Why is the take-up of HD services so important in Central and Eastern Europe?
A strange question, perhaps, but one in my view that is well worth asking.
Why? Well because prior to their launch, initially in Poland and Russia on the DTH platforms n (2006) and NTV-Plus (2007) in Poland and Russia respectively, the region was still a backwater in terms of new television services. HD changed all that, and in no time at all the number of channels available in the format grew considerably.
So much so, in fact, that there is probably no major platform (cable, DTH or IPTV) that today does not include HD channels in their offers, some literally in the dozens.
This growth has been accompanied by the rapid expansion of additional services, both in their availability and take-up. VOD and OTT, for instance, are now commonplace in the region, or at least certainly its largest markets.
But what of HD itself? Has it lived up to its early promise and how is it now faring?
This week we have learned from a study undertaken in the Czech Republic by STEM/MARK that no less than a third of households now watch services in the format. An impressive figure, indeed, though perhaps undermined slightly by another finding that shows interest in hybrid TV services is still very low despite the country being one of the region’s HbbTV pioneers.
Meanwhile in Russia, it would have been true to say that up to earlier this year HD services, despite the best efforts of some of the country’s leading pay-TV platforms, were still something of a minority interest.
However, that is all now beginning to change thanks to the highly popular DTH operation Tricolor TV and its affordable HD offer. Launched only this summer, it has already notched up 100,000 subscribers and hopes to reach the one million mark by the end of the year.
Should it do so, then Tricolor TV would already account for around two-thirds of HD viewers in Russia and be well on its way to making HD into a mass market product.
HD may not be the sexiest of topics, especially during IBC week, but its progress in Central and Eastern Europe is fascinating as it links up to that of many other advanced TV services and is worth keeping a close eye on.