Although UPC was slow to get off the ground in launching digital cable services in CEE, no one can deny it is rapidly making up for lost time.
So much is clear from Liberty Global’s Q3 and year-to-date results, released earlier this week. They show that in Hungary and Poland, where digital cable was introduced only last spring, the company had already acquired 73,300 and 41,300 subscribers respectively by the end of the third quarter.
Although we are living in increasingly difficult economic times, the fourth quarter will certainly see further growth in digital cable take-up in the two countries. In Hungary, the figure will most probably exceed 90,000 by the end of the year, and may even top 100,000, while in Poland, where it had already risen to 50,000 at the end of October, it should reach at least 70,000.
Liberty Global must be particularly pleased with the performance of its digital cable operation in the Czech Republic. Launched in September last year, it was already received by almost 42% of its cable subscribers at the end of Q3 this year.
A somewhat different picture is painted in each of its other CEE markets. In Romania, for instance, the operator ended Q3 with 73,300 digital cable subscribers while at the same time still having 1,075,900 receiving its analogue cable service.
Perhaps more worryingly still, it continues to lose cable subscribers as a whole in Romania. Despite gaining 20,500 for its digital service, no fewer than 55,700 stopped receiving the analogue one in Q3.
Meanwhile in Slovakia, where UPC launched its digital cable service in the same month as in the neighbouring Czech Republic, take up has been far from impressive. Indeed, one year on, it was only received by 7.2% of UPC Broadband Slovakia’s cable subscriber base.
In Slovenia, on the other hand, UPC’s digital cable service is still in its infancy, claiming 3,900 subscribers at the end of Q3.
Yet in the region as a whole, UPC can look back on the first nine months of this year with some degree of satisfaction. Its digital cable services are performing adequately, and certainly in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, exceptionally well.
UPC has also wasted little time in offering its digital cable subscribers such additional services as PVR, HD and even multiroom. It is these that will ultimately drive growth in an increasingly competitive CEE cable marketplace.