Chris Dziadul reviews developments in the Czech Republic
Perhaps the clearest message to emerge from this week’s Czech Association of Competitive Communications (CACC) conference in Prague was that the country’s electronic communications industry currently finds itself in a state of flux.
In the cable sector, Liberty Global’s high-profile acquisition of the second largest operator Karneval, though only finally approved by the regulatory authorities earlier this year, is now being followed by a process of integration as Karneval’s operations are gradually merged into those of UPC’s.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign is that UPC is now on the brink of launching a digital TV service. Given the success already being enjoyed by the one operated by Karneval, which is gaining around 700 subscribers each week, projections that the combined UPC/Karneval digital TV service will have up to 90,000 customers by the end of this year look realistic.
While the case of the six suspended digital TV licences still hangs like a cloud over the industry – there is as yet no indication as to whether they will be reinstated or not, and as to the number of digital licences that the national broadcasters TV Nova and Prima TV will eventually be awarded – there is clear progress being made elsewhere.
IPTV, for instance, is slowly but surely starting to make its presence felt in the marketplace. Although the sector is at present dominated by the Telefonica O2 service O2 TV – which has, according to the most recent figures available, in the region of 20,000-25,000 subscribers – the market will see the launch of a new platform named Quickmedia on May 1. Backed by companies that already have extensive infrastructure and a large subscriber base of Internet customers, its prospects look good.
By this time next year the transition to digital broadcasting should be well under way in the Czech Republic, with cable, DTH, IPTV and DTT all undoubtedly playing their part.