There seems to be a rule of thumb that applies to the transition to digital broadcasting in Central and Eastern Europe. Put simply, the larger the market the longer it takes.
The best examples are arguably found at opposite ends of the spectrum, with Estonia and Slovenia now all digital and Russia – at least unofficially – unlikely to be so for the next decade or so. Ukraine and Poland, the second and third largest markets in terms of population size and TV households, are also laggards, as indeed is Romania, compared to such mid-sized ones as Hungary and the Czech Republic.
And yet there have been a number of positive developments recently in both Ukraine and especially Poland that augur well for their transition. In the latter, the second and third multiplexes are now up and running, with most of the commercial channels on the former now in place. These channels will soon include TV6, a completely new service operated by Polskie Media that should make its debut next month.
The real debate in Poland is now over its first multiplex and (a) who will operate it and (b) what channels, alongside the three main ones from TVP, it will carry. It seems the public broadcaster is pushing for the national transmission company Emitel to be given the role of operating the multiplex, as it already does the second and third ones, but other interested parties would like to see a competition held for the licence.
A contest is already taking place for the four remaining channel slots on the multiplex, with no fewer than 18 parties having lodged applications.
Meanwhile in Ukraine, Zeonbud seems to be making good progress in its efforts to launch what will be the country’s first four DTT multiplexes by the end of this year. What is more, the regulator has just launched a contest for broadcasting on the four multiplexes, which will carry a total of 28 channels.
The only concern is the remaining two multiplexes, which their operators seem to be making little progress with.
If present trends continue, both Poland and Ukraine will complete their transition to digital broadcasting not much later than most other countries in the region.