Although Romania has always had a vibrant TV market, things may be about to get even livelier in the country.
The incumbent telco Romtelecom, which is majority (54.01%) owned by Greece’s OTE, in many ways reflects the ambitions of the latter’s backer Deutsche Telekom. It already has a strong presence in the CEE region, with interests in (amongst others) Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia, and has now decided that Romania is a country with enormous potential.
As a result, it is overseeing an ambitious project that it is hoped will see Romtelecom overtake both RCS/RDS and UPC to become the leading provider of pay-TV and broadband internet services by 2013.
While it remains to be seen whether or not this can be achieved – the strengths of both RCS/RDS and UPC cannot be underestimated – we are certainly in for an interesting three years. A price ‘war’ has already been raging between the three companies for many months and Romtelecom is soon likely to embark on a series of acquisitions in the cable sector.
While still a small player in the latter – its subsidiary NextGen only has 160,000 subscribers, as opposed to the 1.6 million claimed by RCS/RDS and 1.036 million (of which around a quarter were digital) reported by UPC in Q1 this year – Romtelecom has signalled its intention to target the 500 or so smaller operators in the country which make up around 16% of the market.
Romtelecom has already enjoyed considerable success with its DTH platform Dolce, which could even overtake the market leader Digi TV, backed by RCS/RDS, within a matter of months. Its IPTV service Dolce Interactiv, launched only half a year ago, is meanwhile still something of an unknown quantity, but given the lack of competition in the sector should in due course develop into an important operation for the company.
Romtelecom is also likely to be a prospective buyer when consolidation finally gets under way in Romania’s DTH market. It has in the past already been linked with both AKTA, operated by Digital Cable Systems (DCS), and DTH Television Group’s Boom TV.
Interesting times certainly lie ahead in Romania, and the marketplace in 2013, as Romtelecom itself predicts, will in all probability look very different to the way it does today.