Hard and fast information about the Polish cable industry was thin on the ground at this year’s Cable Congress, held at the end of June in Warsaw.
Certainly on the first two days I was there, it was only in conversations behind the scenes, including one with Jerzy Straszewski, the president of the Polish Chamber of Electronic Communications (PIKE), that I was able to gain an overview of the latest developments.
Firstly, there appears to be some credibility in recent reports that Multimedia Polska, the number three operator, may shortly be acquired by Liberty Global, the owner of the market leader UPC Polska. Such a deal, were it to go ahead, would create a company accounting for around half of Poland’s estimated 4.5 million cable homes.
However, there are caveats. One need only look back to the start of the decade, when Liberty acquired Aster, another leading operator, only to then face months of investigations by the competition authority UOKiK. When the latter eventually gave the go-ahead, it was only on condition that some of the acquired assets were then sold on to a third, independent party. They were in due course acquired by the telco Netia, which through the assets then entered the cable industry.
It would reasonable to assume that the acquisition of Multimedia Polska could result in a similar scenario. After all, it would leave the industry with two large players – a new UPC/Multimedia entity and Vectra, with the latter having only around a third as many subscribers as the former.
There would, of course, be other important players, most notably Toya and Inea, and of course numerous smaller operators. As in most other cable markets in Europe, true consolidation still has some way to go in Poland.
On the other hand, the Polish cable industry would be strengthened as it continues to compete with both a numerically larger (in subscriber numbers) DTH sector and the highly ambitious incumbent Orange.
Come this autumn, when PIKE holds its annual conference and exhibition, things may become a little clearer.