Telenor: We want all channels in our offer, including N1, Arena Sport and Sport Klub

Goran Vasić, Strategic advisor in Telenor, talks about ambition to enter cable providers’ market, categorically denying it'll in any way jeopardize free media.

Source: B92
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Goran Vasić, strateški savetnik u Telenoru (foto: Telenor)
Goran Vasić, strateški savetnik u Telenoru (foto: Telenor)

"Our goal is to have as much as available channels in our offer, including N1 and Nova S. Telenor is and will continue to fight false allegations by using all legal means to protect the reputation of our company, which we have been carefully building for 15 years. That is why we have filed law suits - to protect our reputation and prevent future damage", Goran Vasic said.

He further claims that "the media campaign on United Group channels is an attempt to put pressure on the Commission and courts and an attempt to prevent another competitor from entering the market. SBB has a 46% share in this market, which we have not entered yet, and therefore, we do not see any connection between our business ambitions and the stifling of media freedoms in Serbia. You know, when you say media freedom, when somebody is accusing you of stifling media freedom, those are serious accusations. We categorically deny that our business plans in any way are jeopardizing any entity, especially free media".

B92.net: After mobile telephony and other services it provides, Telenor has decided to enter another market and become a cable operator. Why did you make such a decision?

The ambition to expand our business is a logical decision that we made after a detailed analysis of the telecommunication market in Serbia. Telenor is the mobile leader and this position opened the possibility to think about expanding the offer for our existing and new customers. Everywhere in the world, including our country, the mobile market has been stagnating, due to the pressure both from local competition and global OTT providers, like WhatsApp and Viber. That is why mobile operators are seeking and entering other segments to grow the business. In Telenor, we see our chance in entering the TV content distribution market.

B92.net: Do you believe that there is space for Telenor to get involved in a market game that is already quite fierce and in which the investments of the two biggest competitors are quite large? What is the market share you would be happy with?

Of course we believe that there is space, it has been confirmed by a detailed analysis we did. There are currently two dominant operators in Serbia with their exclusive rights. Today, no one is talking about the customers and what they really want, and this is exactly where we see our opportunity. We have experiences from Western markets, primarily in the Czech Republic, so I believe we can create an offer that will be high-quality and that will combine most, if not all, existing content, including N1, Arena Sport and Sport Club, for example. Serbia is ready for another strong provider.

B92.net: What does your calculation look like, at least roughly, - how much money will you need to invest in the entire project to make it come to life and how and when do you plan to make that investment pay off?

This is a significant investment that confirms the long-term strategy of PPF Group and Telenor in Serbia. We believe that customers will recognize our intentions and the quality of our service. It is certainly one of Telenor's largest single investments in the past decade. If everything goes according to our plans, we will invest, but also employ. Until now, we have been working in mobile sector, now we are entering a totally new area and for sure, we will need new knowledge and competences.

B92.net: Also, when is it realistic to expect the entire project to come to life and Telenor to offer its services to customers?

It all depends on the regulatory approvals and time needed to complete our offer. Our goal is to launch the services during this year. We believe in the legal system of Serbia and we hope that the Commission for Protection of Competition will not succumb to media pressure of those who own their channels when making its final decision.

We repeat, these are purely commercial infrastructure lease agreements, which have been signed as part of regular business practice for years in Serbia and in the rest of Europe. Such agreements do not threaten the positive development of the market, on the contrary, they lead to a healthier competition and force each operator to work on the quality and diversity of its services.

We negotiate with all providers and distributors of media content and of course we want to include United Group TV channels in our offer. We have already sent them a request for cooperation twice, and we still do not have an answer if they are ready to offer us their content on commercial terms.

B92.net: There are not many people who are not already users of one of the existing TV content distributors. How do you plan to attract them - with exclusive content, lower prices, synergy of services...

As I already mentioned, the content distribution market is currently divided in two parts, between the two distributors. We want Telenor offer to be unique and to include the widest possible selection of channels and gain customers with such approach.

B92.net: Will Telenor also start creating TV content, like Telekom and United Group? It is this exactly this exclusive content that both of these companies present as their strongest asset in their "fight" for customers.

For now, we have made the decision to enter the TV channel distribution market. We do not plan to create our own content.

B92.net: Your parent company has experience in providing similar services in other markets in which it operates. How significant is this experience and how much did it influence the decision to launch such a project in Serbia as well?

Telecommunications and financial services are the two main verticals for PPF Group. The telco position of Group in the Czech Republic and Slovakia is strong and the experiences we have on these markets have certainly impacted our decision.

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