One week, two major developments in the DTH sectors of the two largest TV markets in Central and East Europe (CEE). And while one was expected, the other came totally out of the blue.
The launch of TVP’s new DTH platform is remarkable in that it has come against the backdrop of an on-going crisis being played out at the public broadcaster. With its controversial head Piotr Farfal one step away from being dismissed, it seems remarkable that the platform, much talked about though it has been in recent weeks, ever got off the ground.
Yet it is now up and running and being talked up by Farfal as one of the most revolutionary developments ever in Poland’s TV history. The operators of such established platforms as Cyfrowy Polsat, Cyfra+ and n are nevertheless playing down its significance and believe the service offers little more than that already provided in their own basic packages.
They also believe TVP’s business model is flawed, an argument perhaps borne out by the cost of MPEG-4 receivers (at least PLN500 – €121.5) and the fact that there will be no real revenues for TVP other than for the 20 or so à la carte channels the service will eventually provide.
Meanwhile in Russia, we have seen Gazprom Media, the operator of NTV-Plus, take a controlling stake in NSC, the operator of the rival platform Tricolor TV. The latter is undoubtedly one of the biggest success stories in the recent DTH explosion in CEE, having seen its subscriber figures grow from zero (November 2005) to five million (June this year), leaving in the shade such other recent market entrants as Orion-Express, Platforma HD and Raduga TV.
The deal will almost certainly see the two platforms retain their names and distinct identities – NTV-Plus, in particular, is an extremely strong brand, having been an ever-present in the Russian TV marketplace for 13 years.
The synergies between NTV-Plus and Tricolor TV are nevertheless evident, and further consolidation in the Russian DTH sector could be on the horizon.