What does the future hold in store for the DTH market in Central and Eastern Europe?
Much has happened in the 16 years since the first platform in the region – NTV Plus in Russia, offering only four analogue channels – made its debut. We have seen the launch and rapid development of what are now long-established services in such countries as Poland (Cyfra+, Cyfrowy Polsat), along with UPC’s and RCS&RDS’ entry into the region in 2000 and 2006 respectively.
More recently, we have also seen an explosion of new platforms – late last decade, the total number serving CEE already stood at around 50, if not more – followed by the beginnings of consolidation. We have also witnessed the dynamic growth of Russia’s Tricolor TV, which in terms of subscribers is now one of the world’s leading DTH operations.
This week’s news that the merger between Cyfra+ and n in Poland has finally been given the go-ahead shows that consolidation is continuing. Indeed, it can be argued that the market cannot sustain the number of platforms currently operating in the region and some will have to merge or even close.
On the other hand, there is also the distinct possibility of more platform launches, especially in such parts of the region – the Balkans, for instance – where there is still scope for growth. Some could come as soon as later this year or in early 2013.
We will also probably continue to see a huge improvement in the services offered by DTH platforms in CEE. Gone are the days when many, including RCS&RDS and even Cyfrowy Polsat, served up a basic package of SD channels for next to nothing in order to build up their subscriber numbers.
All the leading platforms now provide their subscribers with HD services, and in the case of Tricolor TV, though introduced only this summer, their take up is growing rapidly.
On demand, broadband and even mobile services are also now increasingly being seen in the offers of certainly the larger and more sophisticated platforms in the region.
These, too, are likely to become commonplace as the market develops.