Things are stirring in Central and Eastern Europe’s DTH marketplace.
First quarter results published by Liberty Global indicate that the benefits of moving to one degree West are finally starting to show, with the number of subscribers to UPC Direct growing by 8,900 in the three months in Hungary and 2,700 in Slovakia.
However, the number fell by 4,500 in the Czech Republic – an indication, perhaps, of just how strong the competition is in the country, though it has to be said that it is probably no stronger than in Slovakia, were four of the five players are the same and the fifth is in each case ultimately backed by Deutsche Telekom.
Focus Sat in Romania also continued to perform well in the first quarter, gaining 8,400 subscribers in a market that is on the verge of huge change, with two platforms – AKTA Satelit and Boom TV – about to be acquired by Romtelecom.
Although these are generally encouraging signs for Liberty Global, the road ahead for UPC Direct and Focus Sat is unlikely to be smooth, given the highly competitive nature of the markets the two platforms operate in.
Meanwhile in Poland, yet another competitive DTH market, we are seeing growing co-operation between Cyfrowy Polsat (now owner of its former parent company Telewizja Polsat) and TVN, the country’s leading commercial broadcasters. A deal between the two that came into effect at the beginning of this month now sees subscribers to Cyfrowy Polsat and n able to watch some of the proprietary channels offered by the other platform.
However – and importantly – they do not include sports channels, which are arguably the most valuable commodity the platforms have and are unlikely to ‘give away’ lightly.
While we should perhaps not read too much into the deal – a similar one was reached between Cyfrowy Polsat and Cyfra + last year – it indicates growing co-operation between what are otherwise bitter rivals. It could also be the first step towards some form of consolidation in a market that despite its large size feels overcrowded in terms of platform numbers.