SPI International’s Erwan Luherne Talks Growth & Gains


Positioned as the “Home of Great Entertainment,” SPI International has been blazing a trail across the globe with its diverse array of channels. It also licenses content to the international market through its distribution business. Erwan Luherne, managing director of SPI International, tells World Screen about SPI International’s strategic vision.

WS: What is guiding the growth and gains for SPI International over the last year?
LUHERNE: Our extensive expertise in channel creation and content curation across free-to-air, pay TV and digital platforms, coupled with our commitment to providing added value to our customers, forms the foundation of our operations. This drives both our linear channel penetration and growth in digital distribution.

Our flagship FilmBox brand boasts a diverse array of TV channels, such as FilmBox, FilmBox Premium, FilmBox Extra and FilmBox Stars, along with the FilmBox+ on-demand service. We have focused on expanding FilmBox channels and FilmBox+ globally with B2B partnerships in key regions. FilmBox has been a primary focus for us in the past year and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

We’re also a major supplier of films and TV shows in international markets through distribution and license sales. Through collaboration with our content aggregator and operator partners, we ensure that our content reaches various markets effectively.

WS: What is SPI International’s strategic vision for 2024 and 2025?
LUHERNE: Our overall strategy is to always provide greater entertainment experience to global audiences and a more diverse offering to business partners through a wide selection of channels and digital services. The initiatives we pursue are aimed at fulfilling this core objective.

In line with this objective, we’ve strategically built a robust portfolio of pay-TV channels and SVOD services under the FilmBox brand, aiming to provide audiences with diverse content access at compelling prices. Our commitment to enhancing the global appeal of FilmBox has led to significant investments in its development.

For example, recognizing the importance of tailoring content offerings to specific markets, FilmBox initiated a development plan that involves crafting dedicated programming for each country where our channels are distributed, ensuring that we deliver offerings that resonate with local audiences’ preferences. Earlier this year, we launched a dedicated feed for FilmBox in Hungary, following the successful implementation of a similar approach in the Czech market in 2018. The development plan will also be implemented in other key regions throughout 2024 and 2025.

Moreover, we’re continuously strengthening our channel lineup by acquiring and curating premium content from reputable distribution partners. Recent partnerships, including the one with Vertical for CEE and Sony for Poland, exemplify our dedication to enriching our content offerings. Additionally, we maintain strong collaborations with our long-standing partners, such as Paramount, Prorom and Daro. Additionally, FilmBox Netherlands aired the Oscars live for the third year, reaffirming our dedication to bringing the most anticipated awards show of the year to audiences in the region.

We’re excited to expand the distribution of the FilmBox brand of channels and FilmBox+ SVOD service globally with new operator partnerships. Our recent expansions include, for example, the launch of FilmBox Action, FilmBox Family and FilmBox Middle East channels across various territories, including South Africa, Ghana and the Middle East, in collaboration with Digital Virgo, last year’s significant FilmBox+ launch with Vectra as the first operator in Poland, as well as FilmBox Premium HD, FilmBox Extra HD, FilmBox Family, FilmBox Action and FilmBox Arthouse channels launch in collaboration with Play/UPC a few months ago in Poland.

WS: What do you see as the company’s market impact on a global scale?
LUHERNE: SPI International is a global media company that provides entertainment to global audiences and a diverse offering to business partners. As a company, we have a global impact—we are present on six continents in almost 70 countries, offering content in 20 languages. SPI owns a suite of brands that have become household names, such as FilmBox, Film1, Kino Polska, Stopklatka, Zoom TV and Dizi, along with different thematic channels and streaming services, including FilmBox+. There are a total of 32 channel brands in our portfolio with 56 dedicated feeds and we keep on working on further developments. Today, SPI International cooperates with over 800 operators, representing millions of viewers worldwide, which makes it a key player in television distribution and broadcasting.

As the “Home of Great Entertainment,” our motto underscores our dedication to delivering added value for our partners. We enhance their offerings and entertainment bundles by providing curated windows of premium content across both linear and digital platforms.

We are also committed to fortifying our presence in the digital landscape through proactive product development and strategic digital distribution initiatives. Recent digital agreements, including the addition of Dizi on Allente’s platform in Sweden and Filmstream on Freeview in the U.K., underscore our dedication to expanding our digital footprint and providing premium content to diverse audiences.

WS: After becoming part of the CANAL+ Group, what is SPI’s pivotal role within the parent company?
LUHERNE: Being a part of CANAL+ Group allows SPI International to leverage its position in the media market, successfully compete in an increasingly challenging environment and develop its business in a safe and stable manner. Collaboration within the CANAL+ Group companies serves as a catalyst for strategic partnerships in various aspects, including channel creation, marketing initiatives, distribution channels and delivering combined offers in some territories.

SPI International plays a pivotal role in supporting CANAL+ Group and M7 Group in their endeavors to introduce new CANAL+ branded channels and SVOD services across Europe. The company led the full development and launch of the CANAL+ streaming platform and the CANAL+ Action channel in the Czech Republic, handling program acquisition, on-air promotion and technical support. Furthermore, earlier this year, SPI International collaborated with other CANAL+ Group companies to launch the CANAL+ streaming platform in the Netherlands, with Ziggo as a key launching partner, and introduced the CANAL+ Action linear channel, further enhancing our offerings in the region.

In terms of collaborative marketing initiatives, a standout example is the recent FilmBox pre-Oscars soiree, hosted jointly with SPI International, CANAL+ Netherlands and M7 Group in March. We were honored to welcome key stakeholders, distribution and content partners to share in the excitement and glamor of the occasion. Renowned film critic Rene Mioch, our FilmBox/Oscars brand ambassador, contributed to the star-studded atmosphere of the night with special guests, including actress Monic Hendrickx, known for her role in the Oscar-nominated Zus & Zo, and visual effects expert Erik Jan de Boer, an Oscar-winner for his work in Life of Pi. Such collaborations will remain integral to our group’s strategy, enabling us to capitalize on each other’s strengths and amplify our impact in the market.

As for distribution channels, we are collaborating with Thema, another CANAL+ Group company, to extend the reach of our channels by distributing them in key markets across Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region. This strategic partnership facilitates broader accessibility and viewership for SPI/FilmBox content in these burgeoning markets.

Furthermore, the development of the TeleNowele YouTube channel in Poland, in collaboration with the previously mentioned Thema, underscores the commitment to embracing digital platforms and reaching audiences through diverse channels of distribution. The channel presents the Turkish and Latin American series to the Polish diaspora.

Thanks to collaboration within the CANAL+ Group, we can respond even better to the needs of our business partners. For example, in Poland, we introduced CANAL+ Advertising—the joint advertising offices of CANAL+ Polska and the SPI International affiliate Grupa Kino Polska. This modern advertising office combines the rich offer of both broadcasters’ diverse television channels with a wide range of programming (sports, films and series, lifestyle, children’s channels), with local productions and international blockbusters with star-studded casts. CANAL+ Advertising offers a variety of advertising products, such as product placement, sponsorships and integrated 360-degree campaigns.

Overall, these collaborative efforts underscore the collective commitment of CANAL+ Group companies to driving innovation, expanding market reach, and delivering premium content experiences to audiences worldwide.

WS: As you look at the year ahead, where do you see the bright spots and opportunities? And how will SPI International be tapping into these?
LUHERNE: FilmBox’s portfolio of channels and SVOD service, FilmBox+, will be the key focus for us in the coming years, integrating with more B2B partners and launching more FilmBox offers with key regions worldwide.

Quality content plays an important role in terms of enhancing our channels and services. It serves as the cornerstone of our collaborative efforts and strategic acquisitions, driving engagement, attracting viewership and enhancing the overall entertainment experience for audiences. We will continue to work with major distributors to bring great content to our services and produce our own shows for targeted entertainment.

We’re also committed to optimizing collaboration among our group companies to identify and prioritize key growth areas. By leveraging synergies across our organization, we aim to streamline operations, capitalize on market opportunities and drive sustained growth across our business portfolio.