This is an incredibly eventful time for the TV industry in Russia and things could be about to get even more interesting.
Just this week it has been reported that HBO may shortly enter the country, working in partnership with AMedia. Founded in 2002 and listing Access Media as its main shareholder, the latter is Russia’s leading producer of TV series, making over 700 hours of content each year for Russian and Ukrainian TV channels.
Although there has been no official comment, local sources say that there will eventually be three localised HBO channels, distributed by cable and satellite, operating in Russia. They will probably at first be offered by NTV-Plus, the country’s longest-established DTH platform, as a separate package and for an additional fee.
Time Warner-backed HBO has been present in Central and Eastern Europe for 20 years and in most of the region’s leading markets, including Poland, Hungary, Romania, Czech Republic and Slovakia, since the 1990s. Entering Russia would be an extremely important development, making it potentially available to millions more TV households.
At the same time, we have learnt of an ownership change at Tricolor TV, which is, with over 10 million subscribers, not only Russia’s leading DTH platform but also one of the largest in Europe.
Tricolor TV gained a new investor in May and has now seen a 50% stake in the company sold to an unnamed party for an undisclosed fee. It is generally believed that this could be paving the way the platform’s eventual takeover by Gazprom Media, whose interests include NTV-Plus and the national commercial station NTV. Indeed, this was expected to happen as far back as 2009 but never materialised.
All this comes against the backdrop of a market that is growing dynamically, with companies like the national telco Rostelecom and cable operator ER Telecom just reporting impressive increases in subscriber numbers.
We can expect much, much more to happen in the coming months.