At first glance, the carriage dispute between cable operators and a national broadcaster in Slovakia appears to be no different to most others in the industry.
However, the Slovak market is quite specific and this should certainly be taken into account in any analysis of the situation.
If we cast our minds back exactly two years the major talking point in Slovakia was charges imposed by broadcasters for the distribution of their HD channels. More recently, the illegal distribution of Czech channels in the country, mirrored by that of Slovak channels in the Czech Republic, was finally addressed by the launch of services aimed specifically at viewers in the two neighbouring countries.
The move was led by the CME stations TV Nova and Markiza TV, which gave a debut to their international channels over a year ago, and has since been replicated by – amongst others – the Czech Republic’s Prima and Slovakia’s TV Joj.
The latter, which now finds itself in dispute with Slovakia’s Association of Cable Telecommunications Operators (APKT), acted against the illegal distribution of its channels in the Czech Republic by launching one named Joj Family and specifically addressed at viewers in the country.
However, in its home market it stands accused of making its channels unaffordable to cable operators, the largest of which are represented by the APKT. In an open letter published earlier this week and signed by the president of the APKT, the trade association not only criticised the broadcaster for adopting such a stance but also pointed out that it was one of the most frequent offenders of Slovakia’s broadcast legislation.
Despite the differences between the two parties, they are likely to eventually reach an agreement. Such is the way in the industry.
The pragmatic nature of the Slovak market was arguably demonstrated earlier this month, when it was reported that TV Markiza’s channels would once again become available to terrestrial viewers.
However, they would not be offered free of charge, as had previously been the case, instead being distributed by the pay-DTT platform Plustelka.