Chris Dziadul looks at developments in Bulgarian cable
The process of consolidation that has been a constant feature in cable markets throughout the region in recent years is finally being felt in Bulgaria.
While CableTel’s acquisition of Evrotur will not create a near-monopoly situation comparable to that in the Czech Republic, for instance, it will certainly cement CableTel’s position as the number one operator in Bulgaria.
Tracing its roots back to 1990s, the assets of what is now CableTel were originally controlled by the operators Union Television and Globo before being taken over by Ireland’s Ganley Group and gradually transformed into a national network. Initially known as Cable Bulgaria, the company was then acquired by a group of US investors (Greenbriar Corporation) and renamed CableTel, with its owners then changing their own name to CableTel International Corporation. Earlier this year it was reported that CableTel had once more become a take-over target, this time by the UK-registered Ramford Alliance Ltd.
Foreign investment has allowed CableTel to construct a national fibre-optic network and introduce triple play services, initially in Sofia before being rolled out to other parts of the country. Its latest plans include further investment and the introduction of such additional services as HDTV, PVR and VOD, all within the next two years.
Evrotur, which was until recently owned by a group of local investors headed by Dimiter Angelov and Yavor Djidjev, operates under the brand name EstNet in Sofia and has a presence in several other parts of the country. It, too, has already invested heavily in its network and holds the distinction of being the first operator in Bulgaria to offer a digital cable TV service.
Yet despite what will effectively be the merger of the country’s number one and two MSOs, Bulgaria’s cable market remains highly fragmented by regional standards. And the competition it faces, both from telcos (BTC and alternative), the DTH sector and even utility companies with the infrastructure already in place to offer electronic communications services is only likely to intensify.