Before 24 Days

«Together we set standards for industry benchmarks»


Bea Knecht founded the TV streaming provider Zattoo in 2006. The platform has several million users from Switzerland, Germany and Austria every month. Since last year, Zattoo has been the first streaming provider to be recognised as an individual offering in the MACH Strategy. In an interview with Marie-Ange Pittet, Director of Product Management at WEMF, Bea Knecht talks about Zattoo's role in the streaming market and the future of moving images.

Zattoo is considered a pioneer in TV streaming. How and why did you come up with this groundbreaking new business idea?

The idea for Zattoo was born in 1990 when I first realised the feasibility of live TV broadcasting over the Internet. Around 2005, pieces of the technology puzzle became available. What was still missing was the transmission technology. This was provided by my fellow student and Zattoo co-founder Professor Sugih Jamin. We knew each other from our computer science studies at Berkeley and took the risk of founding Zattoo together with the aim of offering live TV free of charge and legally compliant on the Internet and distributing it worldwide.

Now Zattoo is once again a pioneer and has been recognised as a stand-alone offering in the most comprehensive intermedia study MACH Strategy. Why is this important for Zattoo?

We were already the first online TV partner of Mediafocus. Now we are extending our joint commitment to the MACH Strategy in the area of video streaming. Firstly, our participation increases the visibility of our offering. It allows us to better document our leading position as a streaming platform, which was previously only possible at group level, such as TV and video streaming as a whole. Secondly, it allows us to establish new contacts with full-service and creative agencies in order to have a direct influence on genre decisions. Thirdly, it offers additional arguments for our advertising acquisition and marketing: advertisers can use our first-party data (combined with MACH analyses) to identify new target groups such as specific income groups or shopping preferences.

What else does Zattoo hope to gain from participating in the MACH Strategy?

The individual identification in the MACH Strategy enables Zattoo to position itself more precisely in the market and gain a more accurate insight into the usage behaviour of the target group. This allows us to adapt our offering to user needs.

What effects could this have on other streaming providers?

Zattoo's participation in MACH Strategy increases the importance of streaming in media planning. Together we are setting standards for industry benchmarks, which will lead to more competition and innovation among streaming providers. We are delighted when competitors also become part of the MACH Strategy.

How can Zattoo counter platforms such as TikTok etc., which are particularly popular with younger viewers?

TikTok is a great innovation in terms of content and presentation. The content is crisp and short. It is often created by users of the platform on their mobile phones and therefore usually comes across as authentic. Users "zap" from short film to short film with a flick of the wrist. The presentation is dopamine-optimised: The system learns the viewer's preferences by observing how long they spend on a short film and thus guesses with a high hit rate what type of short film the viewer would like to see next.  

YouTube, Facebook and Instagram have responded to TikTok. They have switched on "Shorts" and are quite successful with them. TV could do the same: instead of zapping from channel to channel, there would be a swipe of "TV highlights". These would be edited daily and offer scenes from today's talk shows, news clips, meteo and sports action such as football goals.

My companies Genistat and Levuro have experience in academic collaboration as well as in product development with such cuts. We have already used them for FIFA, Swiss Ski and other customers. With the gradual maturation of our editing technology, cable TV providers, broadcasters and sports clubs could modernise the presentation of their cinematic content. I could imagine producing 10,000 fresh shorts a day from live TV content for various cable TV providers in a few years' time. As the editing process is time-consuming, it would make sense to produce them just once for the entire TV industry instead of having to do it all over again for each cable TV provider.

This brings me to the good content that Zattoo broadcasts: Zattoo relays 1250 TV channels across Europe. These provide information about local, national and global events and help to categorise them. They show live sporting events. They invite you to watch a game together. They entertain in feature-length films. They also keep a country or language region together. TikTok does not offer this.

Zattoo has recently expanded its thematic diversity with FAST channels (Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV). This offers advertising customers attractive additional advertising opportunities.

Exciting. And how do you see the future of video advertising?

We envisage a win-win situation for everyone involved: We increase our users' satisfaction with advertising and the viewer experience and offer effective and targeted advertising opportunities for our partners. In terms of format, Zattoo offers space for both shorter and longer advertising variants. In terms of targeting, we are increasingly focussing on ever more precise target groups. This also includes programmatic TV with the innovative TV advertising format Dynamic Ad Substitution (DAS) developed by Zattoo. This enables the integration of TV advertising segmented according to target groups directly into the live stream. Existing advertising blocks are replaced in coordination with the TV broadcasters, who can thus monetise their reach on the Internet. This will make TV advertising much more relevant for TV viewers.

What challenges does this pose for media research?

In the area of connected TVs (CTV), the industry lacks standardised market standards and metrics. This is made more difficult by the different operating systems used by the various TV set manufacturers. This gap in standardisation, the lack of a comprehensive technical infrastructure for accurate measurement and analysis and the fragmentation of the TV set market make it difficult for us to exploit the full potential of CTV. That is why we at Zattoo are focussing on driving the development and establishment of such standards and working on a robust technical infrastructure that enables precise measurements. Our goal is to maximise the benefits of precise targeting and campaign measurement that CTV offers.

And finally: What content is streamed most frequently on Zattoo?

We see the largest simultaneous viewer volumes at live sporting events such as the major football championships, the Ski World Cup, etc. However, most of the broadcast minutes go to the rest of our content: feature films such as "Tatort", reality shows such as "Dschungelcamp" and of course news formats and consumer magazines such as "Tagesschau" and "Kassensturz" as well as documentaries.