What are the main issues currently facing the TV industry in Central and Eastern Europe at this half-year point?
In looking at the region in fine detail, it quickly becomes obvious that there are different debates taking place in almost every market. Take Poland, for instance, where the focus is currently on the introduction of HbbTV alongside the rollout of DTT services. At the same time, both the cable and DTH markets are preparing themselves for more consolidation – the former with the possible sale of the number two operator Multimedia Polska and latter with the upcoming merger of Cyfra+ and platform n. Consolidation may also happen in the country’s rapidly expanding online on demand sector, while – worryingly – there are also signs the ad market is contracting.
HbbTV is also making progress in the Czech Republic, where there has in addition been a debate about the introduction of the DVB-T2 standard. Regional TV, too, is making a comeback in the country, while its most successful DTH platforms Skylink/CS Link are introducing a number of changes, both from the technical and pricing perspective.
In Hungary, the digital terrestrial platform operated by the national transmission company Antenna Hungária seems to be going from strength to strength, with its paid-for operation MinDig TV Extra proving that subscription DTT can work in Central and Eastern Europe. However, there is still no ASO date, and the industry as a whole has been adversely affected by a controversial telco tax.
Neighbouring Romania, on the other hand, seems to have been going through a crisis of confidence, brought about by the worsening economic climate in Europe as a whole. It nevertheless remains a vitally important market and its prospects in the mid to long-term remain good.
The transition to digital broadcasting is undoubtedly one common issue now facing most countries in the region that have yet to complete the process. In Bulgaria, the controversy surrounding the award of multiplex licences to Latvia’s Hannu Pro and Slovakia’s Towercom in 2009 refuses to go away, with the European Commission now involved in the debate.
Meanwhile in Ukraine, DTT services are up and running, though there are still question marks over the controversial award of regional and local TV licences. In Lithuania, on the other hand, there are concerns that the number of FTA channels available to viewers will be reduced as the country moves to ASO later this year.
In Russia, where the focus is very much on growth in the pay-TV sector and the transition to digital broadcasting – in the latter case, employing the DVB-T2 standard – we have recently learnt that one of its main DTH operations (Platforma) will close at the beginning of next month.
Given all these issues, the second half of this year is likely to be as if not more interesting than the first in Central and Eastern Europe.