The TV market in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) is a pretty tough one to operate in, as recent events have so clearly shown.
Take the Czech Republic, which only this week saw TV Nova celebrate its 15th anniversary. In those heady, far-off days of the early 1990s, what was one of the region’s first national commercial stations took the market by storm, securing a record-breaking audience share of over 70% in only a matter of months.
Today, and countless adventures later, CME-owned TV Nova is still the leading broadcaster in the Czech Republic. What is more, like its long standing rivals CT and Prima TV, it is playing a key role in the country’s transition to digital broadcasting.
TV Nova’s position contrasts sharply with that of the Czech IPTV operation Volny TV. Backed by Telekom Austria, it made its debut in August 2007 as a 40-channel service and initially looked as if it would pose a serious threat to Telefónica O2’s O2 TV, launched in September 2006.
However, by then O2 TV already had 40,000 subscribers and – perhaps more importantly – was making a name for itself as something of an innovator, having introduced a virtual video rental service and even 3D movies.
While O2 TV has since gone from strength to strength, reaching the 100,000-subscriber mark last year, Volny TV, it now appears, never really got off the ground. Its closure this month may be a one off, but given the weak impact of IPTV in the region as a whole (with some notable exceptions), the future of other operations may now also be in doubt.
So, too, may that of some DTH services. The last 3-4 years has seen an explosion in the number of platforms throughout the region, with the latest launches being in Russia.
And yet it is generally assumed that the large number of platforms, certainly in some markets, is unsustainable. Reports that Romtelecom is planning to strengthen its position in Romania, where it already operates Dolce, by acquiring the rival service Boom TV have been officially denied.
However, consolidation both there and in other countries, especially in the light of the worsening economic climate, looks inevitable.
While the CEE TV market will undoubtedly remain a tough one to operate in, it will still have its fair share of winners, like TV Nova, in the years to come.