Is IPTV finally starting to catch on in Central and Eastern Europe?
The question might sound a little strange in the week the region sees the launch of yet another DTH platform – Hungary’s Hello HD, which was due to make its debut on May 1 – but is certainly worthy of consideration.
While the take-up of IPTV services in CEE is on nowhere the same scale as that of cable and DTH, it is clearly growing. This week, for instance, Comstar-UTS, the leading player in the Russian IPTV sector, announced that it ended the first quarter with 130,000 subscribers in Moscow. Given the fact that there are several other IPTV operations in the country, and not all in the capital, Russia’s total IPTV take-up now certainly exceeds 200,000.
The Czech Republic remains the second largest IPTV market in CEE, with Telefónica-backed O2 TV, its leading player, seemingly going from strength to strength. It already claimed 80,000 subscribers in February, and its target of 140,000 by years end or Q1 2009 looks more than achievable.
IPTV is also doing well in the Baltic Republics, where the incumbents in all three countries offer services. Indeed, only last month Estonia’s Elion reported that it ended Q1 with 63,200 video subscribers, the majority of who were probably receiving IPTV, as opposed to cable, which it also offers.
Even in Poland, the IPTV platform operated by the France Telecom-backed incumbent telco TPSA saw its subscriber total rise in the first quarter, though, it has to be said, the 49,000 figure still looks a little disappointing.
Poland may in fact be the exception that proves the rule. As is the case in Romania, where DTH is exceptionally strong, IPTV will almost inevitably struggle to gain a foothold.
IPTV is certainly no longer the poor relation of CEE’s digital TV marketplace. However, it still has some way to go, even in the markets were services are performing particularly well, before beginning to pose a serious threat to more established platforms.