Chris Dziadul analyses Liberty Global’s latest results
Liberty Global’s involvement in Central and Eastern Europe looks as if it is about to enter a new and interesting phase.
First quarter results published by the company show that the take up of both broadband Internet access and VoIP grew in all six regional markets the company operates in. Poland was the most impressive performer (an additional 29,400 and 19,500 subscribers respectively), though Hungary (22,900 and 15,000 respectively) also did particularly well.
However, on the downside the competition the company’s DTH platform UPC Direct now faces, particularly from Romanian-owned Digi TV, is starting to show in its subscriber numbers. It ended Q1 with 7,200 fewer in Hungary and 1,100 less in the Czech Republic than three months earlier. Yet surprisingly, UPC’s Romanian platform Focus Sat, which operates in a market also served by four other DTH services including Digi TV, added 16,400 subscribers in the same period.
Although Liberty Global lost analogue cable TV subscribers in all but one of its six regional markets in Q1 2007, it only operates digital cable TV services in three, all of which were inherited from other companies. However, it is likely to introduce a digital service on its UPC network in the Czech Republic – perhaps even before the end of this month – and launches in Poland and Hungary are also a short time away.
Liberty Global’s hand is in part being forced by developments elsewhere in the region’s cable industry. In Poland, for instance, Multimedia Polska has just thrown down the gauntlet by becoming the country’s first operator to offer its subscribers HDTV. Other leading players such as Vectra, Aster and indeed the market leader UPC now have no choice but to follow.
Liberty Global clearly has some catching up to do, but when it finally embarks on its long-awaited digital rollout across the region the effects on the marketplace are likely to be far-reaching.