Bedrock’s Jonas Engwall

European media giant RTL Group is targeting 10 million paying customers for its streaming platforms RTL+ and Videoland by 2026, up from 5.5 million last year. RTL+ in Hungary and Videoland are powered by RTL Group’s own Bedrock venture, which is offering its streaming technology services to partners across the globe, helping traditional linear broadcasters shift to an on-demand era. Bedrock CEO Jonas Engwall shares with World Screen his perspectives on how the company is helping its partners monetize content across AVOD and SVOD tiers and upgrade the customer experience.

***Image***WS: How is Bedrock serving the needs of broadcasters as they adjust their business models to the on-demand era?
ENGWALL: Broadcasters are challenged in this new environment—where tech and scale suddenly play a very big role—with the increased competition from global streaming players. Broadcasters used to compete with local players, but now they are thrust into head-to-head competition with companies operating on a global scale with deep pockets. Streaming has brought a huge amount of entertainment propositions, both from the content and platform and user experience points of view, and consumer expectations are now set by the global giants. This means that local broadcasters have to keep up with global streamers in terms of the platform and user experience, which is an extremely costly adventure. This is precisely where Bedrock helps, as we are creating scale across several big players in multiple countries. By pooling technology developments, expertise and talent, Bedrock delivers state-of-the-art streaming services at an affordable cost.

WS: What are the biggest challenges “legacy” media players must overcome as they take on the global tech giants?
ENGWALL: We like to say that while content is king, the platform is queen. Creating great entertainment is still the biggest challenge, but now broadcasters have to think about how it is brought to their audience. In the past, the delivery was a given as the technology was standardized and didn’t offer any choice. It was a one-to-many way to interact, and everyone provided the same service, meaning it wasn’t a competitive edge; the only focus was on the storytelling.

Today, the technology is much more advanced and offers an amazing array of choices and possible differentiation in monetization, loyalty and marketing codes, editorial tools, hyper-personalization and cutting-edge features. This all makes a huge difference in connecting to your audience one-to-one and improving the end-user experience and consumption.

Creating appealing streaming platforms is a whole new skill set that is very easy to underestimate. It’s not only about a great UI, hyper-personalized experience, cutting-edge features or device support; it’s also about creating a stable platform that never goes down and making sure it’s scalable. It can be particularly difficult to achieve scale for broadcasters if they are not in very large countries like the U.S., India or China. But with the proper support and a solid scalability plan, broadcasters are well-positioned to compete with global giants and become national leaders.

WS: How impactful has it been for the company to have RTL Group as a 50 percent owner since 2020?
ENGWALL: From a Bedrock perspective, having RTL Group on board means taking a giant step toward much-needed scale. As a result, we have grown from 150 to 400 talents, and we are continuously making huge investments in tech, cloud, AI and the user experience, to mention a few examples. From an RTL Group perspective, working with Bedrock is key to pivoting from a broadcast legacy business to a streaming-first business with national champions competing with global streaming giants.

WS: What factors do you urge your broadcast partners to consider as they craft their on-demand strategies?
ENGWALL: The obvious advice is to not underestimate the power of streaming and its complexity and the need for huge scale to succeed, particularly in cost efficiency. Broadcasters working on their on-demand strategies will find that while streaming doesn’t change their underlying way of monetization, it can certainly broaden their scope. A free-to-air player going streaming probably means a predominance of AVOD but doesn’t exclude a portion of SVOD revenue. And vice versa—a pay-TV player going streaming most likely translates into an SVOD service with an AVOD tier included. In a nutshell, streaming is an opportunity to broaden the monetization strategy, but that doesn’t mean they have to change how they monetize content completely. They can consider it an adaptation to new ways of consuming rather than a change in direction.

WS: How crucial is it for platforms to have multiple tiers (SVOD, ad-lite, ad-free) today?
ENGWALL: If you come back to the roots of broadcasters, in the live broadcast era, they didn’t have a way to offer their content without advertising, although that might have been a good idea. Nowadays, there are more possibilities, and I think it’s very important to experiment with business models.

We have seen from music streamers that users are willing to pay for less or no advertising. I am convinced that we will see a lot of people choosing to spend a few euros per month to enhance their viewing experience, be it with fewer ads, more devices or better features. This behavior will naturally differ between audience segments and countries, and it may take some time, but I am quite convinced that we will end up in this direction. After all, if you spend several hours per day watching local content, “investing” the price of half of a Starbucks coffee (that you probably buy daily) isn’t a big monthly investment to drastically improve your viewing experience.

WS: You have initially focused on Europe. Given your background in international media, are you looking at growth opportunities in other parts of the world?
ENGWALL: Indeed, we are getting more and more interest from outside Europe. We are investigating these opportunities with great enthusiasm, and I would see Bedrock exploring other continents fairly soon.

WS: What have been the benefits of coming from a TV background in your work at Bedrock?
ENGWALL: Our 15-year tech experience in the broadcasting world is key to understanding the challenges that legacy broadcasters are facing. Indeed, in most cases, we have already lived through those challenges and have solutions ready. In addition, we are laser-focused on building state-of-the-art platforms that are on par with (or better than) the global streaming giants so that our clients can engage with their end users in the same professional way as the big players. Having been in the media and tech space for more than 20 years, I believe Bedrock is in a unique place to help leading media and content companies leverage their experience and expertise and overcome these new challenges.

WS: What are your goals for the company in the next 12 to 18 months amid what appears to be a new era in the streaming wars?
ENGWALL: The tech and streaming space is moving fast, and we will continue improving our platform, making it even stronger and more personalized. Although we are like an “exclusive members club” in the streaming space, we are open to adding more stakeholders who share our ambition. Bedrock is more than just a tech solution; it’s a strategic partner for media companies.

In the coming years, our goal will remain the same: creating streaming champions that can survive in the streaming wars and guaranteeing that local content gets a chance to thrive in the tougher global competition.