NPO is now really fighting Netflix

It took some effort – but with approval from both the Media Authority and the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), the Dutch Public Broadcasting online video service NPO Start can now really expand. Those plans had been in place since 2019. Then the NPO announced in its ‘Annual Video Plan’ with NPO Start that it wanted to fully compete with video services such as Netflix and Videoland (RTL). The NPO wants to be the largest provider of video on demand are, the management wrote at the time.

With these approvals, the NPO can now add programs from online channels such as those of NPO3 and FunX to the offer on NPO Start. In addition, it may offer some NPO programs earlier than on television, or even exclusively for NPO Start viewers. NPO Start, formerly Uitzend Gemist, can now behave more like an on-demand service.

At the end of March, the ACM and the Media Authority not only approved the expansion of NPO Start, but also the arrival of the new on-demand channel NPO Luister, for all podcasts from the NPO. This week, State Secretary Gunay Uslu (D66, Culture and Media) already published a draft decision for NPO Luister.

Aging viewership

The steps that the NPO is now taking towards on-demand are not surprising – the viewership is aging, the competition from streaming services has been fierce for years – and due to the long approval procedure that preceded it, it was even late. But they are fundamental. They also come together with a major reorganization in the way in which the public broadcaster serves its programs: the so-called ‘integral programming’, which also started this week.

Integrated programming means that six ‘genre managers’ will from now on direct the range of programs in which they directly involve NPO Start, but also online channels such as YouTube and TikTok. Until now, three network coordinators did this: they determined which programs were broadcast on their channels and distributed the money on that basis. In short, filling television channels makes way for works by genre – journalism, fiction or entertainment, for example – based on the idea that in this way you can better look at what the viewer needs. Only at a later stage do genre managers decide on which channels those programs can best land: television, NPO Start or online.

The viewer will not notice much of this for the time being: the three television channels will keep their profile and their budget. And the existing budgets for online and television will not expire either. “We have to do this trick with the same amount of money,” said TV director Frans Klein during a press conference this Wednesday. In 2022, 30 million euros has been budgeted for online, out of a total video budget of 624 million euros.

Klein: “How quickly we will move to other platforms and how big on-demand and online will become compared to television, is still a question mark for us. In any case, we see in the Dutch market that linear television is still large – a lot of TV is watched. We therefore repair the roof while the sun is shining. We move and change, but at the same time we keep an eye on the fact that we continue to serve our old, loyal audience.”

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