GO’s 15 Year Investment in TV Technology and Content
by Mandy Calleja, Head of Corporate Communications, GO plc
Fifteen years ago, was the start of GO’s remarkable adventure with its television offering when it acquired Multiplus back in 2007, a start-up company that had started operations following the liberalisation of the pay TV sector in 2001. This acquisition was interesting for GO because Multiplus was the first start-up offering Digital Terrestrial Television (DTTV) – a cost-effective, viable and competitive TV alternative. This bold move was the steppingstone toward a journey that would turn GO into the leader and largest investor in the local TV market.
GO has always invested in its networks and infrastructure at the same pace of technological developments. It has gone from a linear TV service, dependent on the installation of unsightly roof top antennas, set-top boxes and inhouse wiring, to a fully integrated and interactive platform, which allows customers to fully dictate their individual experience on any of their preferred device, anyplace, anytime. This article will give an account of GO’s exciting TV story. If you are a TV buff and would like to take a trip down memory lane, then read on.
From the outset, GO had an ambition to be the local leader in the provision of a complete telecommunications package that would provide customers with a holistic communications and entertainment package. In fact, the acquisition of Multiplus, made GO, then known as Maltacom, Malta’s first Quad-Play operator offering Fixed Voice, Internet, Mobile and TV. Once the acquisition was complete, plans were set in motion to enhance the level of digital TV service offered through the DTTV platform, both in terms of content, as well as service provision.
Soon after the acquisition, a brand new headend was set up at GO’s Magħtab Earth Station. GO’s investment had focused mainly on providing close to 100% DTTV coverage. Several transmitter stations were set up around Malta and Gozo to improve coverage. More frequencies were added to the network, which allowed us to offer our customers many more channels to enjoy.
Martin Abela, Senior Manager, Video Operations at GO, has experienced GO’s TV journey first hand. “It was a really exciting time for us all. We were investing heavily in a new product and TV platform and we could feel that customers were hungry for more” he recalls.
“We were using the best technology (at the time) in video processing, and customers were as excited as we were. In a relatively short period of time, our subscriber base grew exponentially from a few thousands to over 50,000,” he added. ‘Our customers reaction to this service was all the encouragement we needed to continue investing’, said Martin.
As it turned out, 2010 was a crucial year that showed how resolute and committed GO was to enhance its newly acquired TV platform.
By July of that same year, just three years after the acquisition, GO had already invested over €7 million in its TV infrastructure.
That same year, GO invested in a new state-of-the-art Media Control Room at its Magħtab headend, which enabled the company’s television team to monitor and direct all transmissions effectively. It upgraded the sports playout facility, which now allows it to broadcast up to eight simultaneous games during every match day. Recording and playback of another two simultaneous feeds was also enabled.
From investing in the technology, GO shifted its attention to the content. It launched GO Stars, the first ever movie channel from GO to broadcast movies, series, and other entertainment programmes and since then, has made every effort to continue to source the latest movies and series from the largest production houses across the globe.
‘At the time, our service was robust and easy to use, however DTTV technology limited how far we could stretch improvements,’ recounts Martin. ‘We therefore took the bold decision to embark on a new journey where we would capitalise on our TrueFibre broadband network to offer IPTV delivery.’ In September 2011, GOs new Interactive TV service was launched.
This meant that customers could enjoy all the innovative features that a connected TV box could offer, such as Fast Channel Change, 100+ TV channels including HD channels, Restart and Network Video recording on all channels and 7-day catchup. The overall customer experience, changed for good.
A lot of our investment is customer driven, meaning we try to deliver solutions based on customer demands. Over the course of time, more features were added to really improve the customer’s TV experience. We developed our TV Anywhere App, which is available on mobile devices and PC player, allowing customers to enjoy the content they love, anytime, anyplace. Video on Demand and premium sports quickly followed. The constant investment and innovative approach often made GO a reference point to many suppliers because GO was among the first in Europe to have such a feature-rich platform.
‘In line with our purpose, which is to Drive a digital Malta where no one is left behind, our next wave of investment amounting to around €4.5 million when we launched GO Next Generation TV service which overhauled the User Interface, significantly improving accessibility to the content provided – whether it was Live TV or Video on Demand,’ explained Martin.
The new platform enabled us to continuously launch new products such as a fully featured Mobile/Tablet service with the same features and channel line-up, TV over internet (OTT), Wi-Fi connected Android TV STB, Chromecast and TV apps for Apple TV and Fire TV.
The technology aspect of GO’s TV offering supports the company’s quest to be able to offer unique premium content to its growing customer base. GO has since made one of its boldest moves yet and has shifted its TV investment strategy from technology, to content. We understood that local audiences are particularly fond of quality Maltese audio-visual productions. We therefore decided to commit a €1 million investment over three years to support the production of original TV content by Maltese production companies. This not only supports local production houses, but contributes to preserving Maltese history, culture and heritage.
To date, GO customers get to enjoy the richest library of Maltese TV content, some of which is new and exclusive to GO. Chalet, an original GO production was aired last December and was very well received by local audiences.
In April this year, we announced the return of the popular TV series Iċ-Ċaqqufa’s with a fourth season which will also be an exclusive GO Originals production. But content does not end here. GO is also bringing a return of a new production – Spettur Leonard, a spinoff from the popular series Simpatici which had a huge following some years back. Spettur Leonard will be available later on this year on GO’s Tokis channel, a unique library of Maltese movies and series which to date has exceeded 1000 hrs of content to watch.
GO’s TV service is once again at the forefront of local television, with its premium technology, its high-level productions and all the modern features expected to make our customers lives that little bit better, every day!
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