Message from Romania: when the going gets tough, the tough stay positive.
That, at least, was what came across at this week’s business breakfast on the future of digital TV in Romania, organised jointly by Broadband TV News and Telenor Satellite Broadcasting.
While no one can deny that the country is going through a difficult time economically and has its own unique market characteristics – high pay-TV penetration yet at the same time low APRUs, not to mention cut-throat, race-to-the-bottom pricing competition between the leading players RCS&RDS, UPC and Romtelecom – it can also look to the future with some confidence.
As a result, not one but two presentations, from Romtelecom and MSCG, focused on online, on demand services. It quickly became clear that while public awareness of such services is still relatively low in Romania – certainly compared to some other regional markets, including Poland and Russia – several are already up and running and their prospects look good, especially in the mid to long term.
Meanwhile in the DTH space, UPC DTH’s Romanian operation Focus Sat seems to go from strength to strength, performing better than its sister services in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia despite strong competition from two much larger platforms operated by RCS&RDS and Romtelecom.
Indeed, UPC DTH has somehow managed to find a winning formula of catering for both the low and high-end segments of the market, something most other operators in the industry would also like to pull off.
A presentation from Discovery meanwhile demonstrated just how key Romania still is to the company’s strategy in the South East European (SEE) region.
Interestingly, the regulator ANCOM chose to release figures on the Romanian market on the same day as the conference. Perhaps the standout one was that the number of digital cable subscribers more than doubled (+129%) last year, though this was arguably offset by the fact that three-quarters of cable subscribers at the of 2011 still opted for analogue services.
Also of note was a year-on-year fall in DTH subscribers and the still low take-up of IPTV services.