Chris Dziadul reviews the PIKE conference in Zakopane.
Earlier this week I was privileged to moderate one of the most interesting panels at the Polish Chamber of Electronic Communication (PIKE) conference and exhibition in Zakopane. Entitled Cable Europe: the situation of cable operators on incumbent markets, it brought together industry representatives from no fewer than seven mostly CEE countries.
The host nation Poland undoubtedly boasts one of the more developed markets in the region, as PIKE president Jerzy Straszewski pointed out, with daily TV viewing figures high by European standards and cable and Internet penetration at 45% and 20% respectively. It is also highly competitive, with cable operators having to face a challenge from not only three DTH platforms but also the incumbent TPSA, which already has 50,000 digital TV subscribers.
Other markets, too, face their own set of problems. Neighbouring Ukraine, for instance, is still – according to Yuliia Molchanova, the general director of the country’s Cable TV Union – something of a new technology backwater, with two-thirds of homes lacking access to a computer or the Internet. Moreover, legislation in such areas as copyright and authors’ rights remains at a developmental level.
Even so, the country has 600 cable operators, with 15 claiming over 50,000 subscribers. And just as importantly, the take up of DTH services is growing rapidly: with two platforms up and running and a third set to make its debut, the number of satellite dish owners already stands at around 2 million.
Elsewhere, the Russian cable industry, as Sergyej Stolyarchuk, the head of the country’s Cable TV Association pointed out, operates in particularly difficult circumstances given the political pressures brought to bear on the media. Meanwhile Lithuania, according to Vaiva Zukiene, the president of the country’s cable TV association, has many parallels with the Polish market despite being a fraction of its size.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia also have many similarities, several of which were highlighted by Jindrich Liszka and Vladimir Izak, the presidents of their respective smaller cable associations.
Although the German cable market ostensibly has little in common with those in CEE, its expertise in certain areas could in due course be replicated in the region. Ingo Schuchert from Deutsche Netz Marketing spoke in some length about how his company acts as a supplier of content to the industry.
If there was a key message to be drawn from the session it probably came from Jerzy Straszewski, who emphasised that digitalisation should be seen as a means to an end – specifically the provision of additional services – rather than an end in itself. It is one that every country in the region would probably wise to heed.