Although Romania’s DTH market may be about to enter a period of consolidation, it is probably unwise to assume that the rest of Central and Eastern Europe will do likewise.
Certainly the news that Boom TV’s owner DTH Television Group is in financial difficulties should come as no real surprise. In a market served by five platforms, it, along with DCS’s Akta, has always looked the most vulnerable in the face of competition from the well-funded Digi TV (RCS/RDS), Dolce (Romtelecom) and Focus Sat (UPC). With Boom TV in trouble and DCS more interested in its cable than satellite operation, we could within a short time see the disappearance of one or more players.
Elsewhere in the region, there have been unconfirmed reports that Bulgaria will soon see the launch of what will be its third DTH platform. At present it is served by Bulsatcom and Total TV, which was formerly known as ITV Partner.
It has also been thought for some time that a further DTH platform will be launched in Hungary, which is already served by Digi TV, Sat TV, UPC Direct and Hello HD.
Consolidation of sorts has already taken place in Russia, where NTV-Plus and – since late last year – Tricolor TV are now backed by Gazprom-Media.
Meanwhile ITV Partner was recently taken over by Mid Europa Partners and merged into the Total TV operation, which though based in Serbia provides DTH services to the whole of the former Yugoslavia.
The real trend now taking place in the Central and East European DTH marketplace is arguably the strengthening of pan-regional players. So far this year Liberty Global has effectively centralised its UPC Direct/Focus Sat operations alongside the move to one degree West, Viasat Broadcasting has expanded into Russia by buying into Raduga, Mid Europa Partners has moved beyond the former Yugoslavia into Bulgaria and Deutsche Telekom’s Slovak subsidiary has launched a satellite platform.
There are nevertheless several markets that are now ‘over-served’ with DTH platforms and the closure or take-over of some of smaller ones looks almost inevitable.