How will the global economic crisis affect the TV industry in Central and Eastern Europe?
This is a question being increasingly asked across the region, which has benefited hugely from foreign investment in the last decade and a half, and especially since the EU’s first eastward expansion in 2004.
The extraordinary developments that have shaken the global economy and financial system in recent weeks have their roots firmly in the West. However, they have hit what a termed the ‘emerging economies’ particularly hard, and no more so than some countries in CEE, headed by Ukraine, Hungary and the Baltic Republics. Even in Russia, until recently regarded as the most dynamic market in the region, GDP growth projections, though still hugely impressive by current standards, have had to be revised downwards.
The TV industry in CEE doesn’t live in a bubble and is therefore unable to escape the crisis – that much is sure. Even the more successful players, such as Russia’s CTC Media, are aware that they may have to “adjust our strategy, operations and costs accordingly” as the situation unfolds.
Even so, we should not get carried away with too much negativity. The TV industry remains one of the most dynamic and forward-looking in CEE and currently finds itself in the throes of exciting change as it moves from analogue to digital broadcasting.
This week alone, we report major developments in Poland (the launch of another DTH service and UPC’s encouraging digital performance), Czech Republic (more digital distribution for CT) and both Croatia and Estonia (growth in IPTV take-up). In Russia, one of its DTH platforms (Tricolor) now has 3 million customers – an impressive figure, by anyone’s standards.
There will undoubtedly be some belt tightening in the months to come, and a slowdown in growth across the region looks almost inevitable. The fundamentals are nevertheless sound and there is a great deal to look forward to.