Earlier this week saw Midexpo and the Cable TV Association of Russia hold the 10th international exhibition and conference at the Crocus expo centre in Moscow. One of the leading industry events in Central and Eastern Europe, it offered unique insights in the rapidly developing Russian market.
The four main themes of the conference itself were undoubtedly HDTV, IPTV, mobile TV and content. HDTV, it has to be said, is starting to take off in the country in a big way: NTV-Plus introduced the format in April last year with the launch of three channels, and three more will shortly be given their debuts by a company named HD Media. With Comcor TV also preparing to enter the sector, the prediction that viewers in Moscow could soon be offered up to 15 HD channels may not be as far fetched as it sounds.
IPTV is also growing rapidly in Russia, perhaps more so than in any other market in CEE. Though the actual number of subscribers is still relatively low – a figure of up to 200,000 is generally accepted -– several launches are in the pipeline and potential investment in the sector is huge: St Petersburg-based Avantguard TV, which is already up and running, has allocated $350 million (€240 million), while Moscow’s Mostelecom is expected to spend at least $100 million within the next five years.
However, there is only a small proportion of the population – perhaps in the region of 20% – that IPTV will appeal to, and to succeed it will have to offer quality content such as HD channels.
Content generally is something the Russian market should have few worries about. The emergence of such companies as Red Media, which produces 12 thematic channels – some of which are carried by NTV-Plus, itself a major producer as well as a DTH platform – bodes well for the future. So, too, do developments in the mobile sector, with all three of the country’s leading operators set to shortly launch commercial mobile TV operations.
By the time CSTB 2009 comes around next February, it is likely that there will be at least 10 locally produced HD channels and the number of homes receiving IPTV services will have more than doubled. Mobile TV will also be a reality.
Heady times indeed for the region’s largest market.