2016 was another busy year for the TV industry in Central and Eastern Europe.
One of the most important developments was undoubtedly the launch of Netflix throughout the region in January. While these are still early days for the global SVOD service, it has already signalled its intent in one key market – Poland – by introducing localisation.
Meanwhile in another – Romania – it entered into a partnership with Vodafone in a move that came alongside the latter’s long-awaited entry into the TV market.
In Russia, Netflix’s launch sparked moves by establised broadcasters and telcos to regulate a small but vibrant local OTT market, while in most other regional markets it has yet to make its presence fully felt.
Perhaps surprisingly, major M&As were thin on the ground in CEE in 2016. The most important one was announced late in the year, when Liberty Global said it had agreed to buy Multimedia Polska, Poland’s third largest cable operator.
Earlier in 2016, the leading Estonian cable operator Starman found itself under new ownership, with East Capital Explorer selling the company to Providence Equity. At the same time, it what had been a long drawn-out process, MTG finally completed the sale of its stake in the Russian national commercial broadcaster CTC Media. Elsewhere, the Bulgarian incumbent Vivacom (BTC) found itself, yet again, under new ownership.
The Czech and Slovak markets were particularly active in 2016. In the former, the rollout of HbbTV continued apace and the new DTH platform operated by Digi CZ started to make an impression on a market otherwise dominated by M7 Group’s Skylink.
At the same time, Liberty Global restructured its UPC operations in the two countries, mirroring a process also undertaken in Austria and Switzerland. It also continued to rollout its advanced TV platform Horizon throughout CEE.
After years of trying, Poland was finally able to host its first-ever Cable Congress in June this year. Other 2016 highlights in the country’s TV industry included the launch of a number of new thematic channels.
On the down side, the controversial changes at the public broadcaster TVP drew international criticism, not least from the EBU.
The latter also continued to voice concerns about public broadcasting, and in particular the financial pressure it faces, in several other CEE countries including Romania and Bosnia & Herzegovina.