While the TV industry’s attention is firmly focused on IBC over the next few days, interesting developments are also taking place a few hundred miles to the east of Amsterdam.
The transition to digital broadcast across the CEE region has until now been a somewhat uneven affair, with the most progress being made in smaller markets, two of which – Latvia and Estonia – completed the process this summer. Russia, on the other hand, is aiming for ASO in 2015, as is Romania, following a recent surprising and controversial decision to put the date back by three years.
Although Poland has until now been firmly in the laggards’ camp, things have finally started to move over the last few days and the country could finally have a DTT operation up and running before the end of autumn.
However, it will start off with limited reach and the Office of Electronic Communications (UKE), one of the industry regulators, now believes the country will be hard pushed to meet the 2013 switch-off deadline it has set itself. Indeed, it could be two years later before Poland is finally all digital.
Meanwhile in the Czech Republic, which has until now, following a few early hiccups, had a relatively smooth transition to digital broadcasting, the industry has been surprised by reports that one of the multiplexes may be put up for sale. A change of ownership could alter the whole Czech digital landscape, especially if it is acquired by Nova, the country’s leading broadcaster.
Alongside these developments we are seeing important changes in the DTH sector, which has yet to undergo any significant consolidation and in fact continues to gain more platforms, the latest addition being Vivacom TV in Bulgaria. An interesting trend is the appearance of pan-regional players, with UPC being followed by Digi TV, Total TV and shortly – if some reports are to be believed – Bulsatcom.
The biggest changes may nevertheless soon be seen in cable, with consolidation very much on the agenda in a number of markets. In Russia, MTS bought Multiregion less than two months ago and Akado may soon be acquired by Svyazinvest.
Meanwhile in Poland, Aster is in UPC’s, Multimedia Polska’s, Vectra’s and TPSA’s sights and in Romania Digital Cable Systems (DCS) and Romtelecom are actively looking for acquisitions.
These are interesting times indeed, east of Amsterdam.