Streaming service Voddler arrives in Central Europe
With many big-name film and TV streaming services already established, among them Netflix and the mighty Amazon, Stockholm-based Voddler is nothing if not brave to dive into this already crowded market.
The Swedish company has launched a platform based around two connected services, the first of which, LiveShelf, allows users to select from several thousand films they can rent, buy or in some cases watch for free on an Internet stream.
ViewShare, meanwhile, lets users select friends who are allowed to watch their videos, with a charge levied for those who watch the movies their friends have shared. It is described as the world’s first legal film-sharing service.
CEO Marcus Bäcklund was recently in Prague to promote the company and to talk about the opportunities offered by this part of Europe.
A longtime tech entrepreneur, Bäcklund has a personal history no less notable than his professional achievements.
Abandoned as a child in South Korea, he was reduced to scavenging, but was rescued when aged about five while being attacked by a dog. After being flown to Sweden for medical treatment for a badly injured arm, he was adopted by a local family.
The Prague Post: How does your new service work?
Marcus Bäcklund: There are two parts. The service is like a shelf. Our shelves are digital, and they are empty when you start. One part of the service is how to fill your shelf. To fill your shelf, you could rent or buy from the major [film studios] if they are there. You could upload the movies you own. Maybe you’ve bought a DVD or rented somewhere else online. And you can put up your own movies from your vacation. That’s how you fill your shelf. Then there’s sharing. We believe this is very important. People are not watching fewer movies today, but Hollywood has $6 billion less [annual] revenue. These billions of dollars have disappeared because there’s so much movie-watching that doesn’t generate revenue. We [encourage] sharing, but in a controlled way. It should not be file-sharing, because that’s the uncontrolled sharing of assets. It’s “viewing sharing” – that’s why it’s called ViewShare. You can ViewShare with your friends, and your friends can ViewShare with you.
TPP: Do you think people will be prepared to pay to watch movies their friends have shared?
MB: To be able to watch ViewShare, you have to pay a premium subscription of about 5 euros a month. For the end user, I think they will find it very cheap. [Also], the studio has started to monetize all those viewings out there. That’s why the studios are interested. They’ve been thinking: ‘What’s happening out there? We lose revenue every year.’
TPP: Which studios have signed up?
MB: So far, it’s only independents; they are always the first movers. All the big studios will come over time, I am sure of that.
TPP: What are the advantages of running a streaming service?
MB: If you stream, you don’t replicate, you don’t do an asset transfer. That’s why all the industry, the content owners, they love streaming. They keep one asset somewhere, then they show it. But that’s also why the pirates love downloading, because they can replicate and share with each other. We believe in cloud-based streaming. Even if you have purchased it, you keep it in the cloud, because it’s such an advantage for the end user. You can travel and go anywhere and still reach your asset; you don’t have to fill up your hard drive. You can use any device and have one single login.
TPP: You launched in Scandinavia in 2010, Spain two years later, and now you are rolling the service out globally. How important do you see this part of Europe as being?
MB: I see great potential in Eastern Europe. In Russia and Russian-speaking territories, Africa and several territories in Asia, there’s large potential both for fighting piracy and file-sharing and doing that before it’s too late. The only way to fight piracy is to offer something better, to offer something in line with natural user behavior. That’s why sharing is part of what we’re offering. I think there’s more potential for [the service] spreading outside Western Europe – it’s more crowded with services in Western Europe and the United States, and people have become used to downloading and sharing.
TPP: What was it like developing the product?
MB: We developed this technology; it took several years. It sounds very logical and simple, but it’s been blood, sweat and tears, a lot of tears, to make this happen. The content industry loves it, because it’s such a secure environment. It’s so powerful.
TPP: You have been involved in a number of tech enterprises. What is the secret of achieving success in these fields?
MB: The thread or line in all this experience is that it’s very important to have a solid base of technology. There are so many people just trying to do the same things as before with the same technology. That doesn’t work. If you’re going to be disruptive and create something new, you also have to put in a lot of energy to develop a new technology.
TPP: How does your difficult start in life make you reflect on the success you have had?
MB: I have been extremely thankful for life. It’s a bit like the immigrants who came to America in the 1800s. They had this tremendous spirit because they had nothing to lose and everything to gain, and everything was an opportunity. Everything is possible. I am thankful for this chance.