Chris Dziadul reviews the Hungarian cable conference.
The overriding impression at the HCA/HCTA cable conference Tihany earlier this week was one of a market in transition.
Hungary, like most other countries in CEE, has been slow to roll out digital cable and to date only one of its leading operators – T-Kábel – offers a service. However, given that this has been up and running since late 2005, the 35,000+ subscribers it claims appears modest.
UPC, Hungary’s leading MSO, is nevertheless expected to launch its digital cable offer in the first half of 2008 and FiberNet, the number three player, could follow soon afterwards.
Consolidation in the Hungarian cable industry is also on the cards, especially now that the rule limiting any given operator from serving more than one-third of the population – the figure used to be an even more restrictive one-sixth – no longer applies. There are rumours that FiberNet, which is backed by Warburg Pincus, may make a move for T-Kábel, and that the leading operators will start buying up smaller ones, of which there are hundreds.
On the other hand, according to Ferenc Kéry, the president of the Hungarian Cable Communications Association (HCA), both VOD and HD are unlikely to be introduced by Hungarian cable operators for at least another year.
In the latter case, there has recently been talk of a new Hungarian HD channel. Operated by a company named Saint Media, it could make its debut as soon as the beginning of 2008, though further details are unavailable.
Other (SD) channel launches are meanwhile likely to continue unabated. IKO Kábeltévé, for instance, will give a debut to no fewer then 10 by the end of the year, and other companies will launch a total of eight in the same period.
Although the recent success of the DTH platform DigiTV has undoubtedly shocked the Hungarian cable industry, Kéry says that some of its subscribers are starting to return to cable, which they are finding offers a better service.
While the launch of a commercial DTT platform is still some months off, IPTV is already up and running in Hungary. However, the take-up of the T-Home TV service operated by the incumbent telco is low – launched in Q4 2006, its subscriber figure is believed to be under 10,000 – and leading alternative providers have yet to enter the market.