now pressure coming from two main angles: producers are faced with constantly increasing production costs, and distributors are faced with continually high CAPEX levels and new competition from OTT players. European service publishers have to reinvent their strategies in this new globalised context, which is dominated by North American players.

European video service publishers are under pressure

The audiovisual market has always been a traditionally multinational industry. Within the industry, content production, publishing and distribution activities have highly varying levels of internationalisation. However, there has been a marked escalation of transnational mergers over the recent period, indicating a new phase in globalisation of the industry.

There is now pressure coming from two main angles: producers are faced with constantly increasing production costs, and distributors are faced with continually high CAPEX levels and new competition from OTT players. European service publishers have to reinvent their strategies in this new globalised context, which is dominated by North American players.

Threats and opportunities from globalisation for the main player categories in the value chain
Source: IDATE, Audiovisual industry going global, April 2015

Americanisation of the European audiovisual sector


Several markers point to a trend of increased Americanisation of the European audiovisual industry:

Increased number of US acquisitions of European players:

- in the content production segment, including the acquisition of Endemol by the private equity firm Apollo Global Management in 2012 and the takeover of All3Media by Liberty Global and Discovery Communications
- in the TV channel broadcaster segment, including Liberty Global's purchase of a 6.4% stake in ITV and the acquisition of Channel 5 by the Viacom Group in 2014
- in the distribution segment, including Liberty Global's acquisition of Virgin Media and Ziggo, and the takeovers of Ono and Kabel Deutschland by Vodafone

The emergence of oligopolistic situations in new market segments:

- iTunes dominates the global transactional VOD market
- Amazon Prime Instant Video and Netflix in particular dominate the global and European SVOD markets

Consumption focused around North American programming

Focused strategies vs. market conquering strategies

Faced with globalisation of the audiovisual industry led mainly by North American players, European players are adopting two types of generic strategy:

strategies focusing on their core business and domestic market, characterised by:

- moderate investment in native language productions
- acquisition of North American and international fictional programming to ensure high viewing numbers during prime time
- OTT strategies based on reusing content rights already acquired as part of own brand or joint-venture services

strategies aimed at conquering markets via business diversification and international development, including:

- increased investment in original content productions that can be exploited abroad, particularly via international co-productions
- acquisition of exclusive first-run premium content
- OTT strategies based around new services that exploit broader rights catalogues than what is available via broadcast networks

Find out more about the reasons behind globalization, its models and impacts for the audiovisual industry in our dedicated market report



Digital First: ICT players vs. the new disrupters


The place to be in Europe, to understand upcoming disruptions and their impact on telecom, IT, Internet and media markets

From 17 to 19 November 2015, the 37th annual DigiWorld Summit will bring together 150 top-tier speakers to Montpellier to share their views with the more than 1,200 participants from over 30 countries. French Tech will also be in the spotlight during the 2nd annual DigiWorld Week and at the inaugural DigiWorld Awards.

Under the banner of “Digital First” IDATE will host debates on the core trends shaping telecom, IT, Internet and media markets, with the knowledge that digital technology is entering a new stage in its ubiquity, becoming the vehicle of a major overhaul in many sectors: energy, insurance, finance, health, automotive, travel and tourism… “But,” says IDATE CEO, Yves Gassot, “this digital verticalisation also represents a new challenge for IT, telecoms, Internet and media industry stakeholders. They may see new growth opportunities, but also challenges as innovation cycles are accelerating, as they consider the shifting outlines of their business and contend with new digital intermediaries.”

This new stage in the digital transformation is being spurred by ubiquitous wireline and wireless connectivity, the economies of scale of cloud computing, and the power of real time data processing algorithms. But it is being amplified by the rise of connected objects, and the promises of 3D printing, of artificial intelligence and the collaborative economy. A profound transformation of the economy that is already materialising in changes to production and distribution infrastructures, in the accelerated shift from product to service and the profusion of channels for interaction with end users.

• What do vertical companies (media groups and TV networks, insurance, automotive, travel, retail, etc.) want from digital industry players (telcos, OTT, IT)?

• How should digital industry players position themselves with respect to the digital transformation in vertical markets?

• How can the Web’s top destination platforms cohabitate with the vertical markets’ new digital champions?

• This year’s Guest Country: China. Can China combine the power of its recently acquired positions in Internet and telecom markets with its manufacturing ambitions?

2015 DigiWorld Summit Programme


Plenary sessions

Analysis and debates between veteran industry players and disruptive start-ups, with insights from IDATE’s finest economists and analysts:

Digital channels
A new chapter in the platform wars?

Digital Infrastructure
From ultra smart networks to predictive analytics?

Digital Product
From goods to services

Digital Regulation
OTT rules?

Digital Europe, Digital World
Closing session

Specialty forums

In-depth seminars with the industry’s top expertsConnected Things Forum

Smart City Forum

Future Networks

TV & Video Distribution Forum

Future Digital Economy Forum

Game Summit

DigiWorld Week (14 – 22 November 2015): IDATE expands on the two days of the DigiWorld Summit, and plays host to an exciting event-filled week. Delving deeper into the issues and shaking up ideas: symposiums, workshops, hackathons, exhibitions, festivals, master classes, …

DigiWorld Awards: in partnership with Business France and French Tech, IDATE will be hosting the first annual DigiWorld Awards, recognising French digital start-ups (Equipment and devices, Networks and telecoms, Internet services and application, M2M and IoT…), created abroad. Awards will be in four categories: Africa and the Middle East – The Americas – Asia – Europe

The DigiWorld Summit, is organised under the patronage of the French Ministry of the Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs, the Région Languedoc Roussillon and Montpellier Métropole, with the support of DigiWorld Institute member companies.

More informations about IDATE's expertise and events :

www.idate.org      www.digiworldsummit.com      www.digiworldweek.com


Bouygues Telecom rejects the Numericable-SFR offer

To many, the deal seemed like a foregone conclusion, and we had been looking forward mostly to the negotiations that would steer it to completion (see the attached press release). It is hard to know exactly what motivated the Bouygues Board’s decision.

We ourselves had underscored the tremendous complexity of such a deal that involved the acquisition of the number three operators’ customer base and the sale of its network and a portion of its frequency holdings to the country’s number four operator, Iliad/Free. This dual negotiation was nevertheless necessary, for both financial reasons and to get a jump on the Competition authority’s expected reservations about the merger. Here, we understand that Bouygues was very reluctant to endure the uncertainties of a long period of anti-trust investigation, with no guarantee of substantial compensation should the deal fail to win approval.

To this can be added the federal government’s very strong reservations, and the difficulties in negotiating credible guarantees for the future of the company’s teams and jobs.

Lastly, without underestimating the ability of the Bouygues Telecom team, its 4G network and its frequency holdings to achieve pre-Free EBITDA (25%) by 2017, we cannot discount the possibility of further merger and acquisition deals in the French telecom market.

See the previous post

More informations about IDATE's expertise and events :

www.idate.org      www.digiworldsummit.com      www.digiworldweek.com


Numericable-SFR has confirmed its bid to acquire Bouygues Telecom…

Yves Gassot

Yves Gassot
CEO, IDATE DigiWorld


It is a surprise?

No, everyone was expecting it. First, because Altice/Numericable-SFR spokespeople had underscored the appeal of such a deal and, second, because in most European countries we are seeing national market structures going from four to three mobile operators. Such is the already the case in Germany and the UK, and very likely in Italy and Spain.

If we look at the situation outside the European Union, we see that in the United States there are four national operators for as many people as there are in Europe’s five biggest markets combined.

Would this means an increase in retail market prices?

Let’s not forget that, in France and in most other countries in Europe, the sector is in a state of deflation, and has been suffering a steady decline in revenue since 2008. Another outstanding feature of the French market is particularly low prices. While this is of course a positive thing for consumers, it can also be at the expense of investment (which decreased in France in 2014) and innovation: in a healthy competitive environment, price alone must not be the sole element of distinction between vendors.

Second, predicting what the landscape will look like after this merger occurs, Free will no doubt remain very aggressive on the pricing front for mobile products as it works to close the gap with its rivals: it would represent only just over 7% of the sector’s revenue, well behind Orange (43%) and the new SFR with just under 50%. In the fixed line market, the breakdown of market share would be less dramatic (23.5% –41.5% – 35% respectively) but competition should remain quite lively.

Would this mean a decrease in investment?

Theoretically, it is possible that we will see a decrease in telcos’ combined CAPEX. But this remains theoretical if we take into account the situation of a sector that is struggling to get back on its feet, and to invest at a rate that keeps pace with the ongoing increase in superfast fixed and mobile network traffic. Remember that telcos’ spending in France was down in 2014. Here again, it is interesting to compare with the situation in the United States: over the past two years, telcos’ combined per capita spending on mobile networks in the United States was roughly double what is was in Europe’s main markets.

The goal for public authorities and consumer associations examining the deal should include an expectation that it would accelerate the pace of superfast fibre and 4G+ network coverage nationwide.

What have we seen, in terms of prices and investment, in other European countries that have experienced a similar consolidation?

In Germany, it is still too early to draw any conclusions. In the UK, in a market once populated by five operators, the merger of T-Mobile UK and Orange UK in 2009 – which were the country’s third and fourth largest operators, respectively, at the time, with a close to 20% market share each – resulted in the creation of a new leader, EE, with a 37% market share at the outset, but which fell to 32% in 2014. Calling prices in particular decreased steadily: the average price of a mobile calling minute dropped by 17% between 2009 and 2012. The company’s spending decreased in 2010 but rose again in subsequent years: T-Mobile UK and Orange invested an average 9% of their network revenue in 2008, compared to close to 10% for EE in 2014 – although it is also true that the company’s combined revenue decreased by 22% during that time.

In Austria, Hutchison’s takeover of the local Orange subsidiary, which took the market from four operators to three, had the opposite effect: putting an end to ongoing price decreases, and even resulting in a significant increase in 2013 of around 20% on the previous year. Although it should be said that prices in Austria had been very low for a long time. The consolidated entity’s capital expenditures (as part of the 3 conglomerate) dipped slightly, but relative CAPEX rose from 16.5% of the company’s revenue in 2012 to close to 20% in 2014.

What can we expect from the players if the deal goes through?

Numericable-SFR should take in around €2 billion in cash from the sale of the Bouygues Telecom network to Iliad/Free. It should also be able to enjoy economies of scale in the revenue generated from Bouygues Telecom customers, thanks to the new entity’s improved OPEX and CAPEX ratios.

Bouygues is given an exit strategy under terms that are far better than what was on the table six months ago, even if the short-term outlook for free cash flow is not guaranteed.

Iliad can look forward to putting an end to its roaming agreements with Orange, and gaining a 4G network with one of the two best rates of national coverage, without having to have built it itself. The company is also likely to gain access to new frequencies, either directly under the terms of the deal or indirectly as the result of imposed “remedies”.

As to Orange, it will suffer from the lost roaming revenue from Free, earlier than planned, but could also benefit from more stable market prices.

How are antitrust authorities, and public policy-makers in general, likely to react?

The new SFR would become the mobile market leader, earning just under 50% of the sector’s revenue, ahead of Orange with 42% and Free with >7%. This market structure is not likely to curry favour with the competition authority. As concerns the deal itself, the competition authority should view the Bouygues Telecom-Iliad aspect as a guarantee of ongoing competition, as the smallest operator would enjoy a real gain in assets. Depending on the frequency-related options that are included in the terms of the deal, France’s anti-trust authorities could impose further spectrum sales and terms in support of MVNOs.

The biggest issue for public authorities is the destabilising impact on the rules for upcoming auctions being held by market regulator, ARCEP. The original rules had been designed to maximise bidding incentives for a four-player market. Now, they will need to consider how these rules will be affected by the likelihood of a three-player market, keeping in mind that, even if it does go through, the merger is not likely to close before the auctions are held later this year.

In the fixed access market, public authorities could see the deal as a way to strengthen guarantees from operators for superfast fibre network rollouts: chiefly Numericable-SFR and Orange, which are by far the heaviest investors in new gen systems.

More informations about IDATE's expertise and events :

www.idate.org      www.digiworldsummit.com      www.digiworldweek.com

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Content is king. Still.

Yves Gassot

Yves Gassot


Over the past few decades, TV service providers’ market power guaranteed them a certain leadership in production.

Vertical integration

Thanks to a steady relaxation of competition rules in the United States, the resulting vertical integration trend has seen production studios merge with TV networks and cable companies. In other markets, such as France, public authorities have continued to oppose such a trend, underscoring how vital production independent of the top networks is to sustaining diversity and creativity.

A new way of consumption

Here too the Internet is changing the status quo. We watch more and more videos. We watch them more on our own, and from increasingly global sources. Content providers and pay-TV distributors are being penalised both by their costs and their only national footprint, and are having to contend with two major threats: being cut out of the service equation and being cut off from customers. Market heavyweights like the ones found in the United States are having to weigh the pros and cons of working with a platform such as Netflix that is expanding worldwide, versus setting up their own over-the-top solution… and protecting what is still their main source of income, i.e. selling programmes to TV channels (including affiliate stations). But their dilemma is still less dire than the one facing Europe’s independent providers, who have a primarily national footprint and which are often restricted in the extent to which they can exploit the rights to the programmes they help finance.

Ecosystem and legislation

The European Commission likes the idea of having TV rights negotiated for the EU as a whole. It would provide an opportunity to introduce the idea of economies of scale in a lucrative sector, and one that has a tremendous cultural influence. Unfortunately, in its revised version, this plan, which is one of the pillars of the Digital Single Market proposal unveiled in early May, is coming up against Europe’s very disparate set of national TV ecosystems. As national laws – and especially the state of the industry – currently stand, very few companies in the EU can hope to come out winners in any negotiations for rights to all 28 European markets. Bluntly put, a very cut and dried application of such a scheme would more likely be a boon for outsiders such as Netflix, Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, etc.
Despite which, our desire to be optimistic leads us to hope that the steady and inexorable development of the OTT video model will drive a change in legislation across Europe, and lead to cross-border and possibly continental deals between Europe’s TV sector players.

For the publication of the last study about "OTT Regulation" and  the 15th edition of the DigiWorld Yearbook, IDATE is organizing a conference on the perspectives and key trends that will structure the digital economy for the next decade, DigiWorld Future

Register for the Conference in Paris the 16th of June     Discover the programme

More informations about IDATE's expertise and events :

www.idate.org      www.digiworldsummit.com      www.digiworldweek.com       www.gamesummit.pro


Platforms regulation

Yves Gassot

Yves Gassot


Year after year, the economic and financial power of the GAFA  quartet of Internet platforms continues to increase. Which brings two questions back to the fore, again and again: what trends might emerge to counter this seemingly inexorable rise? And do we need regulations that apply specifically to platforms?

A quick reminder of what economists mean by platform economics (digital or not): multi-sided markets (i.e. involving interactions between two or more parties) with reciprocal “network effects”. So the more iPhones that Apple sells, for instance, the more attractive its app store becomes to developers (and so to users), and vice-versa. In digital sectors, this characteristic is typically combined with a reduction in fixed costs (software), generating increasing returns as the platform becomes more successful.

By 2025

Network effects usually go hand in hand with another property: asymmetrical prices. If Apple is starting to earn substantial income from the App Store, its business model and profits are rooted chiefly in the high price of its iPhones. With ad-funded models, one side of the market operates as a free service. As we have seen with Apple, digital platforms are a very efficient means of fostering open innovation, and capitalising on innovations from third parties. All of these aspects, which go some way to explaining why “winner takes all” when it comes to platforms, naturally need to rely on the ability to maintain the role of intermediary, and continue to become more proficient at it. Otherwise, the platform’s customers and suppliers will begin to adopt multiple homes, before eventually moving on to another, better platform. The efficiency of the leading platforms is the very reason for the current ambivalence over how much they are serving the greater good. On the one hand are concerns that a dominant OS will abuse its position while, on the other, this popularity can also mean an opportunity for developers, and can have positive repercussions for consumers.

The dichotomy needs to be resolved by taking account of the Internet’s dynamics as a whole. Windows has been through a number of anti-trust investigations but, today, this is the mobile Internet which has moved down the priority.

Worth reading on this topic is the recent IDATE report on "The future of the Internet: 2025". It takes a detailed look at the key technologies for the coming years, and especially at how development scenarios will be shaped by key variables, such as the openness of the Internet ecosystems, or the impact of restrictive privacy or security-related public policies. Here, we will add two other events that take us beyond a GAFA-centric environment. First, 2014 saw a number of Internet powerhouses emerge from the shadows of the GAFA quartet: in China (Alibaba, Weibo…) and in Asia’s leading markets in general (Rakuten, Line…).

We cannot entirely discount the possibility of these players gradually coming to compete head on with their Western peers. Second, we need to consider the position held by new players moving into vertical markets, many of which have carved out a place of sector-specific intermediary – Uber and Airbnb being two prime examples – and which have no intention of being taken over by Google or Apple or the like.

Nevertheless, faced with the realisation that GAFA continue to become increasingly powerful, the inefficiency of antitrust laws and the regulatory asymmetries compared to those imposed on other players along the chain, the idea of regulation that applies specifically to platforms is gradually coming to the fore. It may not be a good idea. Competition law, even ex post, is not necessarily ineffectual.


Plus it will be no simple matter to define the contours of the platform sector. And extending existing sector-specific laws, such as those that apply to electronic communications, to make OTT companies and telcos subject to the same principles, would take us down a path where, as businesses become more and more digitised, every economic sector would be more or less governed by electronic communications laws. Keeping in mind that the upcoming review of the EU regulatory framework for electronic communications is expected to focus on network access conditions and interconnection – and probably put more emphasis on symmetrical regulation. Should voice and SMS products not be removed from the scope of the telecom sector’s ex ante regulation, rather than adding in competing OTT products such as Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, etc.?

It nonetheless remains that in sensitive areas for digital industry players, such as those governing contract law, taxation, public safety and privacy, we can very easily identify laws that should apply across the board, such as what we find in consumer products and the retail industry. Without having to produce laws that are specific to platforms, the current juncture could provide an opportunity to merge national legal provisions with regional (EU) and global ones, and to ensure that they apply equally to all players along the value chain

For the publication of the last study about "the future Internet in 2025" and  the 15th edition of the DigiWorld Yearbook, IDATE is organizing a conference on the perspectives and key trends that will structure the digital economy for the next decade, DigiWorld Future

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