The drifting clouds…
I recently relocated from Stockholm to our Helsinki office, and to my disappointment I noticed that my digital rights did not come with me. Rights, which I have indeed acquired from a Nordic service provider. This made me think about the topic more broadly. In our business we come across numerous digital media verticals where the development and innovation is concentrated to few geographies – currently mainly the US. The US seems to foster new digital media innovations quicker than any other region, related not only to digital music, but to electronic books, videos etc.
Digital media is taking giant steps – storage, services, and software are increasingly organised in clouds – and the speed on which new services and solutions are offered shows no signs of slowing down. Here in the Nordics we all know Spotify or iTunes, but globally there are many other services that are equally appealing like Vevo (revolutionarily offering music videos from three major record labels), Hulu (“TV. Your way.” – free video content such as TV shows and movies on the viewers terms) and soon Google TV will join this wide range of digital media offerings.
Sadly, for Europe these clouds seem to be drifting further and further away. There are many examples of unsuccessful or excruciatingly slow attempts to conquer Europe with Digital media. Most of the services listed are not available at all in Europe. Nokia’s music service (Comes with music) is one example of a painfully slow rollout due to issues with having to launch separately, country by country.
Copyrights – and the plethora of rules around them – are partly to blame. This old and well established institution is still based on cumbersome national copyright agreements, and this has been one of the biggest reasons hampering the rollouts of digital media services Europe wide.
But the complexity is not only about managing copyrights. It is also about managing mobile data roaming. All of you might not be aware that some digital ebook readers in Europe have an American SIM card preinstalled since data roaming agreements are so extremely complicated and expensive that content packaging becomes virtually impossible. Amazon is one service provider that has plans for Europe as well, and although having had a slow start in Europe, they now have an agreement with a European operator (Vodafone UK) and will start to offer the latest version of their eReader (Kindle) equipped with a local SIM card this month.
Will these legacies prevent Europe from developing in the forefront of the digital media era?
For the very least, European media and EU are up for some new challenges here. US has taken the lead in the innovation of digital media, but the question is, how far will they drift and will the gap become too wide for Europe to catch up?