TV Subscriptions and Licence Fees

  • The revision of the Federal Law on Radio and Television (RTVA) will direct more license fees to local radio and TV stations.
  • Swiss broadcasters are expanding their Replay-Functions. This ‘time-shifted’ TV allows viewers to record broadcasts in parallel, and then watch them anytime.
  • Streaming is driven by large technology companies, like Apple, Google or Samsung, who offer Streaming Boxes and TVs.
  • International sport programmes are shifting from traditional broadcasting to the Internet.

The TV Subscriptions/Licenses market consists of revenues generated by distributors of TV content. It includes spending on subscriptions to basic and premium channels accessed via cable, telephone companies, over-the-top (OTT) providers and other distributors. Swiss public TV license fees and royalties for audio-visual works are also included.

Video-on-demand (VoD), pay-per-view (PPV) and separately paid TV programmes delivered via the Internet (OTT) and by TV providers are only included in the Filmed Entertainment segment. Mobile TV subscription spending is no longer reported here, because it is increasingly obsolete as a standalone revenue stream (revenues are included in the IPTV segment).

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Market Overview

The Swiss TV subscriptions market consists of cable TV and IPTV. In Switzerland, free digital, terrestrial TV or free-to-air satellite TV compete with subscription TV. BILLAG, a government agency, is responsible for collecting the public TV license fees. On June 14 2015, the Swiss approved the revision of the Federal Law on Radio and Television (RTVA), which came into force on 1 July 2016. The aim is to replace the current license fee with a general tax, and to strengthen local radio and TV stations with funding and training (and public service obligations). The change to the general fee by households is made at the latest in 2019; until then, license fees apply.

Until mid-2015, cable TV was receivable in analogue as well as digital formats. Then, UPC, Switzerland’s largest cable network operator, ceased analogue broadcasting. The last six analogue channels (SRF1, SRF2, SRFInfo, Joiz and two local ones) were shut down on May 19, 2015.

Swisscom has overtaken UPC in numbers of cable subscribers, expanding its TV market share to 33.5 per cent. Swisscom also leads the Swiss IPTV market. In total, Swisscom TV subscribers increased 14.3 per cent to 1.33 million at the end of 2015. Almost 90 per cent of the subscribers use bundle offerings. In April 2014, Swisscom launched “Swisscom TV 2.0”, a Cloud-based TV subscription that offers seven-day replay of over 250 channels, over 70 of which are available in High Definition (HD). Swisscom TV 2.0 counts more than one million customers. In 2015, Swisscom extended the replay function from 30 hours to seven days, and integrated around 50 of the most popular apps such as YouTube and Facebook in Swisscom TV 2.0.

Almost 90 per cent of TV subscribers at Swisscom use bundle offerings.

With a 32.7 per cent share of the Swiss TV subscriptions, UPC has lost its leading position to Swisscom. UPC counted 1.30 million subscribers at the end of 2015, a loss of 6.1 per cent from 2014. Price increases for 3-in-1 cable connections might have depressed the growth rate for subscriptions. Since 2013, the Horizon Box is on the market, and it is used by over 200'000 customers. With the Austrian launch of the Horizon Box in 2016, UPC had announced innovations: the new Horizon Box can record up to four broadcasts simultaneously, and it has a menu item for recommendations based on personal viewing habits.

Sunrise, Switzerland’s largest private telecommunications provider, entered the IPTV market in 2012 with “Sunrise TV”, which by the end of 2015, had 134’000 customers, 25 per cent up from the previous year . Sunrise TV offers more than 270 channels, of which more than 80 are available in HD. With the launch of the new “Smart TV”, Sunrise has made the next step: thanks to the cloud-based recording, customers can simultaneously record programmes up to 1200h. 

Matthias Schmidt
Matthias Schmidt Senior Manager Strategy Swisscom
A mobile offering is increasingly important in the TV market. Users expect to access content whenever and wherever in high-definition formats. Mobile offerings remain a focus but they will not yet replace fixed access and bundle products in the long run.

Cable operators and telephone companies face increasing competition in domestic TV. Web-TV, with its innovative features and mobile applications, has changed TV consumption. The leading Web-TV services Zattoo, Teleboy and Wilmaa differ in their range of channels, features and supported platforms for the playback of programs. Common to all, however, is a freemium payment model that provides a basic offering including live TV for free, and a premium version with more features. For example, Swisscom has launched Swisscom “TV Air” – an offer that includes 190 programmes, 30 hours replay and 60 hours recording capacity. TV Air is ad-financed and available to anyone. For Swisscom customers the service is ad-free. Web-TV is available on all screens such as smartphones, tablets, PCs and smart-TVs.

Zattoo is one of the first Web-TV providers to offer delayed viewing of programs.  At the end of 2015 Zattoo counted 933’000 customers, 34% more than 2015.  Presently, Zattoo is offering 46 national and international stations. In 2016 Zattoo activated time-shifted contents. Zattoo has already entered the UK, and is expanding into new markets in Denmark and the USA (starting with testing by students of the University of Michigan) .

Wilmaa grew customer numbers by 55 per cent to 473’00 at the end of 2015. Teleboy maintained its customer base at 538’000 customers, growth of 8%.  In March 2016 Teleboy and Wilmaa created a corporate operating company, with the aim of reducing costs, although the two brands will still be maintained.

Market Growth

Swiss TV subscription and license fees are expected to grow at an annual rate of 1.4 per cent over the next five years, mainly driven by price increases on the part of cable companies and the adoption of IPTV. There will be a shift from analogue to digital. UPC shut its analogue broadcasting in mid-2015, and other cable operators will likely follow suit by 2018. Digital cable and IPTV have gained from switching since 2014, as remaining customers of analogue began shifting.

IPTV is a key growth area, with an anticipated CAGR of 4.7 per cent through 2020. IPTV has become a real alternative to cable TV and is expected to serve 2.0 million households by 2020, up from 1.3 million at the end of 2014 and equivalent to a CAGR of 7.2 per cent. Cable is under increasing pressure. In 2015, cable lost around 130,000 subscribers and is forecasted to lose further market share through 2020. Public license fees should remain stable over the next five years, with a CAGR of 1 per cent. Royalties are growing, due to new opportunities such as copies via smartphones and tablets. Its CAGR should amount to 5.6 per cent over the next five years.

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Key Players

Swiss TV subscription and license fees are expected to grow at an annual rate of 1.4 per cent over the next five years, mainly driven by price increases on the part of cable companies and the adoption of IPTV. There will be a shift from analogue to digital. UPC shut its analogue broadcasting in mid-2015, and other cable operators will likely follow suit by 2018. Digital cable and IPTV have gained from switching since 2014, as remaining customers of analogue began shifting.

IPTV is a key growth area, with an anticipated CAGR of 4.7 per cent through 2020. IPTV has become a real alternative to cable TV and is expected to serve 2.0 million households by 2020, up from 1.3 million at the end of 2014 and equivalent to a CAGR of 7.2 per cent. Cable is under increasing pressure. In 2015, cable lost around 130,000 subscribers and is forecasted to lose further market share through 2020. Public license fees should remain stable over the next five years, with a CAGR of 1 per cent. Royalties are growing, due to new opportunities such as copies via smartphones and tablets. Its CAGR should amount to 5.6 per cent over the next five years.

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Principal Drivers

Streaming TV is now a viable alternative to traditional reception. Companies such as Apple and Google offer powerful Streaming Boxes and TVs. Streaming’s quality, contents and usability are getting steadily better, and prices for equipment and upgrades of existing televisions are falling. This fuels attractiveness and spreading of Internet TV. These days, more than 20% of Swiss residents stream on the big screen. 

With replay, TV providers are free from fixed programme times. Altogether at 99 channels available in Switzerland, UPC horizon customers can call up TV programmes from the last 7 days or 30 hours - depending on the subscription. Swisscom TV 2.0 offers since 2014 seven-day replay on over 250 channels. The recording function also gives viewers greater freedom: thanks to a cloud-based solution, customers may record any number of programmes in parallel. Sunrise increased in 2015 the number of channels with 7-day-replay-TV function, from 110 to 230 channels.

UPC switched off its analogue TV in mid-2015, saying that its customers had gone “digital”. Digital TV offers better picture and sound quality, a broader selection of channels, and allows for features such as time-shifted TV, electronic program guides and interactive TV. IPTV is another key trend, driven by IP networks’ ability to offer more flexible infrastructure and programming.

Digital cable TV and IPTV are enhancing their pay TV by offering free mobile TV on PCs, tablets and smartphones. At the end of 2015, Swisscom expanded the TV-supply for mobile devices. With “Swisscom TV Air free”, which is adfinanced, non-Swisscom customers can use TV 2.0 on their mobile phones: the service is free via the app, and it includes replay and programme recording. UPC’s mobile "Horizon Go" brings over 100 TV channels to smartphones and tablets. Sunrise offers an App for Smart TV since November 2015 that is comparable to TV 2.0 App and Horizon Go.

More than 20% of Swiss residents stream on the big screen.

Sport is one of the most common subjects of live programming. TV providers must keep an eye on its shift from traditional broadcasting to online broadcasting. In May 2016, BT (UK’s leading communications company) announced that the Champions League as well as the Europa League finals would be streamed on YouTube, free of charge within the UK. Likewise, Twitter agreed to broadcast 10 US NFL games to its 800 million customers for free. Additionally, in-game highlights and pre-game live broadcasts from players and teams have been introduced. Twitter has bid against tech companies such as Yahoo and Amazon to win these broadcasting rights. According to the BBC, Facebook was part of the bidding, but dropped out before the final round. In any case, this shows how tech and social media are looking to disrupt distribution of TV. It is unclear how soon this will reach Switzerland; still it could have a severe impact if or when it does.

Swisscom is betting on the success of Live-Sports. With Teleclub Sport Live, Swisscom TV carries around 5,000 live broadcasts each year, including every goal from the Super League and the National League.  The offering includes top European football, all Formula 1 races and major tennis and golf tournaments in HD. From the 2016/2017 season onwards, Swisscom will team up with Teleclub to broadcast two games in the Raiffeisen Super League in UHD every week.

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As in Switzerland, subscription TV in Western European is upselling customers to higher-value bundled packages, featuring more TV and/or home communications, and introducing new value-added services like multiscreen capability and advanced set-top boxes. International players in OTT are increasing their presence in Europe home videos, with Netflix in 2015 launching in Spain, Italy and Portugal, having entered Germany and France in 2014. Amazon is also present with its Prime Instant Video service, while Apple pushes its TVOD iTunes store primarily via its Apple TV set-top box.

With a 1.4 per cent CAGR over the next five years, Swiss TV might lie below the Western European average of 2.4 per cent. Although cable generates the biggest subscription TV revenue by a considerable margin in Western Europe, it has peaked in subscribers. A steady decline is forecast to persist and will see total cable households fall from 45.7 million at the end of 2015 to 44.5 million by the end of 2020. In Switzerland, cable is also expected to lose subscribers. The main beneficiary of cable's decline will be IPTV: by the end of 2020, the number of IPTV households in Western Europe will increase at a CAGR of 4.7 per cent. France, Europe's biggest IPTV market, will continue to drive Western European growth for the technology, followed by the UK.

Unlike the Switzerland, where analogue TV will cease in four years’ time, subscribers in Germany, Western Europe's largest cable market, are not easily convinced to change from analogue to digital. The reluctance of subscribers to upgrade from analogue to digital services in major markets such as Germany will restrict the sector from achieving better growth.