Earlier this week NBC Universal held a major event in the Russian capital, Moscow. Attended by local industry executives, it served to highlight just how far the company has already come in establishing a presence in one of the region’s most lucrative markets.
GE-owned NBC Universal regards Russia, Poland and Romania as its three key markets in CEE. As a result, three of its leading channels – Universal Channel, Sci Fi and Hallmark – are already distributed on the Russian platforms NTV-Plus, Akado, Corbina, Multimex (the cable operator Multiregion Holding) and Ufanet (the leading cable operator in Ufa). A fourth – KidsCo – is also available on some platforms in the country.
The highlight of the Moscow event was the announcement that NBC Universal has inked an agreement with Comstar-UTS for carriage of Universal Channel on the latter’s networks.
Both parties regard the deal as something of a milestone, and indeed, speaking exclusively to Broadband TV News, a key executive at Comstar-UTS described it as “one of the biggest contracts for us (so far)”.
Sistema-backed Comstar-UTS has recently been undergoing restructuring and is impressed by the way NBC Universal has supported its new strategy. One of the facets of this is that deals are now being signed in roubles.
Although HD services are not yet widely available in Russia – they were launched by NTV-Plus and are today only provided by the Gazprom Media-owned company, along with Akado and Platforma HD – there is certainly growing interest in them. Indeed, there was a palpable sense of disappointment among some delegates when NBC Universal was unable to provide a firm date for the introduction of its HD channels in Russia, though that time will probably be soon.
There is a general feeling that Russia will start to recover from the current economic crisis towards the end of this year or in early 2010. While its TV market has undoubtedly been hard hit by a slump in ad revenue in recent months, the ambition remains firmly in place and interesting developments are probably just around the corner.
One of the most important – and one certainly to watch out for – is likely to be the entry of Svyazinvest, the country’s leading telco, into the TV market.
A full report on NBC Universal and developments in the Russian market will appear in the next issue of New Television Insider. For further details, please go to: http://www.newtelevisioninsider.com