Any notion that the Balkan countries are lagging behind the rest of CEE, not to mention Europe as a whole, in the introduction of multiscreen services was blown out of the water in Belgrade earlier this week.
The latest business breakfast organised by Broadband TV News and Telenor Satellite Broadcasting had no fewer than three leading players in the sector – Serbia Broadband, CME and HBO Europe – present and it soon became clear that they are all doing a remarkable job in introducing multiscreen into the region.
Take, for instance, CME and its highly successful on demand product Voyo. Launched in the Czech Republic at the beginning of last year and quickly rolled out to the company’s five other regional markets, it already had 80,000 subscribers as of mid-2012 and the number is expected to increase significantly in the run-up to the Christmas period.
However, it faces competition from other services in a number of countries, including Romania. Furthermore, there are, according to its head Petr Horak, no fewer than 150 pirate sites, showing mostly US content, which are impacting on its business.
Serbia Broadband, on the other hand, faces competition of a different kind, argued its CEO Dragica Pilipovic Chaffey. Indeed, it is the only provider in the Serbia whose prices are controlled and this, couple with a 20% depreciation in the local currency in the last year, has understandably had a negative impact on its D3 Go over-the-top service.
Employing a solution supplied by Zappeware, it has nevertheless performed well and will shortly add VOD, catch-up and start over to its offer.
Furthermore, Pilipovic Chaffey revealed that the service, which is currently available in Serbia and Slovenia, would soon also make its debut in Bosnia & Heregovina.
HBO Europe, known until recently as HBO CEE, meanwhile has a strong focus on the Balkans, with around half of its 15 markets being located in the region. Stefan Dakovski, the company’s VP distribution and sales, said that its priorities include geographic expansion and developing the services offered by HBO Go.
There will also be a greater focus on the development of local content in the Balkan region.
While none of the three companies can yet match the success in multiscreen already enjoyed by the likes of the UK’s Sky, for instance, they are all moving in the right direction.
And while the penetration of such mobile devices as smartphones and tablets in the Balkans is much lower than in mature Western markets, it is expected to increase significantly in the coming months.
This, in turn, will create more demand for multiscreen services in the region.