Although the Christmas and New Year period is usually a quiet time for news stories, the one just passed proved to be something of an exception.
There was, in particular, considerable activity to report on in the Russian DTH sector. Long regarded as a one-player market served by the long-established NTV-Plus, it has in the last few years seen the emergence of several new platforms. Tricolor TV, in particular, is proving to be a star performer, seeing its subscriber total rise to an impressive 4.35 million at the end of last year.
The service known as Platforma HD, hitherto only one of two dedicated HD platforms in CEE, has meanwhile decided to introduce a comprehensive SD offer. Perhaps this is an acknowledgement that the market in Russia, dynamic though it is, is not quite yet ready for a successful HD-only service.
However, with the DTH sector also served by Orion Express and another platform, known as Raduga TV, in the offing, the prospects for digital satellite broadcasting in Russia have never looked so promising.
While it may be an exaggeration to say the same holds true elsewhere in the region, things certainly look good in a number of countries. In Poland, for instance, Cyfra+ saw a significant rise in subscriber numbers late last year, thanks in no so part to an intensive marketing campaign that is still on going.
Indeed, it is very likely that the total number of DTH homes in Poland will, for the first time ever, equal if not exceed those receiving cable services by the end of this year.
Meanwhile in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the Skylink pre-pay platform ended 2008 with a combined total of 500,000 customers. There is a good chance its success will be maintained in 2009.
Hungary, too, now that it is served by no fewer than four platforms, should see significant growth in DTH take-up this year.
While no one can doubt the seriousness of the economic crisis we currently find ourselves in, the outlook for satellite broadcasting in CEE is better than many would have us believe.