Romania’s TV industry is about to enter a new and highly interesting phase.
In an interview with the International Herald Tribune earlier this week, the incumbent telco Romtelecom revealed the full extent of its ambitions in its fight with RCS/RDS and Liberty Global’s UPC. Put simply, it wants to overtake its two rivals within the next three years to become the country’s leading provider of not only pay-TV but also broadband internet services.
Is such an objective achievable? Well, the short answer is probably yes, simply because the current situation, which sees the three parties effectively giving away their for free as they seek to retain existing subscribers as much a gain new ones, cannot continue for much longer.
Romtelecom was present in the cable sector a number of years ago but eventually chose to sell its Cable Vision of Romania operation to UPC in 2005. It then took the unusual step – at least for an incumbent telco – of re-entering the TV market the following year by launching a DTH rather than IPTV platform. Known as Dolce, this has been a spectacular success and currently has close to a million subscribers; reaching the landmark figure will probably be announced in the near future by Romtelecom, perhaps before its majority shareholder OTE publishes its Q2 results.
Just as importantly, the telco both re-entered the cable market and launched an IPTV service last year. It now has its sights set on developing the latter and adding to the former by buying up a number of small networks.
Romtelecom is indirectly backed by Deutsche Telekom, which sees Romania and other countries in the Balkan region as key to its growth strategy. It therefore has the financial clout to achieve its ambition, though is unlikely to find the going easy in the face of strong competition from both RCS/RDS and UPC.
The wise money is probably on it playing a key role in the long-awaited consolidation in Romania’s pay-TV industry that should finally get under way later this year.