2009 has without doubt got off to a flying start for Poland’s TV industry.
Following months of prevarication, it seems to finally have a blueprint for digitalization. At the same time, the DTH sector is gaining new subscribers at an astonishing rate, while a future funding system for publicly owned TVP, still the most popular broadcaster in the country, is taking shape.
Poland’s National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) took the bull by the horns earlier this week by announcing a strategy for the transition to digital broadcasting. The message it appeared to be sending out was that although the country still does not have all the necessary legislation in place to complete the transition, there is no reason to delay its start any longer.
If all goes according to plan – and there are undoubtedly still many “ifs” – viewers in four cities, including the capital, Warsaw – will from this September be able to watch digital versions of the seven main Polish analogue channels, distributed by the first multiplex. Twenty-four more locations will be added in March 2010, followed by 16 in July 2011, with the first to go all digital being Zielona Góra and Zagan in October 2010.
Set top boxes will cost around PLN250 (€60.32), and some PLN400 million may be required in equipment subsidies for the most needy members of society.
Yet despite these promising developments, DTT, when it is finally up and running, will have to establish a foothold in a market in which 4.5 million homes already receive cable services. What is more, an even higher total of 4.7 million, or nearly 41% more than only a year ago, watch DTH services.
The exceptionally high growth in the DTH sector can be put down to a number of factors, including the recent launch of the pre-paid service TNK.
It should continue well into this year, and will be boosted still further if TVP finally launches its long-awaited platform.
The public broadcaster’s future will in large part be determined by a forthcoming media law that will see the scrapping of receiver licence fees. Funding will instead be allocated from VAT paid by the media industry.
While TVP will continue to carry advertising, it will also be required to operate within a tighter public service remit than at present.
Given what has already happened in the first two weeks of 2009, this year could yet turn out to be one of the most eventful in Poland’s TV industry since the country’s return to democracy almost two decades ago.