Robin Hague ©RapidTVNews | 10-09-2011

Pay TV is starting to grab significant consumer action in Germany, that unique European television market, pushed along by HD and with satellite and cable in effective and successful collusion.

Sky Deutschland managing director Holger Ensslin told his audience at one of NDS's IBC 2011 Perspectives events that "pay TV is taking hold and has become a more accepted commodity in Germany than before".

It's been a battle for Sky Deutschland from its earliest days, the German market dominated by high quality free-to-air channels and cable routinely provided as virtually another utility in German apartment buildings.

Now, Sky Deutschland is homing in on 3 million subscribers and after churning through 20% of its subscribers only two years ago, it now enjoys one of Europe's lowest pay-TV churn rates, almost down to 10%.

Ensslin puts this down to a number of factors, not the least of which is a dramatic improvement in Sky Deutschland's customer service levels.

However, carefully working with cable operators has also increased demand. For example, "we have a co-operation with Kabel Baden Württemberg, one of Germany's biggest cable operators", he says.

Sky channels are being offered as part of KBW's triple-play product, but also as a stand-alone offer.

"Combining the two products [satellite channels and cable] makes it easier for the cable subscriber, who gets more choice without having to purchase separate services.

“Co-operation is good, not only in the interests of cable and Sky, but also for the consumer, because they can get out of one hand, all the content they want.”

Now, many millions of Germans are paying for their television, whether through satellite, cable or telco offers.

HD has played a very significant role too, oddly supported by the country's free to air broadcasters. Their 30 channels feature much HD programming and according to Ensslin, this has helped acclimatise German viewers to the great benefits of high definition.

“Since the public broadcasters have had HD, it has become a major driver for all our [pay TV] businesses, because it shows the consumer that if they want real high quality, they will also have to pay for it.

“Sky Deutschland has the strongest HD line-up in Germany, with 28 high definition channels.”

In terms of the growth of the German pay TV market, “there is potential there. It’s just a question of the right mix, which includes new product like connected devices”, he says.