Chris Dziadul looks at Sistema’s HD and mobile plans.
This week’s CSTB International Exhibition and Conference in Moscow provided yet more evidence – if it were needed – of just how far Russia’s TV industry has travelled in the last few years. More importantly, it gave a number of useful pointers as to the direction it is now heading.
The main conclusion one could draw from the event was that the country has all but caught up with the rest of Europe in the field of multimedia services. Indeed, by this time next year both HDTV and mobile TV will be a regular feature of its broadcasting landscape.
Sistema Mass Media (SMM), perhaps more than any other company, looks set to play a leading role over the coming months. Since taking over as MD in February 2006, Michael Dounaev has overseen a period of restructuring designed to transform it into a multimedia group along the lines of Vivendi Universal. With the focus very much on distribution “by every possible technology” and content, the results are already becoming evident.
Stream TV, for instance, now has 106,000 subscribers in Moscow, of whom 23,000 are customers of the MMDS operation Kosmos TV, and 1.5 million in the rest of the country. And this spring SMM will open brand new film and TV production studios in St Petersburg kitted out with the latest state-of-the-art equipment.
In other areas, the company is about to enter into a joint venture with one of three prospective partners in order to launch a mobile TV service later this year. Once fully up and running – after an initially outlay expected to run into hundreds of millions of dollars – it will be able to cash in on such major sporting events in 2008 as the Beijing Olympics and European football championships in Switzerland and Austria.
SMM is also actively preparing for the launch of HD, with Kosmos TV expected to give a debut to three channels this September. By then NTV-Plus will also be offering its subscribers three HD channels, though it remains to be seen when other players (such as ComCor TV, for instance) also jump on the HD bandwagon. However, industry sources predict that up to 20,000 homes in Russia will already be subscribing to HD services from one of several companies by the end of the year.
This, and other important milestones, will no doubt be the subject of discussion at CSTB 2008.(CD)