If there was ever a television market in CEE keen to make up for lost time, it has to be Serbia.
This week’s Belgrade Business Breakfast, organised jointly by Broadband TV News and Telenor Satellite Broadcasting (TSB), provided a good general overview of the Serbian marketplace.
One of the first points it brought to our attention was that two of Serbia’s leading companies – Serbia Broadband (SBB) and Telekom Srbija – are in fact also increasingly important regional players. While the former distributes the DTH service TotalTV in Slovenia, the latter has fixed and mobile interests in both Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina.
However, the emphasis at the Business Breakfast was certainly on matters local. IPTV, one of the main topics of debate, is a relative newcomer in Serbia, with Telekom Srbija having launched a trial service in mid-October, ahead of a full debut next month. Yet while the telco’s plans for its Open IPTV platform are highly ambitious, success is far from guaranteed.
Indeed, predicting how IPTV will perform in any given market is no easy matter. Who, for instance, would have expected Russia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia to emerge as CEE’s leading markets and Poland and Hungary to fail abjectly? There are certainly lessons to be learnt by the incumbent Serbian telco from other markets, and in particular former Yugoslav countries such as Slovenia and Croatia.
The transition to digital broadcasting is meanwhile very much in its early stages in Serbia. However, according to Milan Jankovic, the executive director of the Republic Telecommunications Agency (RATEL), one of the main regulatory bodies, a strategy should finally be in place in the next two to three months. There certainly seems a desire by all parties concerned to fix the ASO date much sooner than the currently quoted 2015.
In the meantime, the public broadcaster RTS is making all the running, undertaking DTT trials and now also launching a thematic digital channel.
While Serbia boasts a large cable market – according to RATEL, the total number of homes receiving services stood at 671,000 in 2007 – growth in the DTH sector appears to be slowing. Even so, Marcel Popa, the general manager of Digi Sat SRB, predicted that Digi TV, which competes head-to-head with SBB’s TotalTV, would end this year with 100,000 subscribers.
Serbia is clearly a market to watch, and despite the global economic crisis can look forward to a promising future.