Micallef is executing the entertainment platform vision for the Belgium-based telecommunication company and revitalising the brand for the digital age by infusing it with targeted advertising, quality international content, and a local streaming service.
“My focus is on shaping Telenet's entertainment strategy to deliver the right solutions, quality, and user experiences, in order to meet the business objectives,” said Micallef.
Micallef provides an insightful look at how Telenet is working with both local and global partners such as Netflix, Disney, and Amazon to provide the ultimate in-home entertainment experience to refresh the brand which was founded in 1996. He points out how advanced advertising solutions - which digitally target an advert into homes on live TV - and streaming have become an integral part of their platform strategy.
“As a mature company, we now rely on our ecosystem more and more as this allows us to focus on the work we do best which is bringing in-home connectivity and entertainment to our Belgian customers. We believe in the tremendous potential of digital and we are committed to helping people and businesses to stay one step ahead in the digital age.
“We've grown from being a regional cable operator to a national player. We now own our own mobile network and a fixed network, accessing millions of customers, which has helped us generate more than €2.5b in revenue on a yearly basis.
“We own a production company and the second national commercial broadcaster in Flanders and this has helped us become a much more established entertainment player in Belgium. We also have a 50% stake in a local streaming service, which is called Streamz, which we only launched last year with our partner DPG media,” said Micallef.
Telenet prides itself on its excellent customer experience with its connectivity via the internet, mobile or fixed telephony for home and business currently provides a service for:
- 1.6 million broadband
- 1.7 million B2B customers
- +1.6m broadband internet subscribers
- 641,800 WIGO and YUGO subscribers
- +2.8m mobile phone subscribers
- 1.8m video subscribers
Collaboration with Netflix, Amazon, and Disney
Micallef said it was vital to have a strong ecosystem of partners today if you want to offer your customers the best experience. “It’s no longer just about your brand and service that serves all the consumers' needs. People want to talk to Alexa, watch a movie on Netflix or listen to their favourite music on Spotify. It’s very much about connecting with our partners and bringing added value to the consumer.”
Streamz, Netflix and Amazon are already choices available for Telenet consumers. “These are now household names but in the past, as a cable operator, we used to fear collaborating with these international companies because we thought they would enter our space. But in the last few years, we've learned to embrace them on our platforms and even work with them on joint marketing campaigns on how watching Netflix or Prime Video is better, and more convenient with us. So we've learned to really collaborate with these players and find common ground on how we can work together.”
Advanced advertising solutions
In a bid to serve local broadcasters and continue attracting advertisers, Telenet have pioneered advanced advertising solutions to revitalise interest in TV advertising. This has proved to be a highly successful move. In a way similar to digital advertising on Facebook and Google adverts are targeted to complement a customer’s lifestyle and are currently shown during live TV.
“The drive to future success of the local media players is based on advanced advertising solutions which is becoming an integral part of our platform strategy,” commented Micallef.
“This is essentially targeted advertising during traditional live TV so that your neighbour will have different adverts to you based on their preferences to cookery, gardening or sport. For example one household will have a BMW advert if they’re interested in cars while another household will have a Pampers advert if they have kids. This provides a real benefit to the advertiser who knows they can target the right people for their products - very similar to targeted advertising on websites.
“We pioneered this in Europe, so we're very proud of that. We're now looking at taking advanced advertising to the next level . We hope this will bring advertising revenues back into the market to fuel the local entertainment economy instead of advertising money flowing to companies such as Facebook and Google.”
Pioneering partnership model
Telenet’s three-point partner-orientated model is proving to be a highly successful move for Micallef and his team. “With most of our partners, we would typically have a commercial partnership where we are agreeing with our partners what we will both deliver and what we expect from each other. This is the general approach we have with our partners.
“Next to that we have a vendor-client type of relationship with more technology-type providers in which they help us deliver services to our customers. Finally, we have partnerships with companies where we have a more mutual interest. We have established joint ventures such as our streaming service, Streamz, as we wanted to invest in having our own local streaming platform and built a joint venture with our partner DPG media.”
Streamz, which is a mix of local and international entertainment, enjoyed a timely launch in 2020 just as people were looking for more community content from their TV service as they navigated the challenges during lockdown.
“During Covid-19 we saw some really impressive numbers for in-home entertainment. Due to the closure of cinemas, the streaming services became strong companions during lockdown and limited travel and we have seen a strong demand for local services. Another interesting successful experiment was Play Fit, which had a timely launch prior to the pandemic, and harnessed customer engagement as more people aimed to get fit from the comfort of their homes.”
Micallef pointed out the importance of the key collaborations with Gracenote and Cadent.
“Our work with Gracenote over the last few years has enabled us to deliver enhanced viewing experiences to our sports-loving users. Leveraging Gracenote’s sports data and real-time statistics from live events, we’ve been able to enrich sports broadcasts and engage sports fans in new ways. We're now looking at extending our collaboration with Gracenote around TV and movie metadata. This will help us guide our customers through the wealth of content that exists across all services that are available on our platform and ensure they are able to easily find and watch the programming they will enjoy most.”
Cadent is also an important technology provider, which helps Telenet deliver advanced TV advertising solutions in Belgium.
“Cadent is helping us play a pivotal role in the increasingly demanding advertising landscape. We've put our trust in them to help us launch our next generation advanced advertising solutions which will ultimately help us deliver even better models and capabilities towards the local broadcasters. We plan to go beyond live TV and bring these advertising solutions and be more ubiquitous across our platforms.”
Micallef said he believes in “win, win, win strategies” and focuses on creating the best customer experience as he moves forward with plans to further boost Telenet’s entertainment offering in the coming years.
Telenet in the spotlight
Telenet is divided into two main brands:
Telenet (available in Flanders and Brussels)
Telenet inspires their customers to get the most out of their digital lives and businesses and the best experience in the digital world.
Telenet Business offers connectivity, hosting and security solutions for the business market in Belgium and Luxembourg.
BASE (available in Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia)
BASE focuses on continuously challenging the mobile market by launching products and services that ensure the customer always wins. ‘Go mobile’ captures the essence of the BASE brand.
Telenet was founded in October 1994. The Flemish Government, led by Minister-President Luc Van den Brande, wanted to develop a second telecommunications network alongside Belgacom. In 1996 the first commercial offer was launched.
Ten years later in October 2004, Liberty Media International, subsequently renamed Liberty Global, became a shareholder of Telenet by partly buying out Callahan.
Telenet continued to develop its network into one of the most state-of-the-art networks in Europe, bringing high-quality Internet, telephony and television to the home and the office. In 2019 the operator launched its Giga-Network, allowing speeds up to 1 Gbps on its entire footprint covering the whole of Flanders and parts of Brussels.
The first venue of the Park opened in 2018 in Antwerp. Three years later this VR start-up has grown to 12 locations in Belgium and The Netherlands. Telenet opens a new virtual reality venue, The Park, in the centre of Brussels.
QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS
Ivor Micallef, Director of Entertainment at Telenet
How will Telenet continue to be agile to the needs of your customers?
“Telenet will continue to be agile in the way we work and respond to our customer needs. First of all, it starts by shaping our organisation to meet these demands in an agile way. We have done a pivotal shift towards being agile and we now have domains, tribes and squads that are specifically focused on part of the customer needs and making sure they have the necessary resources and tools to answer quickly to the customer expectations.”
Can you predict what the future of in-home entertainment is going to look like in three years?
“The future of in-home entertainment will be about social connectedness. People will continue to expect more and more personalised services. They will still want to watch what they're interested in, but this will not take away the need to connect to their friends and family on their favourite stories.”
What impact will the opening of cinemas have on movies at Telenet and how do you plan to retain your lockdown audience?
“The entertainment industry has always been fast-paced but the pandemic has accelerated this speed. At Telenet we follow what people want and where they want to be. If they want to be outside then we will provide the necessary tools for their entertainment needs. If they want to be at home and subscribe to their favourite SVOD service, we will have our solutions in place. If there is a growth in live experiences and outdoor events, we will be looking at ways how we can combine this and how we can create better, interesting bridges between the video world and real-life experiences to make sure that we can still connect to our customers on a broader level.”
LIFE OUTSIDE THE OFFICE
Ivor Micallef, Director of Entertainment at Telenet
What is your favourite movie?
Most memorable music experience?
Coldplay at Wembley Stadium
Favourite Xbox, PS5 or Nintendo Switch, computer game?
Beat Saber on Oculus VR
Televised sporting experience you are most looking forward to in the future?
I really enjoyed the Olympics in Tokyo and I am now looking forward to Paris 2024
Favourite VR experience?
The Plank Experience at The Park which is a start-up in the group and is a virtual reality free roaming venue.
Top app on your mobile phone?
The Intelligence from The Economist
Favourite takeaway when relaxing in front of the TV?
Hawaiian Poke Bowls
Preferred drink when watching TV?