HD is now taking off in Central and Eastern Europe in a big way.
It is hard to believe that channels in the format only made their debut in the region as recently as October 2006, with the launch of the Polish new generation DTH platform n. Although their appearance prompted an almost immediate response from local rival services Cyfra+ and subsequently Cyfrowy Polsat, it was a full six months before HD channels became available in another country – Russia, on the long-established DTH platform NTV-Plus.
If the second part of last year marked a period of growing activity in HD, the first five months of this one have been little short of frantic. So much so, in fact, that the provision of HD channels by leading cable and DTH services now seems almost commonplace, certainly in the region’s largest markets.
Poland, with its head start, appears to be leading the way, with the MSO Aster earlier this week becoming the latest platform to introduce HD services. It did so in a big way, making no fewer than three packages, ranging in price from PLN6 (€1.77) to PLN20 a month, available to its digital TV subscribers.
In what is perhaps an even more significant development, a little-known alternative carrier named Inotel has also just introduced an IPTV service that includes HD channels.
Meanwhile in Russia, a company named HD Media has been trialling three channels – Perpetuum Mobile, Mir Estetiki and Incognita – since earlier this year and their launch is understood to be imminent.
In the Czech Republic, the country’s leading cable operator UPC entered the HD era this February when it added Nat Geo HD and Voom HD to its offer, while in Slovakia the public broadcaster STV will launch a third channel, featuring sport and partly in HD, this summer.
HD is also moving full stream ahead elsewhere, with leading platforms in countries ranging from Estonia to Bulgaria now offering services. In Hungary, the high end DTH operation Hello HD made its debut only earlier this month.
While this trend will certainly continue, what is also likely to happen in the near future is the appearance of more locally produced HD channels. At present, most services in the format are international, though undoubtedly, as in the case of HBO HD and Nat Geo HD, with huge appeal.
Indigenous broadcasters, too, are gearing up to launch their own HD channels, and these, too, are likely to be commonplace within the next year or two.
All in all, the transition to HD is now well underway in Central and Eastern Europe.