As the revitalization of the Greek economy continues, companies such as Forthnet are investing in innovation that will help propel long-term growth. In particular, Forthnet is playing a key role in revolutionising the Greek entertainment and media industries.
Greece’s road to recovery after the financial crisis is about more than mere restoration. As it looks to rebuild, the Mediterranean nation has the opportunity to become stronger than ever before. This is certainly the mentality expressed by Panos Papadopoulos, CEO and Vice Chairman of Forthnet, the cutting-edge telecommunications company based in Greece. Papadopoulos argues that where there is underdevelopment, there is potential: “Greece is the only country in Europe where we have just one Telecom infrastructure in order to connect either households or businesses to the internet. This is something that has to change. It’s a great opportunity to invest.”
Forthnet is helping to pull Greece into the future. Among its many crowning achievements, Papadopoulos expresses particular pride that his company brought internet to Greece, contributing to a further sense of interconnectedness in the already familial Greek culture. Forthnet introduced pay TV services in Greece, allowing the company to grow its Greek audience by an additional 20-25 percent over the past five years.
As the World Cup tournament gets underway, Forthnet will be at the forefront, providing Greek football fans with side-line views of the matches from the comfort of their own homes. The company has played a significant role in the Greek premium sports market for a decade now and after striking a deal with Vodafone and Wind in 2017, it managed to secure a strategic position as the leading player in providing premium sports content in all of Greece. As a result, the company has experienced unprecedented growth in subscribers.
Forthnet isn’t a company that rests on its laurels. Although it’s already at the vanguard of the sports entertainment market, Forthnet intends to continue expanding the quality and content of its services for its customer base. The company is leveraging new, strategic investment opportunities to enhance the positioning of the company on pay TV, particularly in the form of providing premium content of sports and cinema.
In order to facilitate this expansion, Forthnet is on the hunt for new a majority investor that will partake in its vision and success. Currently, more than 32 percent of the company is owned by four Greek banks. However, these institutions are carrying a large amount of non-performing loans and have been obliged to sell their significant holdings in Forthnet. This presents an opportunity for the company to benefit from a deeper partnership with one or more market players.
There are several contenders interested in acquiring partial or majority stake in the company. For example, telecommunications companies Vodafone and Wind have both expressed interest in acquiring the available shares in Forthnet. While this would result in greater concentration in the Greek telecommunications market, some market analysts point out that competition issues could arise if both were successful in their bid. Forthnet’s bundling services, on the other hand, are particularly appealing to ANT1 Group, an international media and entertainment organisation. ANT1 was previously a shareholder in the bundling service known as Nova prior to Forthnet’s purchase of it. Other bidders include Odyssey Consulting Management – Leaderman NC, the Golden Tree Asset Management, Cyrus Capital Partners and Pillarstone. While it is not yet certain which of these companies will end up acquiring Forthnet’s shares, it is expected that the sale with be finalised soon.
A company of firsts, innovation is intrinsic to Forthnet both as part of the organisation’s culture and its very DNA. Forthnet’s origins date back nearly 25 years as a spin-off of FORTH, the Foundation of Research and Technology Hellas, a prolific scientific, technological, social and economic research centre that remains active in Greece.
Beyond internet and pay TV, Forthnet was the first telecommunications company to introduce a bundling of services to the Greek market including fixed internet connection, fixed telephony and pay-TV services, all in a package Forthnet calls Nova Triple Play. This has expanded Forthnet’s appeal and consumer base, with the company now providing services to nearly 17 percent of all Greek households.
In addition to information and communication technologies, Forthnet has launched new products in a variety of other arenas. For instance, the company recently became involved in the cabotage industry. Papadopoulos is particularly optimistic about the commercial opportunities present in this market. He explains, “If you visit the Greek islands during the summer, believe me that all ticketing systems you are going to use [will] be supported and facilitated by our daughter company.” Forthnet is looking to expand this service into Italy and across the Mediterranean in the coming years.
Looking forward, Papadopoulos believes the future is bright for the Greek media industry. The Greek Ministry of Media recently introduced a new law that provides a 25 percent rebate on all production costs incurred by movie and televisions series shot in Greece. Not only does this make the Greek market more accessible for production companies and film-makers with tight budgets, it also encourages the development of brand new content that companies like Forthnet can stream to its viewers.
With its all-inclusive bundles providing consumers with simpler, hassle-free internet, phone, and television access, Forthnet is well-placed to take advantage of the significant growth forecasted in the Greek entertainment and telecommunications sectors. The number of major telecom players is set to be reduced from five to four, following the announcement that National Telecommunications Organization of Cyprus (CYTA) would be purchased by Vodafone, the second largest telecom operator in the country. Papdopoulos is enthusiastic about these market shifts. He states, “we do believe that this differentiation that our company has… will [allow us to] play a more enhanced and strategic role”.
Papadopoulos is keen to celebrate the evolution of the industry as an example of a revitalized Greece that offers new employment opportunities. “I do believe that new media, TV and entertainment [create] great opportunity for all the young people in this country.” For Papadopoulos, a change in mindset is important if Greece is to make the most of its present situation, stating “Let’s have this perception, let’s have this psychology and approach that this whole situation as an opportunity, not a threat.”