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Interview with Dirk Wierzbitzki





Head of Products & Marketing talking about HBO on Swisscom TV

“Jaws drop when we tell them this.”

As of now Swisscom TV is airing the series of American pay TV pioneer HBO. And that’s just for starters, says Dirk Wierzbitzki, Head of Products & Marketing.

Roger Baur, 28 September 2017

Dirk Wierzbitzki, Swisscom TV has recently launched an intensive cooperation with HBO for its Teleclub on Demand service. Will there soon be a new channel called "HBO Switzerland"?

That’s likely how we’d have done it ten years ago. But today our subscribers want content on demand – and that also goes for HBO series. Two years ago we already launched our “Hot from the US” service. You’ve always been able to view current series on it, directly after first showing in the USA. And now the latest HBO series are also available. The next sequel comes out every week. And of course, our subscribers have full access to past seasons.

And do you pay separately for each sequel?

The following applies for the latest series: you can of course continue to take individual sequels – but now we are offering the option of booking the full season at a flat rate. If the series is already out, you can buy all sequels as a full season. If the series is being aired at the same time in the USA, those sequels already shown are available immediately – and all the new ones on a weekly basis. 

Game of Thrones and other legendary HBO series are available as video on demand on Swisscom TV.

Swisscom TV has offered films on demand from the first – so this is a substantial ramp up?

Yes, it’s part of the television of the future. A lot has changed since we launched Swisscom TV in 2006. Today, for instance, we can offer films that are still running at the cinema elsewhere. And we can let subscribers not only rent, but also buy films. The major benefit of buying is that you can download the content and view it offline. Subscribers love these options, and demand across our virtual video store right to furthest corners has risen steeply. Now we’re ready for the next step and aim to hugely increase our film, and more importantly, our series selection. So that means that we have to seek new solutions with the studios. 

What do you mean?

Well, subscribers here don’t understand why you can’t watch a series here immediately after it has been aired in the USA. Producers like Netflix – which we also feature on Swisscom TV – offer their series on the same day across the globe. Many old-established studios however take things one at a time: First they focus on US providers, and then if we're lucky, a year later it’s our turn in Europe. That’s okay for traditional channels, but non-linear platforms like Swisscom TV need different solutions. 

But isn’t Swisscom and the Swiss market too small to change anything?

You might think so, but Swisscom TV is at the forefront internationally, both in technology and content, and that gives us clout. We’re not unknown in the industry. That's why one of our Teleclub colleagues jets back and forth between Volketswil and Los Angeles to take on the studios face to face and change things. 

And is she successful?

Yes, she’s gradually getting somewhere. But a lot of groundwork is involved. And let’s not forget, even in the USA television-on-demand is not the norm across the country. If you tell producers that such a product is already market leader in Switzerland, their jaws drop. For something like Swisscom TV to run smoothly nationwide from a technical point of view is still the exception in international terms.

What will change for viewers?

HBO is just a beginning. Our selection is going to grow so much, we’re going to upgrade Swisscom TV one more time. If everything goes according to plan, we’ll be rolling out another improvement in Swisscom TV even before Christmas.

With even more channels?

(laughing) No, that’s not the point. Linear channels aren’t a challenge. You’ve got to look at it like this: television is faced with a change of similar scale to that of newspapers 20 years ago. Traditional television is still on top, but that’s going to change very fast. Services like Netflix, YouTube or products like Teleclub on Demand are already more important than traditional television to a certain group. And we’ve got to come to terms with this development. At the same time, we give providers a chance to grow, too.

Does that include Swiss providers?

Yes, absolutely. We have always taken on board new Swiss television channels at Swisscom TV. And remember, Teleclub is one of the country’s largest private film funders.

HBO: the mother of series 2.0

The American pay TV provider HBO is regarded as the most influential player in the globalised TV business. HBO is also the parent of the modern television series. From the first, HBO series have been more innovative, visually striking, complex. Its first production “Oz” already set the tone, and when in 1999 “Sopranos” and shortly after “Sex and the City” went on the air, its success spiralled, ultimately sparking a stream of completely new path-breaking projects on free-to-air television. The experts agree on this: without HBO a whole generation of series makers would have never made it into Hollywood.



Dirk Wierzbitzki

The Head of Products & Marketing has held a seat on the Swisscom Group Executive Board since the beginning of 2016. Swisscom TV is among his responsibilities.

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